Monday, October 08, 2007

Bright Ideas

I've recently come across the blog of a theatre professor at UNC Asheville named Dr. Scott Walters. He's written extensively on theatre at http://www.theatreideas.blogspot.com/, and certainly seems like my kind of theorist.

His most recent post (as I write this) really sparked off a troubling round of self-reflection:

Really? There's no similarity between the gated community dweller's quest to surround himself with others who share his values and the artist's attempt to do the same? When in the case of the gated community, surrounding oneself with a homogenized environment is a retreat, when artists do the same it is a sign of fearless originality? Just how does that work out, given that the underlying principle is the same: surround yourself with like-minded people.
Who are we making theatre for, anyway? It reminds me of Peter Brook's "why theatre?" exercise mentioned with great emphasis in The Empty Space. Programming a season because such-and-such a play would be "cool" to do, or because such-and-such play would pander to a certain audience now strikes me as deadly. As a playwright, what does this mean?

Perhaps it means a reassessment of why I write for the theatre. Do I do it to satisfy my own need to feel self-important? Or am I striving to tell honest stories that satisfy a need (still trying to figure that need out!) that exists in the audience?

And what of that audience? The theatre company I am currently aligned with lives in Hollywood, California -- just down the street from the Hollywood sign, and around the corner from Hollywood and Vine. Our home is in the old parish hall of a church built by Cecil B. DeMille. Our audience -- and I'm just speaking of those within walking distance (although who walks in L.A.?) -- our audience is potentially young actors and filmmakers, writers, musicians, punks, Latinos, and who knows what else. What are we doing for them?

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