One misconception to my previous points is that, in calling out creative stagnancy in theatre, I am also dismissing the work that goes into theatrical production.
Actually, if anything, this raises the importance of producing innovative and relevant work. The average cast and crew works for two months on developing a production, often rehearsing 4-6 days a week. The sad reality is that many rehashed, forgettable productions were prefaced by a shit-ton of work and sacrifice. This is one reason actors, directors and designers bristle at their work being called into question. No one wants to work hard for weeks and not be rewarded, or have their work dismissed as worthless.
But a lot of their work goes into retread productions, forgettable work, pieces that break no new ground and honestly never needed to be made or demands no real audience whatsoever. Everyone wants to believe the vapid Yasmina Reza play they spent two months working on or the end product of the city’s umpteenth production of Much Ado About Nothing is a beautiful, amazing work of art. No one wants to spend two months working on something forgettable or missable.
But the reality is that, despite everyone’s best efforts, the end product to the patron’s POV is often forgettable and missable, no matter how much advertisers, companies, friends and family do with word of mouth to dress up the creative turd.
Let’s never mind dead end arguments about the validity of anyone’s sense of entitlement. Yes, we all have one. The reality is that artists want to be rewarded culturally and spiritually for their work, just as audiences want to be rewarded for spending money and time to see performance art. And if there’s a better way to ensure they self actualize on that front we ought to make a real effort to leave the safety of our habitual shells and find it. I want artists to be rewarded, but I’m not going to eat shit as a patron of the arts (and certainly not as an artist) and pretend that vapid work deserves to be rewarded just because someone I care about worked on it. Your entitlement as an artist to immunity from criticism ends the moment you demand people spend money and time to see your work.
I would rather promote the discovery of progressive, improved approaches to making work that culturally and artistically rewards everyone, the cast and crew as well as the community paying to watch the show… that takes chances and pushes our limits intellectually, spiritually and culturally. And I certainly would rather promote work that does take legitimate chances than champion work that adds nothing just because someone I care about is working on it. That’s not fair to them, not fair to myself and certainly not fair to a community looking for an objective view on what in this town is worth checking out and supporting.
We all only have so much time and money, and with the volume of art in this town our choices are precious. I believe theatrical productions and their artistic choices should operate in kind. Make something no one else is making, and that doesn’t mean make a stage play or musical about X New Topic. Do something risky, challenging, DIFFERENT. Theatrical artists pour weeks of hard work into every production. They ought to be pouring their heart into challenging work that’s breaking new ground and taking new risks, work that succeed or fail will be remembered years later… unlike the latest remount of an off-Broadway musical or another vapid play about vapid people.