If, as so many people say, theatre has become irrelevant (and I don’t think it has; I think it’s relevance has gone underground during the tornado of triviality that has swept through the last 25 years) it may be because theatre artists, in the desperate need to simply survive, have lost an awareness of the larger world and their place in it.
There is an incredible amount of theatre created for people in theatre.
I’d like to be saying, “I am the expert who has undertaken the dangerous journey to the center of the human experience, and this is the piece of truth I brought back.”
Instead I am saying, “What do I have to sell that the people will buy?”
I did know that it would be hard. It isn’t the long hours and the small paychecks that makes me question my future in theatre. It’s the tragic sense of ineffectuality. Some days I touch as many people’s lives with my mommy-blog as I do with my shows. And then when I do get a larger gig, which reaches more people, then the work is watered down by the quality-control mechanisms of the larger theatre.
But I’m in the US. Tell me it’s better in Canada.
…and a lot of theatre people making theatre only for themselves.
What will it take for theatre to emerge from the underground to claim its relevancy from the popular culture once again? Or is it relegated there for good, fated to to suffer constant allegations of elitism? Can theatre artists, armed with an awareness of the larger world, use it to resurface back into the mainstream? And do we want it to?
As someone who is interested in bringing in a new, uninitiated audience to the theatre I think Scott’s point is well made; if we continue to make our art for its own sake we’ll have to be happy with the existing community, confident that they’ll hop on board whatever train we feel like driving.
If we want conversions though, we probably should start thinking about what may attract everyone else.
Nope. Not much better in Canada, sorry. Maybe England?
What a wonderful mission statement that is, I love it. It’s as perfect a definition of an artist as I have ever heard. And I think that there is an audience, a huge audience that want to be sold just that product. People want to hear our stories about the human experience, as long as it affects them, their time and their place.
If the big theatres water down the human experience, then I’ll stick to the smaller ones and serve it up full strength.
I agree. I think that we’re currently functioning in a closed loop,a nd the single biggest thing we can do to attract conversations is work to open that loop, open the process, and open the doors before 8:00.
Okay that’s three things.
Hey Tony, when you say ‘open the process’, do you mean let the audience into the creation process, like open rehearsals, workshops and talkbacks, salons or blogging about rehearsals…that kind of thing? How open should we be about the process?
I think all of it is possible.
We’ve had some of our most productive rehearsals outdoors in local parks. Workshops and talkbacks can be great if done well, and I see no problem blogging about a lot of what happens in rehearsals.
Obviously everyone on board has to be comfortable with it some artists will be very uncomfortable with the idea of it, and there are some things that should remain private. Sports reporters cover the locker rooms, but not the showers.
I think even little things like keeping the house open before and after the appointed time and not having the cast hide in the back before and after shows can help. Seeing warmups and fight call can be a fun unique experience for anyone.
I’ve always been of the mind that if an audience member seeing an actor offstage ruins the play, there’s other issues with that play.
A big thing that far too many theatres forget is just trying to make people feel welcome. If we feel that a show is not simply a product, but the end result of a process, aren’t we shafting audiences by only allowing access to that one final piece?
Right on, I totally agree. This whole idea about partitioning the actors from the audience, especially at the store-front level is ludicrous. Does anybody really think the actors need that kind of pampering?
Accessibility to the performers and the production staff is a wicked selling point for the coolness of theatre that I think isn’t exploited nearly enough. If what we do is really ‘about the community’ then that community deserves to be a part of it.
BTW…the locker room/shower analogy is terrific. I’m thinking you need to write the book: something like ‘The Theatre Company Playbook’ or ‘Major League Theatre: Lessons From the Majors’ or something like that…I’d buy it!