This morning I received notification of a comment on my last post. Wow, that was quite the comment and one that should be addressed.
First of all I haven’t seen ”The Miracle Worker” at The Playhouse so I am not about to comment on the production itself. And, while I think that saying that they deserve to lose their funding because of the play, is a little harsh (ok, maybe way harsh, especially at a time when the words “arts funding” is such a contentious issue), it is his opinion and he is entitled to it.
However, the point that he raises, and one that obviously has made him so angry, is what I want to address. Obviously, he did not enjoy this play choice. The major reviewers in this town, Peter, Jerry, Jo & Colin, all seemed to either at least like it, if not full out, love it. But critical praise does not necessarily equate into audience praise or vice versa. What we have to remember is audience members, for the most part, are just Average Joe’s. They didn’t spend years in school studying theatre or reading plays. They haven’t written plays themselves or seen everything playing in town for the last 30 years. Plus since most of these critics (I don’t know for sure, I am just guessing here and I mean no offence) are at least 50 years old they certainly don’t represent a young audience members opinion.
Furthermore, if what he says is correct and the house count for the evening was approximately 25%, then that certainly says even more than the comment itself. For one of the largest companies in this city, who has a lot more exposure and reaches a lot more people than most of the theatre's in this town, to be selling shows at one-quarter of the House then there is definitely something terribly wrong and broken with our system for sure.
I don’t have all the answers but I do have a question: if audiences aren’t coming, plus they leave the theatre feeling the way this man did, then why are they doing it?
Theatre is about the audience. If I have to keep screaming it from the rooftops until someone hears me I will. Without the audience you might as well being doing sculpture or painting or something. If all you are interested in doing is creating theatre that is going to get you good reviews or win you a Jessie then you are missing the point. Theatre exists because of its relationship to the audience. Read Kris Joseph’s and Simon Ogden’s blogs for more on this discussion.
We write letters and get all worked up because the funding to arts is being cut but what if we created theatre that was so popular that we didn’t need funding from the government.
STOP. Before I continue I am going to make a statement because I can already see the hate emails piling into my inbox:
Yes, of course, I believe arts should receive funding from the government.
Ok, now that I’ve made that statement everyone can stop hating on me. Thank you. And continue…
What if we started listening to our audiences and we started having full houses instead of 25% houses. Then maybe someday, down the road, maybe after I’m dead, we won’t need to rage against the government because we won’t be relying on them to fund us. We would rely on our audiences. Wow, now that is an amazing dream and one that I want to be a part of. It could happen. I believe it could happen but we have to start investing in that dream today.
How do we do that, Mrs. Soapbox? Well, thank you for asking Mr. or Mrs. Reader.
We could start by the taking the same energy we put into writing letters to the government and put that same energy into writing letters to our theatre’s. If you want them to listen, to you the audience, then you need to start taking action. So, my advice to Doug is, if you felt so strongly about your experience at The Playhouse then you should write them a letter and tell them. It could all begin with one letter. Then one letter turns into 50 and so on and so forth. And, maybe the next time a theatre goes to choose their season they might just think twice about the material they choose to produce.
But that’s just me. And my two cents.