Archive for opinion piece

Through Lines: What is the Community in Theatre?

Feb 28

Whether we are discussing the ranks of the large professional theatres like the Shakespeare Theatre, or the mid-sized Regionals like Woolly Mammoth or Studio Theatre, or community theatres like the Little Theatre of Alexandria or Silver Spring Stage, what is most important about theatre has always been the community it supports and engenders.  That’s right!  Forget the actors and singers!  Forget the directors—musical, managing, and artistic!  Forget the playwrights and theatrical devisors, set and costume and lighting designers, technicians and stage managers, publicists and PR experts!  Forget them all!  It is the community of folk who gather in front of or round the stage that determines the nature and identity of that thing we call theatre.

We have an audience. You have a show. Let’s get them together!

Enter a theatre, purchase a ticket or two or three, mingle among the crowd or stand against a far wall, walk into the auditorium and sit among the audience, and suddenly you exist in association, in association with those other people sitting around you.  Suddenly, you are that theatre’s community, its identity of like-minded individuals who have come to see a show.  It does not make any difference if you like the performance that you will soon experience, or not.  Or that you might be at that production for reasons other than to see the show.  Like it or not, even if you go to a show because that’s what your boyfriend wants or that’s what your child needs, you still—at that moment—have that community’s identity.  In some small way, you are that farce, that Greek tragedy, that 1940’s musical, that one-man show, that contemporary experimental drama, or even that revival of Oh Calcutta!  And you will leave the theatre marked as such.

Continue reading….

 

Behind the Fourth Wall: I’ve got a Barn. Let’s put on ‘A Christmas Carol’ or ‘The Nutcracker’ or…

Jan 6

Tommy Steele as Scrooge in the Palladium Theatre’s production of ‘A Christmas Carol.’

Now let me play the holiday season’s favorite character—Scrooge! That’s the bah humbug part, not the money grubbing, no time off for family and friends part, the part that asks: “Does Washington really need all of these Christmas shows? I mean—really?”.

Scrooge McDuck as Scrooge.

It’s bad enough that TV has begun airing its traditional favorites from White Christmas and Miracle on 34th Streetto Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, to new favorites likeNational Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story to newer favorites like The Grinch and The Muppet Christmas Carol, but they are also piling on additional 21st century ones from It’s Christmas, Carol and Hitched for the Holidays to Matchmaker Santa and That Cyborg Santa’s Got an Ax (not really, but a sci-fi fan can dream!).

And it’s even worse that Black Friday, that beginning of Commercial Christmas’s selling season—though not yet an official holiday—has become solidified in our national consciousness as a day where it is our patriotic duty to shop for Santa. Although stores have been starting their sales in Black Friday’s wee hours for 30+ plus years and, then, last year many opened at midnight, this year Target and Walmart moved Black Friday into Thanksgiving Thursday. Pretty soon, those Black Friday sales will have Labor Day in their sights!

Alastair Sim as Scrooge in the 1951 film version.

And to top it off Fox News has made “The War on Christmas” its annual holiday event, during which its pundits claim that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, the idea of Christmas is under siege by atheists and civil libertarians alike, who are out to do away with America’s number one cultural obsession.

So do so many of Washington’s theatres have to make a Christmas show such a cultural given as well? According to my research, this December there are no fewer than 17 professional Christmas shows in the immediate Washington area alone: no fewer than 6 Christmas Carols and 4 Nutcrackers, A White Christmas, a couple of gritty punked out Christmas shows, a Christmas show on the prairie and one in Ireland, a Christmas pageant, and a one-man version of A Wonderful Life. And I’m not even counting the Christmas concerts!

I mean, is all this abundance really necessary? Does it help theatres meet their bottomline? Does it help them fulfill their patriotic duty? Does it help people get into the Christmas spirit? Are Christmas shows like prayers helping us all bring Peace on Earth and Good Will toward Men? If they are, then one would think that there would be a little more evidence that their abundance worked. Last I looked, however, our politicians are still just as gridlocked in their nastiness, the war in Afghanistan still wages on interminably, the Middle East is still on the verge of Armageddon, and traffic in DC is just as hostile as its ever been. Hence, these shows do not seem to be bewitching anyone’s disposition—even briefly.

To read more click here.