Sunday, June 03, 2007

In All Seriousness

In part because I'm still feeling the residual effect of The Impending Theatrical Blogging Event (and the implied Yuenglings) and because the American Apparel advertisement (on the back of the A.V. Club Crossword) has the word "dysphemism" on it, I would like to upchuck an idea that's been lodged in my skull for a while. The ITBE was more a comic jam session, but it served the purpose of uniting various bloggers under one roof (or from secretive bunkers), and we did have some decent commentary (earlier and less drunkenly on) about theater itself, as in (a) what constitutes it, (b) why don't more people see it, and (c) what can we do to encourage it? (That is, aside from convening at The Brick to perform for ourselves and the caps-speaking AUDIENCE.)

What it all boils down to is our need to be social animals. We blog because we'd like to believe that someone out there cares enough about what we have to say on things: I assume theater comes from a similar, although probably more high-minded, place. The reason television (in particular, reality programming) is killing theater, along with the more spectaculicious (new coinage) movies, is that they are instantly accessible and discussable water-cooler topics. Our world is oversaturated with things to talk about already (and off-off-Broadway is no exception), and our biggest fear is in being left out of the conversation. This is why, if theater wants to grow, we need to nurture discussion about it. We need to insure that there will be a forum--even if it's online only--where theatergoers can nourish their attention-starved needs to vent. Even if it's just to make a connection over a powerful and gripping show, theater cannot thrive in an isolated context: not when there are so many other things competing with it.

So here's a topic that I've spoken about many times before, and which I again see inherent in the aggregate thought of the multiple bloggers who attended the ITBE. We need a real metaDRAMA. Not my sporadic ramblings about things that have irritated me. But a site, spun from the metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes model that provides playgoers a place to sound off about the various shows out there, and gives audiences a way to highlight the things most worth seeing. For me, the highlight of the ITBE was having Eurydice recommended to me by Adam Szymkowicz, and being able to recommend The Eaten Heart to everyone there.

To compete with lazy, idle, pop-culture laden, trend-following viewers, we need to appeal to theater's ability to engage, excite, be immediate and illuminating, public and live, and we need to start now, before we erode the next generation's tolerance for the immediate, entirely. I know there are people out there as excited about theater as I am; tonight, I met some of you. Unfortunately, there are critics out there who are no longer excited about theater, and unless we find a way to really spread word-of-mouth, it may be One Word to rule the shows, and One Word to bind them.

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