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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Too Much Theatre or No?

There is a new article in the Denver Post in which John Moore asks and attempts to answer this very question. I knew that this was in the works because John asked me a week or so ago if I would mind if he used some of my replies on his blog of a few weeks ago in the article.
I didn't know he was going to use my least insightful point, but, hey, I'm just glad that the question is being asked before a larger audience.
Now, I know that nobody likes to hear that there might be too much theatre in Denver. In fact, I encountered somebody last week who said, "I refuse to accept that." However, I think that we need to accept that it is at least a possibility.
I seem to miss as many shows as I see, and I see somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 shows per year. That's more than one per week, and that's a lot to ask of the average theatre-goer.
This blog originated out of the fact that a lot of very good theatre was playing to dismally small audiences in this town. Despite my efforts, as well as the efforts of Becca Fletcher, Gloria Shanstrom, John Moore, and others, that hasn't changed a whole heck of a lot.
Now, I will be the first to say that theatre is a necessary part of any community. I doubt that a single person in last night's sold-out audience for PHAMALy's Man of La Mancha would be able to recount a movie or television program that provided a more moving or transformative experience than witnessing Regan Linton's breathtaking performance as Aldonza. Paragon's incredible production of Harold Pinter's Old Times crawled inside my brain a few nights ago and has yet to release its hold.
Because of this inherent need for theatre, I think of it like feeding the hungry, except that some of these "hungry" don't know yet that they need to be fed. Blogs, reviews, word-of-mouth, and clever advertising help to stir appetites, but not enough to keep up with the massive amounts of food that are being produced. In many cases, the "food" being produced has nothing to do with feeding the hungry, it's more about wanting to show off what great cooks we are.
I'm not an economist, but I don't think being one would help me to believe that creating a surplus of anything helps to stimulate demand. This was the argument posited by the person who "refused to accept" that there could be too much theatre. It just doesn't work that way.
Another argument being made is that companies are producing more theatre to "provide more opportunities" for actors, designers, and directors. If that is so, then why are 8 out of the 16 upcoming shows which include Vintage Theatre's expanded 2010 season being directed by only two directors? As of August 10th, it was reported that there were 180 actors signed up for Vintage Theatre's season auditions for the twelve shows that will be presented in 2010. We will have to wait and see how many of those actors will be provided the "opportunity" to perform on stage, or if we will be seeing the same few faces over and over again as is the trend in a number of other companies. For me, the argument just doesn't hold water.
I don't mean to pick on Vintage. I just happened to have these facts about them before me, and, let's not forget, they did decide to put more "soup on the stove," before any more "hungry" walked in.
To some degree, I will admit that every theatre production is a vanity project. It's the nature of what we do. I'm just worried that vanity may be overtaking reason here, and I'm not sure what it's going to cost all of us in the process. Or rather, what more it's going to cost us.

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