Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sox and the Cycle - How are Boston's Theaters Faring

In reflecting on the closing of Jimmy Tingle's Theatre, Joel Brown of HubArts states:

We can say we want more edgy theater, more on-point political humor, more alternative venues, but how many of us actually get off our asses on a Wednesday night and go out and buy a ticket?

Zeitgeist Stage Producing Artistic Director, David Miller, left Brown the following comment, which I am quoting in full with Mr. Miller's permission:

Your observations resonate particularly strongly for me at this time. Zeitgeist Stage Company is co-presenting the Boston area premiere of The Kentucky Cycle by Robert Schenkkan. Winner of the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Cycle is 9 plays over 6 hours in 2 parts with 23 actors portraying over 120 roles covering 7 generations of 3 families over 200 years. Two fringe theater companies have joined forces to present this ambitious production in the 90 seat Plaza Black Box Theater at the Boston Center for the Arts.

The show has received glowing reviews. In The Boston Globe, Louise Kennedy observed, “Huge, engrossing, and powerful in the way that only an epic can be.” Carolyn Clay in The Boston Phoenix called it, “A sweeping, small-scale triumph.”

While Iris Fanger in The Patriot Ledger called The Kentucky Cycle, “A theatrical privilege not to be missed!”

However, three weeks into the run, most nights there are more actors on stage than in the audience, and numerous times those in attendance have been in the single digits. How many people, indeed, actually attend alternative venues for edgy theater on a Wednesday, Friday or even a Saturday night?

Having operated a fringe theater company in Boston for six years and, typically, presenting little known works by lesser known playwrights, we’ve faced our share of small houses and marketing challenges. However, a Pulitzer Prize winning American Epic presented in an intimate setting, and seemingly presented very well indeed, didn’t appear it would be the tough sell it has turned out to be.

So, please, before bemoaning the lack of theatrical opportunities out there, explore the alternative offerings of the smaller venues all around town. You may be very pleasantly surprised you did.

David J. Miller
Producing Artistic Director
Zeitgeist Stage Company

The Red Sox are probably not helping things, and we have just gone through an indian summer of sorts here in Boston. And, (from my experiencing producing things,) if New Englanders have the opportunity to get a little more outdoors on either end of the winter they will opt out of spending time in a dark theater.

In response to an e-mail from me, Miller said that while the Sox are not helping, it is probably the overall length of the entire cycle, (both parts together are 6 hours,) that is keeping people away. He points out that each part can stand on its own.

Miller has faced the Sox in the post season before.

"Yeah, Credeaux Canvas was up against the Sox playoffs in 2004," he remembers. "We managed to always get an audience on game nights, although it definitely had an impact."

"I'm afraid it's going to be more severe for this show, which is having trouble getting an audience already. Hey, Credeaux had a 30 minute nude scene to off-set the Soxs, this just has murder, mayhem, & land-lust."

Miller closed with the words of a veteran producer,

"This too shall pass, but not before the best of 7 series has played out!!"
(Photo of Red Sox from New York Times, Photo of Kentucky Cycle from Zeitgeist Stage.)

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