Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy Rainy Sunday, or something

Did you know Gina Gershon has a CD? My friends gave it to me tonight. It's not what you would expect, well, it's not what you would expect if you were me. I was expecting rock. Instead it's ballads. Just in case you wanted to know.

Meanwhile, I was going to write my next 5 stories of the year. But it hits me that no one is going to read this tomorrow. So I've decided Wednesday, 2008, will be a final look at 2007. Instead today a clarification about one of the last five.

In response to my #2 point the last time, I received a few emails about the fact that in many ways theater is now at the forefront of culture. (There is a comment below that speaks of its popularity with young people, that's along these same lines.) That is true--Ugly Betty goes to Wicked. We're witnessing the return of the movie musical... My contention is that the majority of it is theater for the sake of amusement rather than art. That sounds very pretentious and those of you who know me know I'm not at all pretentious... (One of the big Broadway producers always refers to me as a "populist," which I'm not sure is a compliment, but, whatever.) What I mean is, it used to be an art form all on its own. People went to the theater to experience something truly special. They dressed up, they wouldn't dream of eating popcorn while a show was going on and talking was rare. Now a lot of people treat a Broadway show as a live movie. And while it's great that so many people are going and buying tickets--and I'm very happy attendance is up--theater is simply not as cherished as it used to be. Does that make sense? I mean, people go and they love it. Those people would probably miss it if it went away. People cried when it did go away this year! But less and less people care about it as its own individual art form. Many of you remember The Times' Friday theater column. In my very first year in this business, 2000, I knew non-theater people who read it because they wanted to know what was going on in the "world" of theater. By the time it went away, 4-5 years later (I can't remember now), I didn't know any non-theater people who read it. The drop-off in readership among theater people could be related to the websites, but the people I'm talking about didn't read the website news. They only read The Times column to begin with and then they simply stopped reading anything theater-related. You could blame that on the person who was doing the column, but a lot of it is that people stopped caring about what is going on in the theater "world." They choose individual shows to see, or they buy subscriptions to certain non-profits, but they care less about the art form of theater.

Attendance would be up on Broadway if all we had was stage versions of recycled movies. This is because it's a combination of people wanting to go to something special--it's expensive and thus a treat--but many not really wanting to see something special. That's why I don't think this is about attendance or the fact that people who have latched on to specific shows. It's a general statement about how few people truly care about the theater. I deal with these people everyday and, I'm telling you, the numbers are growing.

I hope all of you have a happy holiday. (I really want to say: "I've had a good life, I've hope all of you have good lives too." And for the 2 people who get that very obscure Broadway show reference, there, I've said it.)


The Director said...

First of all, Happy New Year!

I'm forced to agree with you. Every show I've ever been to and probably every one I'll go to in the near future, I can guarantee you someone's cell phone is going to go off. Instead of being embarrassed and whispering "Sorry!", they pick up the phone, and loudly exclaim "Yeah?! I'm at a play. I SAID, I'M AT A PLAY. Yeah! It's okay, I guess. That fat girl up there sucks, and the scrawny guy -- well, I can't hear a damn word he says..." Meanwhile, the rest of the audience is glaring at her.

This has happened so many times on stage that I've come up with quite a few scenarios as to what I would like to do.

1) I've actually done this: I waited until they were done, and then once they realized the action stopped, they got up and left. The audience applauded when they left, too.

2) Throw a prop at them. I haven't done this for liability reasons, of course, but... it'd be so nice.

3) Yell, "Out, damn phone! Out!" in character. Haven't done this yet, either. Mainly because I haven't figured out a way to do it in character and not screw up the moment.

4) Break character and say "Excuse me, ma'am, we're in the middle of a play." Not gonna happen.

5) Walk off-stage into the house, grab the cell phone, drop it on the floor, and squash it with my boot, then walk back on-stage and pick up where I left off. I wish.

People just don't respect the theatre these days. You're right: they see it as a live movie, which is quite the opposite of the truth.

Happy New Year. Keep blogging :)

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