Friday, June 09, 2006

Young? Entrepeneurial? - Let's hope

The Globe introduces us to a talented and entrepeneurial 22 year-old actress/director this morning.

I give her all the credit in the world. She creates her own opportunities and this is what theatre people should be doing.

But, as reader's of my blog know, I always am amazed at people's insistence on constantly reviving mediocre works. Here is a quote from Ms. Hammel:

"I really wanted to do this part and I didn't know anyone who was doing this play, so I decided to produce it myself," said Hammel, adding that she only recently realized that she's repeating her trick of founding a production to get a role."

The play is Neil Labute's The Shape of Things, and the part is Evelyn, the sexy grad student who seduces a hapless and dorky undergrad and does a kind of a Pygmalion on him. I like Neil Labute, but actually find his films far more interesting, artistic, and edgier than any of his dramas. Aside from the coup de theatre in the end of The Shape of Things, I always feel, when watching LaBute's plays, that there is no reason I couldn't get the same experience watching this same type of thing on a movie at home. (By the way, you can watch it at home.)

Though I think two local productions of Shape of Things in the last few years, (Speakeasy, and Theatrezone,) is quite enough, perhaps there is value here. Ms. Hammel is a young and connected actress and perhaps she can infuse a little interest into the local theatre scene by people of her own age.

She talks of wanting to interest "the parents" of the children she has in her theatre projects. I'll make a modest suggestion that she try to interest people of her age, also. That is the magic pill we are all looking for. Find out what they would like to see. I'm not that age, so maybe they would like to see Shape of Things.

With all of the talk in the blogosphere of business, theatre, and the like, this is refreshing. Let's just hope that she isn't seduced by the commercial theatre's idea of "edgy." And let's hope that her vision of a "lot more shows," succeeds.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I give her all the credit in the world for her her ability to sell herself and can't speak of her theatrical abilities, but as far as I can see she's already been bought lock, stock and barrel by the commercial theatre's idea of success... regurgitating one schmaltzy musical after another and serving them up for an adoring suburbanite audience.

And that's not to mention Clear Channel and top 40 radio. It's nice to see that she's built a little business for herself, but if this is what the Globe considers a Visionary Director to be, or what we need in order to "Save Theatre" God Help Us. A Svengali who pimps pre-teens under the guise of "Girl Authority" barely qualifies as an artist in my book.

-AA

YS said...

Though you are far more cynical than I here, I actually fully concede that you have a much better argument.

But, I have a tendency to be too hopeful for youthful producing organizations.

I was also a little more lenient since the Globe has been covering some interesting things lateley. MIT Playwrights Collaborative, and Beau Jeste's return to Boston.

We have, Emerson, Brandeis, The ART institute, BU School of the Performing Arts. Why don't more of the graduating students from those programs band together to create theatre groups a la Steppenwolf?

YS said...

Though you are far more cynical than I here, I actually fully concede that you have a much better argument.

But, I have a tendency to be too hopeful for youthful producing organizations.

I was also a little more lenient since the Globe has been covering some interesting things lateley. MIT Playwrights Collaborative, and Beau Jeste's return to Boston.

We have, Emerson, Brandeis, The ART institute, BU School of the Performing Arts. Why don't more of the graduating students from those programs band together to create theatre groups a la Steppenwolf?

Anonymous said...

Your question, YS about why more students from Boston don't band together to form companies is a complex one, and something I've given a great deal of thought to. There isn't one simple answer- a lot of complex factors come into play here. Briefly though, for YEARS the American Theatre has been centered around the idea that theatre existed in one place: New York. About fifty years ago, regional theatre started, and that created a trend for big "Magnet" theatres like the Huntington which brought people in from out of town because there WAS no local theatre scene. It's really only been in the last ten years (with the exception of Chicago) that this has stated to change anywhere- but change, I think it has. There are now real "scenes" in places across the country, and the pardigm has begun to shift if ever so slightly.

Boston, in turn was like a lot of similar cities that attracted regional theatres and the effects have lingered. It used to be a try-out city for New York, and that cast a shadow over it- New Haven and Philadelphia which are equal types of places also have had difficulty developing scenes of their own. The best and the brightest have traditionally left here, and the city suffers something of an inferiority complex in relation to New York. The Puritan Hangover has also helped- this just isn't a place which welcomes experimentation and so has the fact that real estate here is prohibitively expensive. Then too, Boston isn't really a big city; the Metro area is comparitively small to most major American cities and that has helped make it difficult to find space and an audience.

And that, in short, I think is the answer to your question

-AA