We’re snots. We are. We complain all the livelong day about reviewers … they’re so mean, they didn’t like me, they don’t support live theatre, they hate art. You know what? Call the wahmbulance. People in the biz are way worse than reviewers. We just don’t put our snotbag comments in print; we kibitz over beers instead. It’s next to impossible for us to go to the theatre with an open mind. This is a function of being in the biz, I’m afraid. We know too much. The magic doesn’t impress us anymore. It’s fringe theatre, so we assume it won’t be very good quality. It’s a professional house, so we assume it will be commercial schlock. We’ve seen this play before. We’ve been in this play before. I mean, jeez! At least the reviewers actually *see* plays — sometimes we don’t even bother to see them before passing judgment.
I was at lunch the other day with a friend, and we were talking about shows we needed to see and what we’d seen that we liked, and what we should go see but probably were going to bag. And somewhere in between the lame excuses we were giving each other and the faces he was making at some of my suggestions, it occurred to me … Why do so many theatre folks hate to go see theatre?
We tell ourselves it’s because we’re busy or broke. Or we point to the paltry 2 plays we’ve seen in the last 3 months and hold that up as some kind of badge. But really. We’d rather be doing something else. Something FUN. Play-going often feels not like a free-will choice, but an obligation. When was the last time you saw a show that a friend of yours wasn’t in? (Yeah, yeah, yeah … you in the back … put your hand down. Yes, yes, I know you want everyone to know that you’re the ONE exception; but shut it. I’m trying to make a point.) Where has that excitement gone that we had that day we saw our very first play and thought to ourselves “I want to do THAT for the rest of my life?” Of course what we meant was we wanted to be in plays for the rest of our lives, not sit and watch them. We just didn’t realize how much time we’d be spending on the other (“wrong”) side of the footlights. But why don’t we spend that time seeing plays? Why don’t we get giddy at the prospect of going out on the town for a night of live entertainment?
See, the thing is that I am kind of broke, and I am really busy with a lot of different things, and I don’t always feel like going to the theatre. I know a lot of us are in the same boat. Some days (maybe most days), we can’t get ourselves excited about going to see a play. If even I, who feel pretty conceptually passionate about it, can’t get my damn self to choose theatre on a night off, how can I expect regular-old-joe-schmoe-non-theatre-audience-folks to come? Do we think of theatre as a worthwhile entertainment option in and of itself? If not, then the question becomes: why do we do it in the first place? Is it, indeed (as some say), a dead art form?