Friday, August 03, 2007

Seeing Theatre, Not Seeing Trends

Well, I guess I should at least spend some time on this site blathering about theatre theory, even though I've been drifting further and further away from that for some time. The reason for this is because a.) I've gotten pretty thoroughly tired of hearing/reading/writing my own opinions about theatre (or Theatre) and How It Should Be Done, and b.) I've written about it pretty extensively in the first year or so of this blog and aside from a handful of variations and exceptions, my viewpoints haven't changed all that much, aside from the fact I like to believe I'm a little more open-minded and lenient as to what constitutes "good" theatre (or Theatre).

Anyway, here goes.

On average, I see anywhere between one and nine plays a month (over the year it averages to one or two plays a week). I'm not saying this to brag or to show that I'm super theatre-literate or anything like that. But it doesn't really offer me much time - or evidence - to think of or make any statement of The State Of New York City Theatre.

I only have enough time and cranial space to either love, be okay with, or despise the shows I've seen at any particular week, especially since I'm often writing 400-800 words on each show, either for Jamespeak or

Again, I'm not saying this to brag or get on any sort of "Aren't I Such A Good Little Do-Be Who Sees Lots Of Theatre" soapbox: I'm trying to explain that, from my vantage point, seeing as much theatre as I can in New York (more than some, not as much as others), I'm seeing almost no unifying connection between the shows that indicates any sort of total New York aesthetic.

In other words, I've currently been too busy seeing and writing about individual plays to be confident enough in assessing the Overall State of Theatre. (I am enjoying the Title Case in this post, aren't I?)

Am I seeing a concrete connection between Macbeth Without Words and Universal Robots? The Magic of Mrs. Crowling and Gutenberg! The Musical? Aside from them being plays I've liked that have been performed in New York City, not really, no.

Maybe this is a result of not being able to see the forest through the trees, I don't know. More to the point, I don't really care. I'm not sure I can offer much value to the ongoing discussion of what theatre is and where it's going, but I can see as many plays as possible and comment as articulately as I can on said plays whenever possible.

This is one of the main reasons I've had absolutely nothing to say about the...well, what's the word? Fight? Debate? Dust-up? Slapping-match? Cyber-brawl? I guess pick whichever word you like...that's been happening in the theatre blogosphere based on Scott Walters's "That There Is Some Bullshit" post. The whole thing's just been too far all over the map for me to figure out what Square One is.

Also, since Scott failed (for me, anyway) to offer a convincing argument that there is a pervasive New York aesthetic that spreads scorn to people in rural areas, yet his original post didn't particularly offend me...

(In the way that someone saying that people in New York have purple hair wouldn't offend me. Are there people in New York with purple hair? Sure. I don't have purple hair. As of this writing - unless everyone's decided to play hooky from work and dye their hair - no one I regularly interact with does. I don't even see a lot of passersby on the sidewalk with purple hair, even on St. Mark's, oddly enough. That's not to say that there aren't hundreds of thousands of people in the Greater New York Area walking around with purple hair.)

...I haven't had much to comment.

The original play (or collection of plays) Scott initially refers to is one I haven't seen and, more to the point, one I hadn't even heard of (nor would I have, had it not been for Scott). I'm not really wild about publicly badmouthing a work I've not seen, so again, I can't comment on the quality of the show, except to say that, judging from the promotional materials alone, it doesn't sound like my proverbial cup of tea (I could be wrong, but it seems like leftist agitprop, a genre I'm not wild about).

But who knows? Maybe there was more to the show than that. It's closed now, so we'll probably never know.

I will say one thing in defense of Scott's original post: from what I've seen, New York theatre sometimes (SOMETIMES!) has a tendency to be a bit more experimental in its storytelling techniques than in more rural locations, whereas the theatre I've seen in non-urban areas has tended to focus more on straightforward storytelling.

I'm not even saying I'm 100% right on this, or that this is necessarily good or bad, or that one is better than the other. It's just something I've noticed.

Anyway, feel free to discuss this ongoing topic here, or elsewhere. To be honest, I don't really care.

Have a good weekend, folks. Try not to suck any dick on your way to the parking lot.

Not knowing why I felt compelled
to quote Clerks just then,

James "Hey, It's Friday" Comtois

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Blogger Goose said...

On rural vs. urban. My friend who was here from Dallas - not that Dallas is particullarly rural, although most people would think so. Albeit, in Texas and not NY. I took her to two off-off shows (one performance and one rehearsal). Her reaction was - "Wow, these are really small theatres. I didn't think NY theatres would be that small." She loved the shows. She thought they really pushed boundaries and she really wanted to see more of them. She also was impressed at what these companies are doing in such tight quarters. She never thought she could be in such a small space and yet get such a sense and feel of theatre.

So, my two cents, from another two cents. Enjoy!

2:40 PM  
Blogger Jamespeak said...

That's pretty much what my friend from New Hampshire said when he came to see Suburban Peepshow: he noticed that in NH, even the most basic, "recitals with eight-year-old ballerinas dancing in tutus" (his words, not mine) were being performed in gold-leaf-decorated proscenium stages in 800-seat houses, whereas most New York shows (or at least those on the Off-off/indie level) are being performed in spaces roughly the size of living rooms.

This has nothing to do with the quality of shows in urban versus rural environments (and nothing against recitals with eight-year-old ballerinas dancing in tutus), just a crucial difference between the typical venues in these different regions that more than a few people we know have noticed.

2:54 PM  
Blogger Adam said...

James. We all dyed our hair purple. All of us. Tehy told me I wasn't supposed to tell you but i thought you should be in the know.

2:56 PM  
Blogger Adam said...

p.s. this is not a current photo.

2:57 PM  
Blogger Jamespeak said...

I guess it has been a while since I've seen some of the New York theatre bloggers.

Aside from Mac, who's sporting a very stylish mohawk. But maybe he's dyed that purple now.

2:58 PM  
Anonymous the disapproving centaur said...

I am throwing rocks at Scott's post. What a ridiculous thing to get upset about and with no real legitimate cause.

I'll try to heed your advice about the parking lot, but I heard Catherine the Great is out there.

clop, clop . . . clop, clop . . .

3:10 PM  
Blogger Mac said...

"yet his original post didn't particularly offend me...
(In the way that someone saying that people in New York have purple hair wouldn't offend me."

Jimmy, this is only the latest of many ways in which I could learn a lot from you.

Hey, anybody I know on here going to Crowling tonight?

4:22 PM  
Blogger Jamespeak said...

I know Pete & Marc will be at the
show tonight. Becky, Johnston and I may meet up with y'all afterwards.

Wow, this is so not a "serious discussion about theatre blog" anymore, is it? More of a, "Hey, Freeman, if you're in here, we're all going to Isaac's for homemade Scorpion Bowls" blog.

Ah, well.

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Joshua James said...


Purple hair? I wish I could be that cool . . . I dunno why, but Walters just really gets a burr under my saddle . . .

But I dig ya, it's important to choose one's battles and ultimately, Walter's is really not an important fight for us to have, I guess . . .

I dunno, I guess it galls me that he gets to corrupt all those young minds . . . I thought that was OUR job - LOL!

7:37 PM  

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