Monday, December 12, 2011

Root Hog or Die

Contributed by Guest Blogger of the Week, Edward Elefterion.

Let’s close the theatres.  All of them.  Let’s close them down and see who notices.  I’m betting that aside from the artists who create it and those who depend on it for a living, no one will really miss it.  Tourists will find something else to spend their money on, something less risky and more rewarding I’m sure (but that’s another subject entirely) and aside from the few rich pensioners who fancy themselves die-hard theatre aficionados, who also, I remind you, will all be dead in the next few decades if not sooner…who’s going to notice?  Who’s going to miss theatre?  Especially Off-Off-Broadway theatre?  Considering that off-Broadway is really just a smaller-seated version of Broadway, selling subscriptions (or trying to) instead of putting all of their eggs in one open-ended-run basket, and that only the wealthy, disposable-income consumer can afford the luxury of paying for a Broadway and off-Broadway ticket, what’s left to consider closing other than the $18 ticket price, 3-week run Off-Off-Broadway theatre?  The only affordable theatre option for whoever actually wants to spend their money buying a ticket…let’s close it down. 

Because…who actually does buy a ticket?  Friends and family, and bless their hearts for without them there would be no Off-Off-Broadway scene to even imagine shutting down.  Our F&F’s have been supportively schlepping themselves all over the city for ages because they love us.  Do you think that they’d come if they didn’t?  Is your theatre full of someone else’s F&F’s?  No, aside from our support-group core, we have no audience.  Sure, there are a few who straggle in and out of shows because they’re interested in a specialty topic (a show about vampires or sex), maybe even a few fans, but unless you’re a shameless panderer, you know everyone in your audience.  If they’re not your F&F’s they’re the director’s or the designer’s or a fellow actor’s.  That’s the simple truth.  Other than our loyal supporters, no one is going to miss the Off-Off-Broadway scene.  No one’s even going to notice.  The best we can hope for is a footnote at and then the insightful, good-natured souls there can focus squarely on guiding tourists to the most reliable distraction in the Distraction (theatre) District.

No, the average non-theatre-related person living in the city doesn’t need theatre.  They don’t know theatre.  Theatre isn’t a part of their lives.  Take away their computer, they’ll notice.  Take away their phone, they’ll notice.  Take away their local cinema, their Internet connection, their flat screen TV, their mp3s, even their cheap ear-bud knockoff headphones, you bet they’ll notice.  There’d be a riot.  But take away the theatre company down the block?  Whatever.  American’s will pay through the nose for entertainment.  They can do it in a click, be done with it and click again somewhere else, you’re doing it right now, in fact.  Theatre isn’t an affordable commodity.  It’s a luxury item.  Even at $18 a ticket.  And our culture has learned how not to need it.  Instead, we’ve learned how to feel connected when we’re actually more isolated.  No easy feat, but that’s where we’re at. 

Feeling connected in spite of actually being more isolated.  Spending more time with a screen than with flesh.  And not even a screen with a group of strangers at a cinema, no…a screen at a little table in the corner of a coffee shop, a screen in a cubicle, a screen on your lap in bed.  So much time, more and more every year, every day and every hour…alone with a screen.  Is there any wonder why I do theatre? 

Now more than ever theatre is necessary.  Even if it’s only for our F&Fs, bless their patient, tweeting souls.  Where else can we, as a society, get together and dream? 

Grandpa always said, “Root hog or die.”  We need to root more.  Get down to the bone instead of dazzling some imaginary audience with our surface, exhausting our scant resources trying to get someone (who, critics?) to notice us.  Are you working for critics?  What do you need them for?  Promotion?  Validation?  If you are you really should shut down, immediately.  Die.  Voluntarily, gracefully and without great note or fanfare: close down and never produce again. 

Otherwise, that is, if you intend to keep producing, keep creating work for yourself and your beautiful F&Fs…root.  Get down in the dirt and dig for your life. 

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