Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ruminations from a Mourner

This past weekend, I made a quick venture south to theatrical mecca to see Stolen Chair's Theatre is Dead and So Are You, a "vaudeville funeral for the stage." I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening. However, like all good theatre, my mind was left spinning. Is theatre actually "dead?" One of the actors posits a comparison between theatre today and theatre in the time of Shakespeare when (to paraphrase) audiences fingered oranges and orange-sellers, straining to hear men dressed as women outdoors in overcast London light. And that's when theatre was supposed to be alive?

The actor whose name escapes me makes a good point. I've always found the declaration of theatre's passing a might premature and not terribly apt anyway. It's like saying the nerds were dead in high school. Theatre isn't dead, like colloquial Latin, say. It just doesn't sit with the cool kids at lunch anymore.

But if High School taught us anything, it's that the cool kids weren't very interesting and often don't end up making any important contributions to society. The socially down-trodden, however, motivated by a desire to belong somewhere or their own special brand of crazy-genius, revolutionize the world to their liking (and hopefully, for the better). So, maybe theatre isn't going to fit in with cooler cousins TV and live sports. It doesn't mean it, and we theatre practitioners, can't do some awesome stuff. So, enough of the dead talk, already!

And, frankly, if in the extension of this metaphor, the cool kids are cultural millstones like American Idol or Ultimate Fighting, I think theatre is better off with the weird kids.

(Sorry, once I grab onto a good metaphor, I have to run it into the ground.)


w0lf said...

You know i feel the same way about running a good metaphor to death.

As for theater not being being dead, I agree that too. I think the most significant evidence of its prominence remaining in our society resides at schools all over the country. Few institutions of learning from grade schools to universities DON'T have theater production of some kind or another. While podcasts are the next big thing (and a thing of great value in my mind), theater remains a strong part of the national identity whether it meets commercial success or not, and that means it will continue to be a way of life for adults who choose it as their vocation. It means too much to too many to die a quiet death.

Turg Talker said...

I think theatre is meaningful to audiences as well. We only ever talk about the repeated wounds we receive, but theatre is still being made, and people are still going. I appreciate Stolen Chair's acknowledgement of the tongue-in-cheek "death" in their performance.

I think it would be fair to say Bear Baiting is dead. No one really does it, or attends it, and if they do, it's pretty highly judged. By those standards, I can't say theatre is dead.

w0lf said...

Well I think thats a bit of a generalization, but I agree. Theater is still very important to audiences. Its just not a radically different business model than anything electronic friendly, and that's both part of its power, and part of its "limitation" when it comes to media contrast.

Turg Talker said...

What's a generalization? Bear-baiting?

w0lf said...

The generalization I ws referring to was the "we only ever talk about the repeated wounds we receive" part.

Turg Talker said...

Oh. Of course it's a generalization. I don't mean to suggest, literally, all theatre people talk about is how dead theatre is ("hey, wanna grab a pizza?" "Can't - theatre is dead.") I thought that was obvious but if you are more comfortable, I would add a "seem to talk about" in there.

w0lf said...

Bah, you can set the tone any way you like. Feel free to say "the 'drama' while omitted in the title is rich in the subtext"... or whatever you need to say to get me stop taking hyperbole literally.