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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Shot in the Arm

That, in my opinion, is what the Denver theatre scene could really use.
I have been mulling over John Moore's recent article about the strengths and weaknesses of Colorado theatre, and I must say that he echoes many of the sentiments that have kept me away from my blog here. That is largely because, well, I don't think I would have put things as nicely as he has. If you've not read the article yet, I highly encourage you to do so. John has a good deal more access to facts and figures than I would have. If I could add anything to the article, it would be to point out that, in addition to seasons becoming "progressively more banal" (to use John's well-chosen words) I believe that there is a lot of "copycatting" in that banality.
Can we not rest until every theatre company in the area has mounted their very own production of Escanaba in da Moonlight?
I do also agree with much of John's praise of this theatre community, though, as he pointed out the many strengths of theatre in our state. The support for theatre is here. The talent is here. However, 97 companies in the state all mounting at least one production in a given season leads to:
1) a lot of repetition
2) unnecessary competition for audience
3) a "thinning" of the available talent pool at any given time

Last year I saw somewhere in the neighborhood of seventy plays or musicals -- that's more than one per week on average -- and I barely saw a quarter of what was produced in town, if that.
The less ambitious theatre-goer won't be able to see anywhere near that many.
The 97 producing theatre companies in Colorado need to, I believe, take a long hard look at just why they exist.
As with non-profits (which a great majority of theatre companies are) the question should be asked, "Are we filling a need that is not already being filled?"
Yes, every baritone wants a crack at playing the Beast in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, and every ingenue wants to play Belle, but after how many separate productions do we acknowledge that it is now merely a vanity production. Now, I'm not pointing the finger at any particular productions of that show that have been or are about to be produced. I'm simply using it as an example. At the same time, for the intensely curious, it might be interesting to count just how many productions of that particular show have been (and will be produced) inside of five years and inside of 100 miles of the Front Range.
Just a thought.
And speaking of a shot in the arm, check out this trailer for Performance Now's upcoming production of Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical:

1 comment:

Bernie Cardell said...

Brady - scary as it is, I agree with you on this one. I do think every theatre company needs to take a long hard look at what it is producing and why.

I can speak for the Evergreen Players because I helped them pick Escanaba for production in the summer of 2009. We wanted something with a track record (that wasn't Barefoot in the Park) so that we could take a risk on something else in the season - the regional premiere of 16 Wounded. I think the two balance each other out nicely.

Now if you want to talk banal - let's ask the Aurora Fox why they are doing Escanaba for a THIRD time (to run close to the regional premiere of the Escanaba prequel - Escanaba in Love).

But this happens once every two or three years. Right now it's Beauty and the Beast and Escanaba. Two years ago it was Moon Over Buffalo (where we had five different productions in the space of a year) and let's not forget the year of Steel Magnolias. And please let's not see that particular year again.

I would much prefer to not have to do some of these works, but in order to balance out the edgier risk-taking works, I think its important for the health of the theatre. I think if you feed the people a little risk at a time, they'll get used to it, but in the meantime, they still want to see You Can't Take it With You - and so do I.