Monday, July 14, 2008

There Are Things Better Than Celebreality In Our Dying Culture

Someone (ahem) has blogged about the lack of female or more specifically American female film directors working now.   The upshot is mainstream American films suck, big time, and this really great tradition has been drowned out and murdered very effectively by Wall Street types who want an immediate return on their large investment.  I like superheroes as much as any Buffy-fixated person, but it's all just gotten SO BORING.  

I work in theater where I can be as badass as I like and don't have to appease anyone really.   But it feels sometimes a little like exile from the larger culture.  There was a meeting last Saturday called by the wondrous and magical Martin Denton about a newly formed advocacy group called the League of Independent Theaters to be spearheaded by Mr. John Clancy.  It's a was a very hopeful and inspiring thing to see The Barrow Street Theater full of theater people, most of whom I don't know, which was weirdly exciting.

I hate to sound hopelessly corporate in my speech, but the most important thing (once we can fucking videotape our shows thank you AEA) is rebranding.  To make going to cheap theater something that people do, you know, for fun.  I rented out my brain (AKA freelanced) to pharmaceutical PR for a while and I saw whoever owned the language, set the agenda.  Name what something is, and you have control over it.  Instead of fighting with Isherwood or whatever, we theater folk need to learn to use the incredible array of media we have at our disposal.  And having an organization whose agenda includes putting what we do on the map is truly, truly wonderful.  From where I stand it almost seems to be picking up a dropped torch that seemed to sputter out around the time the larger public really started going to FringeNYC.   Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20, and I feel there was a missed opportunity there for bringing our downtown affordable live entertainment to the masses.  I don't know if we got cocky, or if we were too insular (i.e. EVERYONE loves what we do, meaning actually, everyone I know), but it's a big, big world and most of them have no idea who any of us are.

People like movies.  People like TV.  People like music.  People like art.  People like the internet.  Why can't people like affordable theater?  Affordable is a good thing, and so is theater, and maybe we all have to do what the indie bands did before us and tour, or maybe think about touring in a different way.  Not just on the Canadian circuit, and not just like Les Miz.  If Les Miz is the Rolling Stones, maybe we could be Minor Threat or The Replacements or The Pixies or (oh my god I'm dating myself) Pussy Galore?  I'm sure this is all unspeakably difficult, and I'm just throwing out ideas here.

Thank you Martin and Rochelle and John and everyone else.  More to follow I'm sure

PS  I have no idea why I never once referred to what is being done as "Indie Theater"  which was sort of like decided upon, rather than the sad sack "affordable theater" I used above.   And after all that Naming It/Owning It jazz.  Ye Gads!

And here:


morgs said...

I second that emotion. "branding" is an unfortunate word but a necessary aim.

RLewis said...

Get LIT up!
LIT - what real new yorkers are doing.
The real fun is always in the cheap seats - Go LIT
LIT - the secret is out... and just around the corner
LITNY - in your neighborhood (all 56 of 'em)
a litny of fun!
LIT - cooler, hotter, thinner, richer, live-er
LIT - now in theaters near you
Support your local LIT - cheaper, easier and closer than Broadway

Carolyn Raship said...


Than what?

John said...

God knows the ice we skate on is thinner than most.

RLewis said...

"Thinner"? ok, so I'm not a branding pro, but I was attempting to riff on the, "you can never be too rich or too thin..." whatever that old saying is. hey, they can't all be golden. lol. sorry.

Carolyn Raship said...

Point taken. My point is that whatever the now dead and gone Duchess of Windsor may have apocryphally said, and I know you were just spit-balling, thinness and richness really aren't anyone's point.

I think recent history has demonstrated beautifully that you can be both too thin and too rich. Just saying.

That Fuzzy Bastard said...

Part of the problem is certainly a branding issue---I always cringe at the line from When Harry Met Sally: "Restaurants are to people in the 80's what theatres were to people in the 60's" For most people, theater is something you do in college maybe, and then never think about again. Part of that is the general move away from communal entertainment since the 70s---movies are suffering as people get more into home theaters (to which I say: bleah!), music venues can barely stay solvent, and so on. As a result, most people find the intensely communal activity of seeing theater weird, retro, and, to use the word I've heard non-theater people say more than once to describe the theatrical experience, "embarrassing".

But then, there's that "affordable" tag. Because it's really not. A show at The Brick, one of the cheapest venues out there, is $15---more than a movie *with* popcorn, and with a lot less guarantee of competence or entertainment value, not to mention air conditioning or comfortable seats. That, I think, is a huge problem that no one has an answer to: Our little theater pieces, with their "scrappy" presentation, cost significantly more than a movie, a CD, or even a lot of live music tickets. And as a result, when people do go, it kinda feels like a ripoff. If we could lower ticket prices and make it up on volume, that might be a way out, but until then, it's awfully tough to convince people that they're getting value for their dollar, especially if they care no more than they should about "supporting" an artist who isn't a personal friend.