Monday, June 30, 2008

Inferiority Complex?

An honest admission from a Chicago actor:

I think some of us in the community have a certain amount of culpability for the attitude that theatre is only worthwhile if a ton of money gets spent on it. I point to myself as an example unfortunately. I'm in a storefront production right now ("Six Character is Search of an Author," if anyone's curious), and I've been trying to get people from work to come see it. One of my coworkers told me she's thinking about going to see it the weekend of the fourth with some friends/family of hers. I was delighted, but I also was cognizant of the fact that most of the time she goes to see shows like "Wicked" and "Jersey Boys" (Her top choice for the weekend of the fourth was "Shout!" before it posted its closing notice). So when she told me she was thinking about coming, I was appalled to catch myself apologizing to her in advance for what it would be like- stuff like "I just want you to know before you go, that the show is a lot
different from Jersey Boys- we definitely are a much smaller production, the show does have some laughs but is a lot more cerebral and much more of a drama..." I guess my point was I didn't want her to go, and feel disappointed or 'tricked' when the theatre experience was vastly different from that of most of the other shows she's seen. It makes me wonder, do I (and others in the community) actually have an inferiority complex of sorts about the resources we
have at our disposal?

This is from the comments on a post at Storefront Rebellion about whether or not big Broadway touring shows (especially the type that settle in for long, extended run,) help, hurt or have no effect on small theatre.

For my part, I think that those of us who spend our lives in the theatre become desensitized to just how jarring it can be for somebody to suddenly attend a show at The Factory Theatre, (a 40-seat theater shoehorned into corner of an old Piano factory that you access through a parking lot.)

When I attended Boston TheatreWorks' production of The Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant at the BCA Plaza Theatre, I was seated right behind a group of women who had come to the show after one of them had seen a description in the Go section of the Boston Globe.

Before the show started I was eavesdropping a little and I would judge about 80% of their conversation to be concerned with the environment in which they now found themselves ensconced. From what I could gather, their regular theatergoing consisted of Broadway in Boston or the occasional I Love You, You're Perfect Now Change.

Talk about the creaky seats, the low ceiling and the thrust stage configuration inevitably gave way to questioning of the aesthetic integrity of the group's leader. The woman who had obviously organized the outing was finding herself in a slightly defensive posture. She kept saying, "It sounded good, the way the Globe described it." Remember, this is all BEFORE the show has even started.

I leaned forward and asked if it was their first time here at the BCA. They told me it was. We had a brief conversation in which I tried to explained the Boston Center for the Arts and that the show was supposed to be very good and that it was one of the hippest shows they could be seeing in Boston at that time.

I don't know if I allayed any of their fears, but I do know that they really enjoyed the show. They left the theatre laughing and mentioning the names of people to whom they would recommend the show.

In the parking lot of the Factory Theatre last month, I found myself standing with the rest of the audience as we waited for the house to open for GlenGarry Glen Ross. I had just come from a matinee performance of the Huntington's She Loves Me at the Boston University Theatre, and I noticed the significant difference between the two experiences. At She Loves Me I had picked up my tickets, went in, got a candy bar from the snack bar downstairs settled into my seat. Now, I was waiting on cracked asphault admist parked cars and rusty chain link fences.

But then something really cool happened. The director of the show came out and started to welcome people. He went around to each group, shook hands, thanked them for coming, asked them how they heard about the show and let them know precisely what was happening - "we are just getting the stage ready and then we will open the doors and let everybody in."

As corny as it sounds, it made a big difference.

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