by James Haro
I’ll admit it, at the moment I’m coming down from a big ol’ theatre high. Just a little more than a week after concluding my second stint of mainstage university theatre, seeing all the Philly theatre I could afford (or stomach, in some cases), and securing theatre jobs for the summer, I’m a bit overloaded. Oh, and parties. Man, were there parties. And trying to get my script workshop podcast off the ground. And trying to this, and attempting to that. Usually for this blog I try and come at it from an angle, I attack these posts with a topic in mind, but it’s almost summer, I’m feeling a bit more casual. So, as I find myself coming down, sobering up if you will, I’m going to take this opportunity to just lay it all out there. Everything and anything on my mind regarding theatre that will fit into 1000 words. This is my metaphoric morning after.
Theatre Jobs. So, theatres need hands. I’m a student, I’m at a point in my life where I can work for no pay, no problem. However, the plan is that my education and training will put me in a place to seek paid employment in theatre administration. A just heard a few of you scoff, so be it. I see myself producing, managing, marketing, advocating, and fundraising for theatre. I can’t help but think of all the theatre artists who work administrative jobs as a way of launching into directing, or playwriting. I am a performer, I act and sing, and I never thought of pursuing it professionally. I may consider it however to get my foot in the door to get an administrative job. That seems to be the beaten path, maybe I’ll just follow it.
How often do we laugh at what we don’t find funny? I found myself at a pretty macabre comedy recently. The play itself was good, or turned out to be anyway, but for some reason or another I was straight faced or rolling my eyes at moments the rest of the audience thought were hilarious. I rather enjoy dark topics but wasn’t really willing to buy what the play was trying to sell me. Sitting in the front, as I am like to do in a black box, I almost felt pressured to laugh at lines I didn’t find funny. I started wondering how many other audience members felt the way I did, if they did. I started to reflect on laughing at live events, whether its more genuine to laugh alone or with others. I’ll watch an episode of Parks and Recreation alone on my lap top, or a Louis C.K. special and I’ll laugh in my room with no one home. Laughing with people is a sort of community response, that’s why we go to live events. But how often do we laugh just to laugh? Are we performing as well, as the audience, picking up on cues the actors give us to feel a certain way. I’d say that’s a pretty artificial way of experiencing theatre or any live event. Therefore, I felt less bad about having my own unique experience in a room full of people who seemed to be sharing something I wasn’t a part of. That’s what it’s about, right?
So, scene changes… I’m coming to despise blackouts during scene changes. Transitions can happen so much more creatively, I’ve seen it. I’ve watched shows where stage hands came on costumed and shifted the set dressing around and I much prefer that to waiting almost 30 seconds to a minute in the dark. It kills pacing and assures that I’ll fall asleep. I even wouldn’t mind watching actors get dressed on stage for quick changes. Why not? Just give me something to look at. If I wanted to pay for a blackout I’d rather it be from drinking too much whiskey. Is this just me and my Generation-Y sensibilities? I don’t know. Maybe a little bit, but also I think a laziness in direction plays into it as well.
Budget and Set Design I’ve gotten into discussions with various parties, including my producing partner Monet, about how much budget plays into set design. She contends and others as well that there is NO excuse for poor execution do to budgetary limits. I agree, and here’s why. I went to a production where two walls were supposed to open up and reveal another room. I couldn’t believe how LOUD the rollers were, how shakily they opened, and how shoddily it was constructed. At first I thought, “Hm, they must not have had the budget for anything better.” But what a poor excuse. You work with what you have, of course, but there are creative ways around every problem without cutting corners and assuring that certain audience members (me) never see a production of yours again. Again, I stick to my guns when I say that every thing on the stage being presented to me is worth analyzing. A patch of cloth on the floor, a stain in the sheets, a mouse cursor in plain sight while a projection is displayed. I’m not going to ignore it to be a “good audience member.” I’m tired of mediocrity and laziness. Too many people put too many thankless hours of blood and sweat into producing earth shattering theatre to merely accept little oversights from professionals.
Phew, I feel SO much better. I actually really liked this format (you can disagree with me in the comments below), and maybe I’ll do it once a month or so. Oh wait, one more quick heave…Theatre companies should hire stand up comedians to do curtain speeches, that way the poor souls who actually do them won’t have to break their backs trying to be so cute and amusing…
Alright, I’m done.
James Haro is a Los Angeles native currently attending Drexel University in Philadelphia, seeking his BS in Entertainment and Arts Management, Theatre Concentration. He co-operates a blog at www.AngryPatrons.WordPress.com and produces/co-hosts the podcast ANGRY PATRONS RADIO. Episode #0 NOW UP! (Click here)