Thursday, May 7, 2009

Amusement Park Theatre

Good theatre should be like a roller coaster. There is a defined beginning, middle, and end along a defined trajectory. You wait and wait and wait for the play to begin. It begins slowly, but clearly, slowly ratcheting up the first hill and setting out argument of the play through exposition. Then you're off and you start to fall. You are whipped one way and pulled another. The story leads you through loop-de-loops and spirals playing on multiple senses at the same time. Finally the brakes come on and you glide into the platform shaken but satisfied.

While the roller coaster is thrilling, you should never be afraid for your own safety or the immediate safety of others. And a roller coaster that fails to thrill - especially on that bores or allows the rider's focus to wander - isn't much of a roller coaster at all. You are along for a ride and that path should be both clear and compelling.

Too often productions seem to loose their path. They try to go in several directions at once. Sometimes they try to do a barrel roll and and inverse loop at the same time. The audience becomes afraid of falling off, or worse yet, confused about what is going on around them. Sometimes the path gets caught going around the same circle or there are no hills at all and the ride becomes nothing more than a monorail. Sometimes the tracks disappear all together.

I challenge you to look at your theatre work. Make sure that the tracks are made of strong and tempered steel that is safe. Create a clear path that is both bold and exciting. Never make your riders fearful, unsafe, or confused. And if you ride straight and strong to the finish line, you can help but take that rush of adrenaline with you for the rest of your day.

Happy Birthday: Olympe de Gouges (1748-1793)

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