Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Who You Do That For?

Contributed by guest blogger of the week, James Comtois.

RLewis asks a question in the comments section in the previous entry that I'll use as a springboard for this one: when you do the theatre you do, who is it for? Let's see if we can answer that, or at the very least address it in the form of a vaguely amusing, quasi-didactic format.

The thing is, having written and produced theatre for over 11 years and counting, that question is becoming more pertinent (for me, anyways).

Who is this for, and why are we doing this?

I actually don't mean the latter part of that question to be in the whiny, angsty way (i.e., "Why do I bother? What's the point of it all?"). I just mean, after producing indie theatre for a certain length of time, you start to seriously assess what your goals are. Or at least, I'm starting to.

Producing your own work while in your twenties is easy. In fact, there's no question of whom it's for or why you're doing it. Are you kidding me? You're getting your plays staged in New York! This is the freakin Dream Come True! What else you gonna do? You're not making money, but who cares? You're not doing this for money, you're doing it to get your freakin plays staged in New York!

But of course, when you're doing this racket in your thirties or even forties, the goals and motivations are no longer mere givens. (Maxing out your credit cards to stage your play when you're 22 is completely worth it. Continuing to do so when you're in your mid-30s and possibly have kids and/or a mortgage, may mean you have a very self-destructive problem akin to a gambling addiction.)*

So, who is this for? There's no one-size-fits-all answer, obviously. But if you can't answer that question—and hey, there was a brief moment in the history of Nosedive Central where we found ourselves stumped—then the following question is inevitable:

If you don't know for whom this is for, then why are you doing this?

Is it just habit? Filling a slot in the season? Some sort of OCD-driven obligation? I for one don't want to be just going through the motions, especially if I'm not making money from it. Going through the motions is what my day job is for! (Note to my day job: I kid, I kid! I always give 110% for you guys, you know that!)

Now sure, habit, filling a slot in your season, and having a sense of obligation are fine motivating factors when creating theatre. But there has to be more to it than just those reasons. Much, much more. Otherwise, why bother?

There has to be a compelling need for staging any show. (This is becoming especially true in this town where producing theatre is getting increasingly difficult and more expensive.) This idea or story needs to be conveyed to people here and now. Otherwise, why bother?

(I know the above may make readers go, "Well, duh," but let's be honest: how many of us have gone to a production then thought, "Why the hell was this show staged?" I know I've gone to several where I've asked that question.**)

At any rate, I don't think you're being self-centered, RLewis. Or rather, if you are, I don't think that's a bad thing at all. Contrary to your statement, one can't spend 24/7 just producing. And even if one could, one shouldn't if it's not fulfilling. I know it sounds clich├ęd, but it's your time and your energy, focus it on what you're passionate about.

Otherwise, why bother?

Doing this for your mom,

James "Good Neighbor" Comtois

*I don't mean to imply that you need to stop putting your own money into your own show at a certain age. I just mean that sinking all your possible sources of income into your production is something that's awesome when you're young, but gets to be progressively less awesome the older you get.

**Also, let's be even more honest: how many of us have staged a show, then asked, "Why the hell did we stage this show?" I know I've written and produced a few where I've asked that question.

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