The Gap in the Gap

On another note, I’d be interested in reading your “What’s Wrong With Theater” post. If there’s something that we’re all whining about but not changing, I’d definitely want to know what that is.

And I’ll admit some hostility toward your “War on the audience” concept, even though you haven’t articulated it yet – hostility connected to baggage. I’ve just been through a binge of seeing theater because of the Fringe Fest here in NYC. I saw a lot of different styles and genres of shows, rendered with different degrees of skill, but all presented with joy of performance and a desire to connect. I couldn’t detect a shred of hostility toward the audience.

Maybe that’s not what you mean by the term. I’m just saying that as a fairly regular theatergoer, if there really is a rampant breed of plays getting produced at any level that are designed to attack the audience, I still haven’t seen one. I see this type of theater referred to by bloggers from time to time, and I’d like someone to properly explain to me what it is.

– Mac Rogers

This is actually part of the reason I wasn’t going to go into it. In the stereotyping discussion I mentioned that we shouldn’t care about the plays exhibiting the worst of these stereotypes, because it generally meant they weren’t good, so it is true of most of the things that are “wrong” in theatre. The folks who care enough to be doing something about it aren’t generally the one’s who are perpetrating the harm.

By the War On the Audience I mean Deadly Theatre. Specifically, theatre created without that joy of performance and desire to connect that Mac mentions. Theatre that is so rooted in concept and conceit that it is only accessible to other members of the club. This sort of production is honestly most often the domain of the evangelical university student and the recently graduated.

I don’t think that it is an active hostility, to my thinking it’s the passive aggression of “fuck’em if they don’t get it”.

I strongly believe that in pursuing this particular art form you cannot ignore the experience of the audience no matter how high your concept. By all means challenge them (and no, they don’t have to like it), but allow them in on some level, it’s not their fault they didn’t choose to also pursue this art form, don’t punish them for it. 


As Mr. Rogers and Mr. Walters both expressed interest in a “What is wrong with theatre” post, I went back to work on it. It was 1300 words without being fleshed out before I abandoned it as a flawed concept.

Everything that is “wrong with theatre” is wrong with theatre as I intend to do it in Austin in 2007 with my level of funding. It’s not relevant to a playwright in NY, or a professor in NC. Those are things for me to work out on my own as applies to my own practice.

There are of course the universal ‘wrongs’ of lack capital and space, but we all know what those are, and all I was going to say about that was “quit whining”, which no one wants to hear.

But let me ask this, because my fiancee asked me:

What good does that discussion do?
Aside from the “all theatre problems are local problems” truism, what benefit is there to being an echo chamber for whining? It’s just adding negativity to negativity about hypothetical hypotheticals.

Look at the defensiveness and hostility in this community when anyone tries to criticize anything. Look at the response to George Hunka and 100 Saints,  or Isaac and dramaturgy. The theatrosphere isn’t interested in honest discussion of this stuff, they are interested in tuning their war drums and having at it with people they’ve (largely) never met.

For myself, I think that we need to focus on what we love about this art, what we want to do with it, what we want to do next, and how we can improve our methods on that path.

See: Hal Brooks

If you are in Austin and want to talk about what I think needs doing here in my own theatrical house, and how we can go about getting that done? Drop me an email… we’ll get coffee.


Also? In RE: Walking out of a show…

I never have. But unless you have a position on the show or some other obligation to the production I have no problem with it, even my own. [though for my part I’d prefer you stayed for the whole thing and gave me notes over a beverage afterward].  I can’t do it. I’m not advanced enough a theatre artist to be able to pass up a chance to see someone else’s take on anything. I can’t improve my craft if I’m not learning and I learn at a much lower rate on my couch at home than sitting in an audience being engaged, however deeply engaged that is.

Homework!

  1. What project of your own are you most looking forward to in the next six months?
  2. What is the worst thing you’ve ever sat all the way through (feel free not to use names)
  3. What did you learn from it? What was your takeaway?
  • Mac Rogers

    Hi Travis!

    I’m grateful to you for taking the time. I’d like to respond fully, which I can’t do today, but hopefully by Friday. I agree with some stuff and disagree with some other stuff, but nothing on the loin-girding level.

  • Scott Walters

    In response to your fiancee’s question about the purpose, might I offer this response:

    You say “that we need to focus on what we love about this art, what we want to do with it, what we want to do next, and how we can improve our methods on that path.”

    I say: it is very difficult to discuss those things without examining what the art isn’t doing or isn’t doing as well as it could. You can’t focus on improvement without looking at what needs to be improved.

    “The theatrosphere isn’t interested in honest discussion of this stuff, they are interested in tuning their war drums and having at it with people they’ve (largely) never met.” Good point — we don’t seem to be able to exchange ideas without bashing people. A passionate AND civil discussion seems to be a challenge.

  • Travis Bedard

    Scott,

    I say: it is very difficult to discuss those things without examining what the art isn’t doing or isn’t doing as well as it could. You can’t focus on improvement without looking at what needs to be improved.

    Agreed. But that is a conversation that needs to happen on a personal, company, and community level. For example: amending the showcase code may affect my future, but it doesn’t effect my now (or immediate future). Improvements need to be made, but those aren’t meta improvements.

    I’m not sure why the defensiveness of this particular community.

    My guess is that it’s due to the insular nature of production, and the singularity of each artist’s journey through this equaling a sort of surprise at the lack of understanding we have of each other and what we do… but that’s really a guess.

    For my part I simply read every blog post in the ‘light most favorable’ and give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Given that and a wishy-washy POV on most things and I get out pretty clean.

    Also, because I brought her up… you should check out my fiancee’s work, she’s very good

    meganreillydesign.com

  • Scott Walters

    I agree it is a conversation that needs to happen at the local level. But sometimes starting the conversation on the macro-level can embolden people to talk about things they’ve only felt in their heart of hearts and not shared because maybe nobody else feels that way. I write what I do not because I want to depress everybody who is trying to keep their artistic head above water, but rather to encourage those who are dissatisfied and who feel there is little support for their viewpoints.

    I enjoy your contributions, by the way. I wouldn’t call you wishy-washy in the least. There seems to be a level of calm in the theatrosphere these days, at least partly because there seems to be an agreement to ignore what I say. Which actually is OK, because a bunch of new people are starting to speak and check in.

    Check out tom Loughlin’s blog A Poor Player (http://www.apoorplayer.net/blog/) — he’s the real deal.

  • Travis Bedard

    I agree it is a conversation that needs to happen at the local level. But sometimes starting the conversation on the macro-level can embolden people to talk about things they’ve only felt in their heart of hearts and not shared because maybe nobody else feels that way. I write what I do not because I want to depress everybody who is trying to keep their artistic head above water, but rather to encourage those who are dissatisfied and who feel there is little support for their viewpoints.

    I think that the meta-discussion is useful, but this is where we bump up into the lack of shared experience and defensiveness. To broaden the discussion enough to include everyone, we get to the level of generalization that manages to offend most of them too.

    I think that the current Theatre Ed. series from you and Tom is exactly what I would like the theatrosphere to be. Smart folks saying smart things about exactly what is going on in their part of the universe. I’m a smart enough human to put together how it applies to me and my universe, and because neither of you have told me how in advance I don’t have to spend time arguing the point first.

    Maybe it’s the difference between being a columnist and being an editorialist? In this little galaxy snarky editorial and hyperbole is King, in stark contrast to simply reporting th facts on the ground so we can gain shared perspective, which I think you and Tom are doing beautifully. Actually I sent those links back to one of my old perfessers who I haven;t even spoken too in 10 years, I think they are a really valuable discussion point, one that TCG should probably pick up and run (even though it’s too late for a Back-To-School festure)

  • Scott Walters

    Thanks for the compliment, Travis, and if you hear back from your teacher, I’d be curious to know what he said. Drop me an email if you want. I’ll have to think about your reasons for liking this series, mainly because in some ways it seems to limit me to only writing about theatre education. Or am I misreading that?

  • Travis Bedard

    I’m sure it reads that way, which isn’t intended. I think blogs should range as far afield as they can reach. But I do think that any post that is as close to the author’s center as these are for you and Tom will be stronger.

    And if he gets a chance to response I will definitely pass it on 🙂