Saturday, December 20, 2008

LAZY SUNDAY # 51: THE THEATRE EXPERIENCE

We're gonna do things a little different this Sunday. Video first and then Jim's little sermon.

And I can't exactly show the video either. That's because it's not in an embeddable format in the only place I can find it.

It's also a commercial as well as technically NSFW and in the spirit of the season, we're trying to stay "family-friendly" as well as fiercely independent here at the Legion.

So go here first and then come right back.

Okay, now I don't care who you are -- that's funny right there. (To coin a phrase)

And don't you just wish some theatre company near you had the cojones to run it?

But theatre folk are generally a conservative lot, imbued with a feeling that they need to respect and protect the rituals and the traditions of their art.


I love the theatre. It's where I got my artistic start and where I have been both enormously inspired and spent evenings the memory of which will entertain me for the rest of my life.

There is simply no experience like being swept into a story which is taking place right before your eyes -- involving real living breathing people just like you!

But all over the world, the theatre is dying. Theatre companies are closing up shop or reducing their seasons, unable (or perhaps a little unwilling) to compete with new media that's more accessible, more affordable and where you don't have to turn up on time and relatively open to participate in a group experience.

Have any of you noticed how so many of our great recent leaps in communication (instant messaging, social networks or blogging) actually succeed in isolating us even further from each other? Oh, the information and the opinions are shared -- but the physical aspect of interacting is slipping away.

Going to the theatre is also hard work. You're required to suspend disbelief on a number of levels; accept that a canvas drop is Elsinore, that there really are 76 trombones leading the big parade and somebody named Godot is actually waiting in the wings. Films and TV fill in the blanks and deliver all the trimmings, theatre expects you to bring something of yourself to the party.

And lately that includes a lot of your money.

When I was starting out, tickets to movies used to cost more than tickets to most plays. I saw great stars like Lawrence Olivier and great plays like the debut run of "Equus" for less than a buck and a half. Well into the 1980's most theatres in Toronto still priced their shows just under the going rate at Famous Players or Cineplex and many still have a "Pay-What-You-Can" matinée to serve those who can't afford a seat at prices that have skyrocketed.

But the costs of producing live shows keep rising and have to be amortized over a constantly shrinking audience base. Tickets for Broadway shows and their touring companies regularly reach triple digits, and locally produced shows aren't far behind.

This Christmas, I decided I'd try to inspire people to do a little something extra in honor of the season. The first was in the post below, and the final one will follow tomorrow. Just little things you might do to make life a little better for somebody else at a time when the rest of the world seems to be going steadily South.

Today, I'd like to ask you to buy one ticket to see a play. Just one ticket -- at whatever price level you can comfortably afford. Because the simple economics are -- if everybody living within a few miles of a theatre bought one ticket, that theatre would be sold out every single night of the year.

And then theatre wouldn't be dying and some of the great performances and great ideas that have inspired generations would be around to inspire one or two more.

The news these days would have you believe that massive forces and unimaginable amounts of money are necessary to turn things around. It can make anything you want to do seem insignificant and impotent. But, in truth, it's the little things that make the biggest difference.

And making a difference for all the people who work in the theatre is as simple as buying one ticket.

Think about it. And enjoy your Sunday.

3 comments:

Dwight Williams said...

I've got a couple of particular theatre companies here in Ottawa in mind for my patronage next year...

MCF said...

I'm doing Mamet's American Buffalo at Theatre Passe Muraille's small space in April 2009 for those holdouts for the thaw. Everybody welcome. Peace over the holidays!

Dwight Williams said...

I should have named names earlier in the thread.

My particular favourites are the Ottawa Little Theatre and the Great Canadian Theatre Company.

There are others around town, of course...