Just Take Those Old Records Off the Shelf

It’s been 6 months already so the theatre blogs and the #2amt (2am Theatre) kids on Twitter are bashing around labeling of theatre again. It’s one of rashes that theatre bloggers seem to have that flare up pretty consistently. I’ve talked about this before here and there are links over at 2amtheatre.com and at The Next Stage and more if you search the #2amt tag on Twitter. It makes Don Hall’s head pound just to listen to us talk about it, which is it’s own reward but not why we do it.

Why do we do it?

Why do we talk about getting more people in to see our work, their work, anyone’s work? Even in those icky business clichés that drive all the true artists/punks to want to slit their digital writs?

Because we love this.
We love this out of all proportion.
We love this more than we really should.
At some point in our lives live performance hooked into us and never let go.

And we spend our free time creating it, talking about it, talking about talking about it, writing about talking about it, hanging out with other people who create it, write about it , talk about it, write about people talking about creating it…

My wife has two degrees in this and she would really like me to go back to being hooked on baseball sometimes.

And most people just don’t seem to care. They care more about jai alai than live theatre. This field has become a cliché on both ends of the spectrum (the garish Broadway musical and the warehouse performance artists) and those of us in between just can’t get people in the doors.

And we know that it’s because someone somewhere lost them, and that if we can get them in the door one more time we can keep them. That they will be as hooked on this as we are. But we messed up somewhere and lost them to something someone told them was newer and better. Frankly, we suck at language for a largely text based art form. Republicans never would have let this happen to their art form.

Even old and musty doesn’t need to be a terrible thing. The masks and Red Curtain can still be wonderful, and theatre in general is just as vital as it’s ever been. But we talk about it like half-drunk epileptic docents, and THAT is what this discussion is about.

We don’t have the words for what we do that make it easy for anyone else to understand why we love it, and the time for that ineffability being enough is long since passed.

Records, vinyl records, are an outdated medium that has no technical advantages over the technologies that followed it, it lacks portability, it lacks purity, and it lacks permanence.

And for a whole bunch of folks it is the only way to Really Listen to music because those imperfections lend a certain warmth of tone that perfect FLAC files and $20 ear buds just don’t capture.

But theatre makers manage to make analog sound like a thesis instead of a privilege and I’m going to keep mucking around in the language bin until I get the words right for what it is that I do.

  • I can't believe you said the vinyl record lacks purity! Heresy, sir, heresy! Come to think of it, vinyl's a bit like theatre; what it lacks in portability and permanence is made up for by some of the purest sensations you'll ever feel.

  • RZCrow

    I had this very discussion the other day with mine husband who has grown a bit weary of it all, as well. I likened us to our baby (you learn a lot from an 18 month old) and said that we keep on learning new vocabulary and like finding others that we can use it with, even though it's been said before in different ways. It's a way of stretching our collective, theatre-based wings and, while it can be frightfully boring and repetitive to those not invested in the conversation, it serves a purpose of fleshing out what we really want to do and how we really want to create it. Repetition can be good and we're basically learning through play, if that makes any sense.

    You hit the nail rightly on the head, Mr. Bedard.

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  • scottwalters

    One thing, maybe, is that we need to stop talking about why WE do it, and instead talk about why OTHERS should be interested. What's in it for THEM? Sometimes, it's not all about us!

  • I think you're right, and I think that we do. There's been a LOT of talk
    both about why audience should (and would) like a project as well as what we
    can do dramaturgically to make sure that they really are welcome as part of
    the process.

  • liquidlogic

    That's actually the sneaky agenda behind the video listings on my site. We're so darn good at articulation why we want to do the work we do, it's essential that we can tell a prospective audience member why it will work for them, in a language that will make them think 'actually, yeah, that does sound kinda cool'.

    This is where a sound understanding of demographics come in, I suppose. That language we're searching for is really a bunch of languages, isn't it? Depending on who we're directing the pitch at, or talking to.

  • nancykenny

    I hope you are allowed more than one wife in Texas because I could marry you for this post.

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  • aaronandersen

    Hmmm, maybe the conversation sounds like “half-drunk epileptic docents” because said docents fetishize talking about such things at 2am. And because any conversation on Twitter sounds epileptic.

    Said with love.

  • I would agree (especially for my part) except that it's not just us. If I hand you the average grant application there are 7 adjectives for every event. 5 of them are pseudo-academic adjectives and the other two are the buzzwords of the moment, and that's the same language folks are trying to send out to their audiences.

    And for the record? Most of the #2amt traffic is at 3-4PM CST

  • aaronandersen

    I didn't think you were actually conversing at 2am. I just mean that the name of the blog and the #2amt hashtag make a fetish of caffeine-fueled ranting. It makes me nostalgic for pancake houses and truckstops from my college days.

    And I'm glad I don't read a lot of grant applications! But I do work with folks who write a lot of them. And the best ones are either a formality, because a relationship already secured the grant, or are full of tangible things, like the number of 6-9 year-olds who attended this series of education concerts.

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  • This is
    cool! And so interested! Are u have more posts like this? Plese tell me,
    thanks