Thursday, March 26, 2009

What's Hot?

There are things that are understood. A midwesterner's rugged individualism. An artist wanting to deveope her or her own original work. Going with a trusted name or brand over an unsung one. Theatre companies finding it important to be developers of new plays and the prestigue with "discovering" or developing that play. But what I don't understand is holding on so blindly to those principles that it ends up in a less than perfect production.

Too often are "new" plays produced at the larger houses in Chicago just as rough, full of plot holes, and boring as the plays done by their off-loop counter-parts. (Obviously there are exceptions: think August: Osage County, for one) Too often do I see really passionate work in the off-loop theatre that may be half finished, but have miles of potential that if the play were given additional workshops and production life, might become something great. Instead they fizzle out and are forgotten as the small theatre, unable to sustain an open run or find audience for a remount, moves on to its next piece.

This would not happen in New York. There they are always looking over their shoulder for the next big thing. What's hot, makes money - simple equation, right? Why haven't the big whigs at Chicago's prestigious regional theatres realized that they have a great labratory in the rest of the city? Yes, they might feel threatened at loosing some of their prestigue by asking to further develope a lesser company's work - but which would you rather? A stinking flop that doesn't advance your company's mission or reputation just to say that you are developing original work or getting something really slick and sweet and exploring its full potential.

American theatre needs all the successful new works it can get. Having a new piece have any sort of large or broad audience is rare. Why not start with a play that is already working instead of struggling and struggling to force something to work that may not be the right fit? No wonder why people are afraid to see new works and default to Rogers & Hammerstein, Shakespeare, and Shaw.

Happy Birthday: Tennessee Williams (1911-1983), Joseph Campbell (1904-1987), Alan Arkin (b. 1934), Martin McDonagh (b. 1970) & Leonard Nemoy (b. 1931)

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