Theatre Throw Up: August? Really?

Think about the first time you were allowed to drink at family parties. Did you drink lightly not wanting to embarrass yourself in front of grandma? Or did you take advantage of your new found legal drinking status and party like it was your own birthday? I don’t know if it’s a milestone for most people, I’m not even all that sure it was a milestone for me, but my first time was Saturday. It was a family member’s 40th, casino themed. I wore a tie, my wingtips, dare I say I looked pretty slick. Cut to the morning after, me laying in my cousin’s guest room cursing my decision to inhale so much liquor. I would say it was the worst hangover I’ve ever had. It took all of Sunday for me to recover, catching up on Season 3 of Breaking Bad with Mom (who was recovering in her own right). So, in honor of my last binge of July, which was family supervised whether they liked it or not, I thought I’d revisit the porcelain god for another installation of theater rambling.

Let’s open the lid again, shall we…?

New Plays They’re everywhere, right? I mean, even if you’re not looking for them they are around. In all stages of development there are new stories being staged, or old stories being retold, or redrafted, or written on a cocktail napkin. But where are they, really? Does each solid script have the same shot at being produced as the other? Is there a democracy to play development, or is it more of a bureaucratism? To me it doesn’t seem as though Joe or Jill Nobody can send a script to a producing theater company and expect to have it read without a letter of recommendation attached, or a masters degree behind it, or an agent pimping it. In fact, I’ve seen it first hand, the Literary Manager’s favorite filing system. There are certain channels a play or playwright must go through to be deemed worthy, certain agencies that they must be approved by. There are higher education facilities first and foremost. This is where a playwright goes to be taught how to write, to learn the process of story telling, and to graduate having at least one full length script complete and a BFA. If the playwright was smart they would have also interned or worked for theater companies in the adjacent areas for networking and exposure purposes. Then there is play workshopping and lab development. This is where plays go to get an audience and gain a little bit of legitimacy. And legitimacy is a strange strange concept, isn’t it? It brings to mind a 2AMt article I was reading about play commissioning by Gwydion Suilebhan. He reservedly made a point about arts institutions and how they “have an important role to play as cultural curators. They serve as experts, determining what art needs to get created. Their imprimatur—the fact that they’ve commissioned the work—automatically makes it ‘important’…” or my word, legitimate. As Gwydion hesitantly comments, there is merit to this system. However, the system I would argue isn’t perfect. An Associate Artistic Director once told me that she sometimes worries about how many potential Pulitzer Prize winning scripts she’s had to turn away for whatever reason. It’s a scary thing to consider, I suppose. Then there are the small productions and the bare bones readings which sort of grants exposure for a piece, but really what most artists want is that ticket to the top, the path that leads them to local, regional, national acclaim. How many plays really have a chance at that? Then there is that thing to consider of theater not being a popular artform. What that turns the artform into is an exclusive club, where the wealthy pour money into the coffers of the curators at the top who decide what is deemed worthy of production. Honestly, as I’m still developing opinions about how theater is made, I can’t say whether or not I like the way things are. There is plenty I’m not satisfied with (as the name of my own blog would suggest), but what concerns me is that I personally know a lot of talented artists and I fear their potential discouragement with the process. How many Pulitzer winners have already given up, or will with the thought that their work will never get seen or support their livelihood? I suppose there is always the prospect of getting a “real job,” but some people are just wired for the imaginary, and those people are called artists. I don’t know what can change about the process, but there are enough bright people working in this industry to know that something needs to be done to broaden the playing field and give more people an opportunity to come see the game. Though theatre should evolve into a more populist artform it tries desperately to remain a corporate one. I believe this needs changing.

Phew! I hope that wasn’t too messy. I feel A LOT better now. I’m left a little nauseous considering I still have a month left to find a place to live in Philadelphia next  month. Wait, here comes another heave…

I’m guilty I’ve been in LA for a month and a half and have only seen one play.

Oy, well I’m remedying that soon, “Blood Wedding” on Wednesday and “Blackbird” sometime this weekend. Anyone have more suggestions? Bitter Lemons only goes so far.

Alright, I’m done.

Flush…

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 AngryPatrons.com and produces/co-hosts the podcast ANGRY PATRONS RADIOEpisode #…? NOW UP! (Click here) OR, subscribe to us on iTunes.
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One response to “Theatre Throw Up: August? Really?

  1. Pingback: “Blackbird” in LA: Just What I Needed… « ANGRY PATRONS

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