You See What We’re Up Against?
Okay, so. Here’s the deal. Nobody wants to talk about it. But it is true. Lots and lots of people think that theater sucks.
Now, on the one hand we know that a lot of the “tastemakers” that we rely on in the media to deem things cool & hip (and therefore create buzz/audience) are just shallow, attention-deficit-afflicted, drunken, tragically hip coke-whores struggling to remain culturally literate, edgy and relevant beyond the age of 27. (At which point they give up their trendy downtown ways, marry the lawyer like Mommy said and move to Westchester).
On the other hand, it is true that there’s a lot of boring theater.
I don’t really know that there’s an answer to this dilemma. I don’t even know if it’s a dilemma at all. But it’s part of why theater is becoming more and more the loss-leader of the entertainment industry; the thing that writers and actors and producers do to try and get TV gigs. Maybe theater is boring because people are either trying to make theater like TV so they’ll get a job writing for a sitcom or movie or they are intentionally writing really difficult and demanding work to prove that they are not television.
I’m not old enough to know if there was a time in recent modern history when theater and performance was as culturally relevant and pervasive as television and film. I don’t know if there was a time when more people felt interested by live performance than they do now. Maybe it’s due to the drastic decrease in arts education funding that started in the 80’s. Maybe it’s that people are more cynical now than ever before and that the experience of tv/film makes them *think* they’ve “been there and done that” but they’ve really only seen it in moving pictures.
I don’t really know and I’m not sure whether people who make performances should even care. There’s probably no point in trying to get people who like country music to listen to jazz or vice versa. And there’s probably no point in trying to get someone to go to theater who’d rather be watching The Simple Life trying to get a peek at Paris Hilton’s nipple.
But when we get frustrated about the lack of audiences or the loss of funding we need to realize what we’re up against.