Monday, November 23, 2009

December pays the bills

In the Denver Post, John Moore ruminates on theaters' programming of holiday shows.
As in retail, December sales keep the rest of the year flush.

Note the list (at the end of the article) of the Christmas classics, alternatives, subversives and holiday-free theater-going options now playing in the Denver area.
Spokane, in its much smaller way, has something of the same going on: two Christmas classics playing at the Civic; one each at Lake City Playhouse, Spokane Children's Theater, and Pullman Civic Theater; an alternative coming at CdA Summer Theater; a non-holiday play at Interplayers; and so on. Will the non-classics come in "a distant second," as Moore's article suggests?

A snip:
"Sneed has a suggestion for anyone grousing about the prevalence of safe and predictable holiday programming: 'They need to be advocates for greater public funding of the arts, so we don't have to rely so much on this public-revenue stream.'"

Ah, but public funds should be spent on things we really need, like roads and bridges and sewers. Art is an expendable frill.
Oh, really? How much do state governments and municipalities spend on football stadiums and youth sports programs? Take away the Friday night high school basketball game, and people scream, feeling that their quality of life has been degraded. Take away the middle school art department or high school theater program, and people yawn. Why is that? Sports stir the emotions, bring back memories of playing catch with Dad, tap into atavistic us-vs-them emotions.

As a result, theater would do well to become (1) more interactive, (2) more competitive, (3) more tied to even more holidays.
1) more participatory; break down the fourth wall; hold talkbacks at intermission
2) What about a scene vs. scene Spokane Theater Idol competition? At a neutral site like the Bing, three local theaters present scenes from ongoing productions, which are judged; there are celebrity judges -- it's just a publicity gimmick, but it would get the attention of non-theatrical jock-Muggles
3) Halloween plays, Valentine's plays, and even Fourth of July plays (if you have A/C). People like festive, communal, etc., if there's a holiday tradition tied to it.

You really think there ISN'T such a thing as an artistic infrastructure? We can't just whine about how important the arts are. We have to demonstrate it.
Why isn't anybody doing flash-theater, sudden scenes at the mall, flyers distributed soon after to shoppers who wonder, "What the cuss just happened here?"

[photo: Peter and Tim Crachit in a 2007 production of A Christmas Carol at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta ]

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At November 24, 2009 1:12 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bobo, this artical was fascinating. It is sad that theatres have to depend on Christmas to survive, but it sure seems true. Your thoughts on sports vs arts and public funding are right on. My only fear is this trend does not bode well for Interplayers' holiday production of Underneath the Lentel. Scary.


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