Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Another Look At the Theater I've Lost

A few months back I wrote a post for BlogHer about the theater. This is a version of that post but I thought it would be timely to look again. The movie For Colored Girls opened this week. My heart isn't into rushing to the movie.

There has been a lot of discussions about the movie, the play, re-interpretation and so forth. My BlogHer colleague Nordette Adams wrote an excellent perspective from various stake holders.

Here is my two cents.

I attended a performance of For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf play many years ago. It was the must see play and folks packed the theater. It was the first time that I witness black women performing, poetry as stage craft and words as power.

I had the stage album and the book. So yes, I was a fan.

The movie is something else. It is another persons creation. Tyler Perry has put his imprint on certain sections of the text, removed others and placed it in a cinematic context.

I can't judge it based on my memories of 30 years ago. It has to stand as its own work. When I am ready I may or may not view the movie. A new generation of young women will find what is valuable and what is not.

But is is not Shange's play. And the play is the thing. Speaking of which good theater is like heartbreak. There is a space missing that needs to be healed. The sad thing is that I have learned to live without live theater. I have been away from it for too long.

Part of the problem is the financial accessibility of buying a ticket. No one really wants to pay money to see a stinker of a play. Not at $80 to $150 or more a seat.

Broadway made a $1 billion in gross sales for the 2009-2010 season. They don’t need me to tell them what draws the crowd.

Producers and audiences have made decisions on the kind of theater that will be supported. A visit to The Broadway Musical blog confirmed my suspicions. Many of the plays are revivals or converted movies and television shows.

I do like entertaining plays or musicals. There are times when you need to get away and just step into an experience that isn’t going to do anything to you but give you pleasure.

I know there is a place for Technicolor dazzlers like Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

It looks like a great production. However, I won’t be seeing it when it comes to town. You see, I’ve already seen the movie. When the original movie came out I took a chance and bought a ticket. I was rewarded by stepped into a different world. I want that same element of risk in a theater production.

The Importance of Revivals

You can get that kind of experience if you’ve never seen the play or the source material before.

Revivals of classic theater plays are necessary. Unless the play has been recorded you can’t really pass along what made the play special. Even when you do record a theatrical performance an element gets lost – the actual connection between the play and the audience.

Sara B. of Adventures in the Endless Pursuit of Entertainment would love a revival of Mame.

Yvonne Korshak of Let’s Talk Off-Broadway wants you to know that there is a theater world beyond Broadway that are producing classics, revivals and contemporary plays in search of an audience.

For those plays that I haven’t seen or experienced in another form this could by a path of exploration. Kat at Painted Air is excited about a possible Lily Allen project. For me, this would be a compromise but I don’t know about me and Bridget Jones.

Still, I need something more.

In Search Of – The Unknown

I’m willing to step beyond the sure thing. Theater is about engagement but it is also about risk and taking chances. It is watching an actor stepping out on stage and giving 100% and the audience either accepts it or rejects it.

What do you do when you like the theater but your needs are not mainstream? When in doubt, find a theater blogger.

Linda at Pataphysical Science is talking up an off Broadway production of the play The Metal Children:
The Metal Children won't leave you with easy answers about the power of art and the responsibility of the artist, but at least it raises the questions.

Jill Dolan wants you to know about Silver Stars:

Silver Stars is a community-based, devised theatre piece by an Irish theatre company called Broken Talkers, who create work by mining people’s stories about their lives and knitting it into coherent evenings of theatre. The play, which I saw performed at the Under the Radar Festival at the Public Theater on January 16, collects narratives from middle-aged Irish gay men who, because of homophobia in their native country, had to flea elsewhere to live honestly and comfortably.

Marisabidilla is a theater/culture blog from Marisa Skudlarek in San Francisco who enjoyed Giant Bones:

I know, there are a lot of plays about plays out there, and sometimes it can seem like an overdone topic. But not when it is really well done--written, staged and performed by people who truly do know and love the power of theater--the way that Giant Bones is.

Still On the Other Side of the Ticket Box

If theater means that hit movies and television shows are going to be converted to the stage then count me out. It would have to be an exceptional production to get me in the seat.

If theater means a range of plays and productions that cater to a variety of interest I could be tempted if I was properly wooed. I haven’t been lately. I will say that being able to sample a play via web video or audio podcasts would be a good way to start.

It might take those of us in new media to find ways to help communicate about theatrical productions of interest beyond the tried and true. One of the thing theater lovers could do is help out the unofficial Internet Theater Database with contributions and citations of plays seen and experienced.

Portions of this post were originally published at BlogHer where I am a Contributing Editor.

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