Today there was some brief discussion on Kris Vire's blog that made me take a second look at what I wrote yesterday, which raised an urge to isolate what I think is the basis of what I was trying to say and elaborate upon that:
Yes, expansion and innovation are important, but they aren't the only issues on our plate, nor are they higher-ranking than whatever it is that has attracted our current audience base.So it shall be written, so it shall be done.
No really, though. I, like any artist, want as many people as possible to see my work. And if there is a way to alter the image of theatre to get Joe Q. Public to buy more tickets, then I'm all for it. But not at the expense of those audience members that have been loyal to us. Nor at the expense of the work that we are actually offering. My question to the image-modifiers out there is who exactly you're gunning for: the (as I not-so-eloquently put it on Storefront Rebellion) Sopranos crowd or the American Idol crowd?
Now watch as I try to ride this line without falling on the elitist side...
Because there is a difference in the two: The Sopranos requires more intellectual engagement (for better or for worse) than American Idol, which, on the other hand, emphasizes the malleability and immediacy -- and I'm going to go ahead and say visceral experience -- of the medium (also for better or for worse). Both are hugely popular, and there is bound to be an overlap in the audiences, but at the same time there is going to be a very divergent selection of viewers for each as well.
Transferred over to the theatre world, and playing no biases, the strictly Idol crowd will more often than not tend to line up with the world of Broadway and other large scale shows for their sensory focus (as well as other spectacles on a smaller scale -- Redmoon, for instance). Low rent storefront theatre, when unable to build the spectacle, will usually push the level of mental engagement required from an audience, be it dramatically or comedically. That's not to say that non-spectacle theatre is always smarter, just that it's quite often a game of listening rather than watching. Or listening as much as watching.
All of this background disclaimer for what? For the fact that I am working from the side of small storefront "listening" theatre, and so my preferred crowd is the Sopranos crowd, which needs to be pulled in through marketing, no doubt, but not through a major image change, because they're already into the (extremely) broad style of work that I'm trying to provide. New marketing image? Pish! Find out why the people who like what you do like what you do. Then hone in on that: it is your appeal, after all. By all means, sell that in innovative ways, but don't act like it's something it's not. If you try to sell The Sopranos to an American Idol crowd (to belabor a metaphor), you're going to end up with one of two options: a crowd that is unhappy when you don't deliver what you've promised or a show that, despite the title card, looks suspiciously like American Idol (or vice versa) -- which runs risk of alienating your current audience, the most faithful barometer of what you're doing well.
I have some good vibes that need to be sent.
To the seven or eight year old girl sitting directly in front of me on the Red Line who wet her pants:
You may never know how terribly sorry I am. Had I known what had happened and that I was the only person between you and your sister, I would have gotten off and waited for the next train so you could take care of things without having to feel any more embarrassed than you already were. I pretended not to notice when I did get off, because I know that's what you wanted, but all I wanted to do was tell you that everything was perfectly alright. Mistakes happen. You had no reason to feel ashamed; most especially not because some random stranger was witness to your accident. Because, sweetie, I was the only random stranger around and you can rest assured that I'm not gonna hold it against you. This too will pass, darling. I hope your sister was caring enough to say what I could only think.
I was working through a lot of self-doubt shit this afternoon -- I'm the guy who technically falls under the 'young, upstart punk' heading of theatre taxonomy, which I realize is a role in which it is hard to be taken seriously sometimes. And I started to think a thought rare for the young, upstart punk role: what if there's a reason for that? What if I'm just plain wrong because I haven't had as much experience and opportunity as the rest (or the majority of the rest) of the blogosphere? And I was pretty sincerely down on myself for not being able to recognize this, for going about flaunting it regardless, and worst of all, for not being able to fix it, when an incident on the Red Line showed me in an instant how useless and debilitating shame and embarrassment can be. And it took a seven year old to teach me.