By King Liz Dramaturg, Travis Amiel
For Travis’s program note, see here!
They have hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions of fans.
They are the best at what they do.
They are the faces of industries that are known around the globe.
They are our modern gladiators.
Fernanda Coppel’s King Liz puts you in the cutthroat business of the NBA, investigating and revealing who and what makes this multi-billion dollar industry function.
Not only are the crafts of actors and athletes similar, but the NBA and Broadway are also both commercial enterprises that often glorify a craft instead of exploring it.
In the world of King Liz, the character Coach Jones coaches the New York Knicks, but doesn’t get to lead the way he thinks he ought to:
“I don’t have a say within this doomed organization […]
The higher ups just want us to sell tickets and
entertain a bunch of beer-drinking assholes.”
–Coach Jones, King Liz
It’s the classic art versus money debate. Selling out: the switch from doing what you love because you love it, to doing what someone else wants in exchange for money or recognition.
In the world of entertainment, we see the stars, but then there is everyone else logistically required for a production: marketers, managers, lawyers, designers, and more. Liz, the title character of Coppel’s play, is one of those unseen forces: she’s a sports agent, with power such as that of Broadway casting-moguls Bernie Telsey or Tara Rubin, who find and advocate for new talent. The constant search for the next huge star is itself a show, and part of what attracts young people to devote themselves to chasing stardom. Training programs, equipment, merchandise, and social media are all a part of the focus on super-individuals. A life like Shaquille O’Neal’s (who has a financial net worth of ~$350 million) or Bette Midler’s (who has a financial net worth of ~$220 million) may seem impossible, but nevertheless irresistible.
How many of those dreaming of Broadway will end up there?
How many young basketball players will make it to the NBA?
After someone succeeds (whether by selling out or not), what do we do if they slip up, if they make any kind of mistake?
And how do we feed into a culture that celebrates and encourages individual achievers, especially ones that we put on pedestals?
What does it take to be the King?