About This Blog

I really like theatre, and I like writing and talking about it.

This blog is mostly about my relationship with theatre, the moments that make me fall in love with this art form, and the times when we don't always get along.

I'll be writing about things that I like, that I think are good and interesting and want to share. I will probably also write about things that I don't quite get, or think are wierd. I may also write about things that aren't theatre, strictly speaking, because it's my blog and I can.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Stage vs. Screen

With most audiences gravitating towards movie theaters, there's been a lot of talk lately about making theater more high-tech, with moving scenery and live 3D projections, in order to compete with film.

I would like to suggest that the best way to compete with your rival is not to try to offer the same product they do, but to offer something you can't get from them.

I was reading the news this morning, and looking at all the reviews of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, which actually opened last night! As in, for reals opened. While much improved, it's still being described as "bombastic", "overblown", and "soulless". Similarly, I wanted to see the Metropolitan Opera's Die Walkure (forgive the lack of umlaut, I can't kind the keyboard shortcut) last month. While many reviews acknowledged the evocative images conjured by the impressive stage machinery, they complained that it was distracting, dwarfing the performers and pulling focus away from the heart of the story.

On the other end of the spectrum, I was reading about PigPen Theatre Company's show "The Mountain Song", who tell their story with practical forms of puppetry such as a dress on a stick, a blanket, and hand puppets (as in, literally just their hands). Shows like this are more often described by critics as "charming", "whimsical", "imaginative" and "intimate".

One of the greatest shows I ever saw (I swear I will sit down and write a comprehensive post about it one of these days) was Shockheaded Peter. I saw an article about it's old-timey, Grand Guignol-style stage effects in the New York Times, and took a last minute bus trip to New York just to see it. Critics (and I) agreed that it was unique, bizarre, and mesmerizing.

I'm working on a couple brainchild project concepts for the near-to-distant-to-possibly-never future, and my foremost concern is not how to give the audiences and experience that rivals the movie theaters, but one so unique they can't possible experience it anywhere else.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Audience Antics

Good news: I'm too busy working on theatrical productions to write about theatre.

Bad news: I'm too busy working on theatrical productions to write about theatre.

So for some brief entertainment, a quick anecdote from Saturday night's performance.

We had a very engaged audience. They seemed to be an intellectual bunch, and I think may have understood the material better than some other audiences we've had. They got more of the jokes (this being a Shakespearean tragedy, I'm not sure everyone realized there were jokes) and would nod and "hm" in appreciation at moments of deep truth and understanding. They gave us a lot of energy and were very involved, and generally a pleasure to perform for.

At the start of the second act, I was standing at the stage left crossover entrance behind the audience with a few other actors waiting for our cues to come on stage, when I heard a prolonged and loud crashing and scuffling from the audience. We looked at each other in confusion, but no one could figure out what was going on. After the show, I got a chance to ask the lead actress, who was on stage at the time and could see everything, what had happened.

To illustrate, here is a diagram I made of the stage in MS Paint:

So, at the start of Act 2 our stage manager made sure the lobby and restrooms were cleared before bringing down the lights and starting the show. At this point, someone apparently made a last-minute dash for the bathroom, which you can see on the right side of the drawing is right next to the backstage area, and in the middle of where the actors go to cross behind the audience for entrances on the left side of the stage.

Having come out of the bathroom and seen that the show was in full swing, instead of going around the front of the seating area, he decided to bust through the curtains blocking the audience off from the actor cross over. This did not work very well, as the curtains are pinned closed to prevent gapping. Also, there were a bunch of people sitting right on the other side of the curtain, and he had to climb over them, creating the aforementioned ruckus.

Major props to our lead actress for keeping her cool through a dramatic monologue while having to watch this ridiculousness right in front of her, since most of the opening scene is addressed directly to the audience.