I learned earlier this week that the previous theatre company has scheduled 12 shows between the current Halloween play and Christmas 2010. Twelve. No one does this. Not colleges, not amateur companies nor professionals. No one has the talent or money to do a decent production at a clip of one a month.
They also decided to drop Annie, the one show that would bring in guaranteed box office and a flood of young talent and new volunteers for future shows. When I was still meeting with committees, this would have been Spring, that was the show felt by theatre veterans that had to be announced ASAP to lure actresses and families away from their 2010 summer vacations. I didn't hear the reason why Annie was scrapped, but I can imagine: Who can fit 20 young girls on that small stage for a three-weekend run? Who wants to corral that mob for two months?
Among the reasons I stayed away from the current production was concern that chaos and drama would enter via the crew. No matter who was put onstage, I assumed the director would sit on any divas enough to make the show work. The crew, however, are often chosen without the director's input or he has to settle for whoever he can find at the last second. It appears my cynicism was founded: The director and the stage manager are at odds, and what a lovely distraction that must be for five actors working a three-act play. One has to wonder how the group manages to attract this quality of professionalism. It must be some sort of mountain magic that lures them to a locus of theatre calamity. We're Las Vegas in the community-theatre version of The Stand.
As my liaison leaves this fall, he removes my true obligation to the group. I recently turned down another nomination to join the board. I'm staying away. Even though the group is doing big-name shows this season -- Odd Couple, Mousetrap, Glass Menagerie -- the backstage whirlpool isn't worth hopping into a big play. Nor is it rewarding to surrender two months of time and brain work to perform before 50 people. Snobbish? Perhaps. Soul-crushing? Always. The building can hold four times that number. I believe the company could lure larger crowds if they cut back on the number of shows. Better posters, also. You can't draw in people off the street with clip art found online on letter-size paper carrying 200 words of information. When the posters are taped to shop windows and bulletin boards, they vanish amid the other flyers. I'm tired of presenting my sales pitch to make the posters. It's been two years.
The only good news is that college may allow its theatre students to work in the local theatre's prouction, ending the boycott. That will get new blood, but they need veterans to help them learn the craft, and all of us are running into the night.
So why do I despair about this so often, you may ask? Two reasons:
1) Everyone else I know in town is through Your Sister, and while she makes good friends, I'm dependent on her for a social network. That's a bind. The theater gave me a conduit to more people.
2) The theatre is so physically close to our house that, if I were to be involved, I'm pretty sure I would be the closest of any other theatre person to the building. That, combined with me knowing my stuff, would make me a major contributor to the company. That's appealing. So much so that I constantly question my judgment about previous theatre meltdowns. Was it really so bad? Couldn't I bow up and muddle through? Then I read some of the blog posts on those shows and think I wouldn't do that again if they paid me.
2b Bonus Reason Cheap At Twice the Price) No one gets paid. It's all volunteer. That means there's no incentive to do more than the bare minimum nor is there an attractor for the best skills. What do we get? An inordinate amount of dingbats and drama queens (which might just be the name of my new rock band) eclipsing the energetic cheerleaders and the eagerly competent.
Picture of the Day
Mars orbiter photos show dark sand whirls that scientists suspect are made by dust devils turning up the topsoil. This doesn't even look like a landscape. We've stared at Mars for hundreds of years with our state-of-the-art technologies, and we're still surprised by it.