by James Haro
I was going to wait a bit longer than two weeks to reintroduce this format. However, this being finals week at Drexel, I feel I must purge a bit. And I don’t feel so bad. After Pixar did “A Bugs Life” they came right back with “Toy Story 2.” (If this makes sense to you then we should be best friends.) So this will be my June dump entry, things that have been on my mind about theatre in general and finding my place in it.
Now it’s time to open the lid…
What are we doing? No livelihood is guaranteed in pursuing theatre and yet we pursue it. We scribble, and breathe, and make the calls. We apply, and reapply, and apply ourselves. We write, and rewrite, and dream but rarely sleep. We wait, and watch, and listen. We build and we strike. We speak and we question and we explore. We secretly enjoy that not everyone is a theatre person. We also secretly enjoy reality television and Will Ferrell comedies and non-organic, greasy foods. We could be doing something different. We could be doctors, we could be bankers, we could be scientists, we could be helping people, we could be saving people, we could be making more money doing something easier. Why do we insist on being entertainers? Why do we insist that what comes out of us will be worth a lick of salt to anyone else? What good is this art form anyway? It’s expensive, it’s impractical, it’s not popular, and in a world where people are increasingly nesters that stay in their homes with all the forms of entertainment they could want at their finger tips, why do we believe they’ll commute the distance and pay for the ticket and sit in our audience? Why do we believe they’ll turn off their cell phones and sit through the scene changes and come back after intermission? I don’t have an answer for any of this. They are just questions. I think we all have doubts about these things from time to time. But we find the answers.
We find the answers when we see our patrons on the edge of their seats when the pretend people pretending to be in real situations are destroying all preconceived ideas the audience carried into the theatre, breathing along with them in the same room. We find the answers when our play gets its first workshop and we hear the audience laughing or whimpering at words we wrote or situations we made up. We find the answers when we are saying goodbye to cast and crew members and staff and supporters, all knowing that this live thing that they created or experienced just saw its last performance and all other productions will never look, sound, or feel the same way again. And hey, this art form is almost as old as language. It’s evolved more time than the reptile. (Don’t bother fact checking, I’m probably wrong) It must be good for SOMETHING and it’s not going anywhere.
Digital Theater What a sad image: A solitary column stands center stage with nothing to support. This object represents a man known to his married friends as “Bobby,” an agreeable, unthreatening single man who has just turned 35. Both the man and the column have a function to serve. Both the column and the man are not serving their function. Both solitary figures remain unfulfilled. You might have guessed it, I’m speaking of the wonderful Sondheim musical “Company,” revived on Broadway in 2007 and directed by John Doyle. I landed in New York for the first time in November 2007…a year after “Company” had opened…and four months after it closed…But I’ve seen it, I swear! And its still running…kind of.
I’ve attended the tale of Sweeney Todd as well, under the direction of Hal Prince. I’ve seen the huge rotating box coffin that acted as Mrs. Lovetts’ murderous meat pie establishment. I’ve witnessed wonderful performances by Angela Lansbury and George Hearn as the devilish duo. I was born in 1990. The production I saw was put up in 1982…But I’ve seen it, I swear! And its still running…kind of.
What I’m getting at is that I, by circumstances of time/place/birth/what have you, have not had the opportunity to see a LOT of theatre. Important theatre. Theatre that, by my chosen profession, I NEED and SHOULD experience. And I HAVE experienced it, some of it, in all of its grainy, pixilated glory! Who or what do I have to thank?
Of course one can make the case that my experience of these pieces are flawed. I’d argue that. There are moments where I applaud, just sitting there with my Mac on my lap. Of course it should be noted that the only productions I have seen have been professionally filmed and shows that have been closed for years. There is still much theatre I am missing. However, I wonder what kind of future there is in filmed versions of plays being made available for home viewership. Something like this is already happening in Britain. A company called Digital Theater.
“Digital Theatre is working in partnership with Britain`s leading theatre companies, including the Almeida Theatre, English Touring Theatre, the Royal Court, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Young Vic, to capture live performance authentically onscreen. We use multiple camera angles and high-definition technology to bring you closer to the drama and emotion of each production.
With these methods we are creating a library of diverse and acclaimed productions from some of the finest theatre talent around. Although featuring a range of productions, ensuring there`s something to suit everyone, the plays all share the highest standards of performance and production.
We`ll be releasing new productions at regular intervals with an eclectic mix of the best new theatre around. To keep yourself up to speed you can sign up to our mailing list and receive updates direct. Alternatively you can explore our website for news and information on theatres, actors, creative teams and forthcoming productions.”
Go check them out. I haven’t seen anything in their library yet, mostly because I haven’t been able to or wanted to pay. Maybe once I have a little bit of extra cash I’ll grab the West End production of All My Sons. I have seen a few “trailers” for their plays and they look great. I’ve been keeping my eye on these guys, so far it seems like they’ve managed to get the most out of their relationships with producers. I wouldn’t be surprised to see something like this replicate in the US as well. We always steal from the Brits.
WELL, I feel better now.
This was a nice way to delay studying for my final Accounting exam. And, as is appropriate, one last heave…I’m bored of human beings. Plays about mythical creatures is where it’s at!
By the way, Heavier than… opens at Boston Court this summer (see what I did?)! Can’t wait to see you all there!
Also, on Monday I start a three month stint as a Production Intern at BC. Wish me luck!
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 #0.5 NOW UP! (Click here)