I have seen quite a few amazing shows this year but for every amazing production I have seen, at least double that amount have been boring theatre.
What do I mean by boring theatre? I mean those productions where I’m sitting there in the audience and I am literally thinking to myself “what is the point?” Yes, it may be beautifully designed. Yes, the acting may be superb. But, if by Act II, I’ve literally stopped listening because I’ve fallen asleep with my eyes open then my question remains “what is the point?”
Isn’t the point of theatre to engage the audience not just talk at them for 2 hours. Because this is what I feel like when I go to see boring theatre. I feel like I am being talked at rather than engaged with.
And maybe, I’m crazy. Maybe my idea of what constitutes good theatre is completely different than what most people think is good theatre. Because, when I go to see a production that made me want to leave at intermission because I was so bored yet the entire audience leapt to their feet giving the show a standing ovation, I think to myself I must be crazy. I mean, I must be totally off my rocker because I obviously didn’t see the same show that these people just saw.
And, I’m sorry but a great performance is not enough for a standing ovation. A cool set trick is not enough for a standing ovation. If I give a standing ovation I want it to be because I was so moved by the ENTIRE production that I was compelled to leap to my feet.
I am so tired of boring theatre. I find it frustrating and more than that I find it insulting as an audience member that I am being pandered to. I am being spoon fed what is supposedly good for me. It’s beyond frustrating and it makes me want to stop going to the theatre, if every time I go, I just end up bored and frustrated. And I Iove theatre. Could you imagine what a non-theatre-loving average joe that goes to hockey games and eats wings at the bar would think?
So, this is what has been rattling around in my head as of late, but I still wasn't able to quite articulate why these productions are so boring. Then I read this blog post today from Ken Davenport regarding a memo on writing by David Mamet:
“THE PROBLEM IS THIS: TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN DRAMA AND NON-DRAMA…
EVERYONE IN CREATION IS SCREAMING AT US TO MAKE THE SHOW CLEAR. WE ARE TASKED WITH, IT SEEMS, CRAMMING A SHITLOAD OF INFORMATION INTO A LITTLE BIT OF TIME.
OUR FRIENDS. THE PENGUINS, THINK THAT WE, THEREFORE, ARE EMPLOYED TO COMMUNICATE INFORMATION...
BUT NOTE: THE AUDIENCE WILL NOT TUNE IN TO WATCH INFORMATION. YOU WOULDN’T, I WOULDN’T. NO ONE WOULD OR WILL. THE AUDIENCE WILL ONLY TUNE IN AND STAY TUNED TO WATCH DRAMA”
And, this is when the light bulb went off in my head. Yes, in the post he’s talking about television but the same principles apply. These shows, this boring theatre, is doing exactly that. It is communicating information rather than drama. We are being talked at rather than engaged with. The actors are communicating information. There are no stakes. This is what makes boring theatre.
As the post goes on to say:
“ QUESTION: WHAT IS DRAMA? DRAMA, AGAIN, IS THE QUEST OF THE HERO TO OVERCOME THOSE THINGS WHICH PREVENT HIM FROM ACHIEVING A SPECIFIC, ACUTE GOAL.”
What do you always hear in theatre school: raise the stakes! So if there are no stakes, no drama, then why would I be interested?! I wouldn’t. And after about 30 minutes of information I tune out. I get bored.
I want drama. I want stakes. I want to be engaged. And, if this means that I’m crazy and I’m the one person in the audience who remains seated during an opening night standing ovation. Then so be it.
I’d rather be crazy then bored any day of the week.