Friday, March 18, 2011

Where the Wild World of Facebook Posts Cross Wires

I was struck by two blogs/articles posted to my Facebook feed recently.

One was yet another snark-filled ramble about Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark.

In a last-ditch effort to save his floundering musical, Bono fired Taymor last week, replacing her with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who mostly writes comic books, and Phil McKinley, who directs the circus for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey

(Will the new "Spider-Man" have some elephants and a clown car, I wonder?)

Well, har-de-har-har, Mr. Michael Riedel, aren't you just a CARD!

From my perspective, take your shots at Julie Taymor. She's created a (reportedly) Godawful mess based on her hubris, but, for a show that DEMANDS high-wire performance and is based on a comic-book character, who better than a circus director and a comic book writer to try to salvage something out of it?

They may fail, make no mistake, but your cheap-ass shots, Mr. Riedel, just exposes you as an elitist.

The second was this bit about the local nature of theatre.

And, while I understand what Brian Golden is getting at with his Op/Ed piece, it's also, from my viewpoint, barking up the wrong tree. It's barking up the same wrong tree Julie Taymor did with her run at Spider-Man, but in a different way. It's also the same wrong tree the entire community has been tearing at for years, and watching their audience erode, steadily.

It's not that what Mr. Golden says is wrong, it's absolutely not, but it's also inherent with the whole concept of theatre. Theatre is not a mass media, it never has been, and never will be. It's always a local art form, it always has been. It's a presentation for those people in attendance, right at that moment. The performers will never replicate it, exactly, ever again. Also, more to his point, I'd guess that 95%, or more, of theatre in the country is presented in a community, to people who live in that community, by people who live in that community.

I always feel like announcing that, as some sort of end goal, is a cop-out. It's, essentially, a classed-up way of saying "our audience is our audience." I think that's limiting, tell the right story, in the right way, and the whole world will listen. I COMPLETELY agree with the human connection element he brings up. It's why I always feel a movie, for example, is always best served in a theatre full of other people, to share the emotional responses.

But understanding that doesn't help you with programming, with picking a season, assigning a director, or casting a show. I think, I really, really think, that we, as theatre practitioners have forgotten where we came from.

Where's not cultural shaman. We're not social workers. We're storytellers. Those other things can be part of the deal, but we need to focus on our story. Let the audience decide if it's something more.

When Og got up in front of the rest of his tribe, and told the story of his hunt for the wild boar, it came down to his story, and how he told it. That's what we have to get back to, the pure joy of storytelling.

With all due respect to Mr. Golden, because I am a member of this community, and I am connected to this story, then it's a community story. We have to move beyond our ideas of what and who "our community" is, and just tell human stories. It doesn't have to be about "us," because every good story is about "us."

Brian, if you read this, maybe that was your point, and I missed it, God knows that's not the first time that's happened.

Then we turn to Taymor. Spider-Man is a universal character, with a universal story. You can't have a concept that survives almost 50 years, through multiple generations and incarnations, without having some universal appeal. So, why, in the name of God, try to glom your "Arachne," lifted from Greek myth, into it? You already have one myth, and that's exactly what it is, that you get to play with. Why overload the show with symbolism?

...especially if it's symbolism that just confuses people, and dilutes the basic, universal, human story that's already there.

Why not just TELL THE STORY?

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