Photo-illustration by Gluekit; Photographs, from left: Joan Marcus/Courtesy of the Public Theater, Patrick McMullan
If you were to gather the culture stars of 2010 in a room and ask them to retroactively pitch their biggest ideas, it would sound like an inmate’s meeting at an asylum for the delusionally grandiose. I’m going to make a three-hour 3-D movie using technology I’m inventing myself! (Okay.) I’m going to write a riveting drama about a college kid sitting at a computer! (Good luck with that.) I’m going to plant myself in a chair for 736 hours without moving! (Sounds great, Ms. Abramovic.) I’ll dress entirely in meat! (Please don’t sit next to me.) I’m going to mount a theatrical show in which I read The Great Gatsby from beginning to end! (Really?) I’m going to host 90 minutes of high-expectations live-TV comedy at age 88! (Yes, Ms. White. We’re sure you are.)
Yet if there was one thread that connected the highlights (and a few failures) of the last year, it was this: the Grand Gesture, the Big Gamble, the all-out Swing for the Fences. This is not to say, of course, that people haven’t taken bold risks before. But we, as an audience, definitely have a newfound proclivity for dissecting cultural happenings in real time: by chattering over our various social networks about what things will be like (“Avatar? Sounds terrible”), what they are like (“OMG I’m in the theater RIGHT NOW!”), and what they were like (“Just saw Avatar. James Cameron FTW.”). So it may well be that, to grab and hold our collective attention this past year, you absolutely had to think, and dream, and deliver, big.