Theater of Belonging

I live in the United States of Me, a nation populated almost entirely by people I’ve friended, people I follow, and people who follow me.

I live in the United States of Me, and you (most of you) live in the United States of You. We belong to and participate in social networks running on algorithms designed to ensure that we only encounter the ideas and images we’ve (often subconsciously) asked to encounter. And with every single “like” and “favorite” we tweak those algorithms, too, making them even more effective at giving us just what we want. Like rats pawing madly at levers to release food, we click and re-tweet to create endorphins in our own brains.

In our own virtual countries, we listen to self-curated radio stations on headphones designed to make sure nobody else listens in. We recline on our own couches programming Netflix queues and DVRs so that precisely the stories we know we’re going to love will be ready for us, right on demand, at all times… stories we selected from the recommendations issued to us by those same social networks and algorithms.

We customize websites to make them present us with exactly the right content at exactly the right time. We aggregate news into politically-approved feeds that arrive neatly-wrapped in our in-boxes. We live in a time and place of such abundance that many of us are able to choose precisely what we’d like to eat for every single meal and have it delivered directly to our houses… in single-serving sizes, even, if that’s what we prefer.

Everything is exactly like we want it to be. (In some ways.)

I live in my own country, and so do you, and so do you, and you, and you, and you. Our customized territories do overlap, mind you, in spaces both virtual and real, but we work hard—desperately hard—to make sure any encounters we have with each other don’t displease either of us. We prefer to maintain the illusion that we’re both kings and queens of our own realms.

And we don’t like strange terrain, either. Whenever anything doesn’t seem familiar, we tell ourselves we’re just conquering new territory. That it’s destined to become ours. We never really leave our borders, no matter where we go. The sun never sets on our iLives, just as it once never set on the Roman Empire.

Which leads me to the central question I’ve been wrestling with for quite some time now: how in the heck is the new play sector supposed to compete with that?

What do we have to offer that’ll pry anybody out of a box that tight, that customized, at a pre-appointed hour, to come sit in a possibly-uncomfortable chair, and be on good behavior, at great cost, while complete strangers tell an unfamiliar story… possibly about some other part of the world with unfamiliar customs or ideas or worldviews that might seem somewhat threatening?

It’s amazing to me, sometimes, that anybody ever goes to the theater at all.

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I should probably make clear that I am not, in fact, opposed to any of the technological advances and social changes I’ve just described; one might as well oppose the tide.

In point of fact, I’ve embraced technology with both arms for most of my life. At 16 years old, I spent virtually every penny I had to acquire a brand new Apple IIc computer when other kids my age were buying, well, almost anything else… and I haven’t slowed down since. I’ve had a smart phone for just about as long as phones have been smart: I rely on its GPS for getting places; I turn it into a mobile hotspot to get a better internet connection on the Amtrak; I use it to access three different email accounts. I have an iPad that I read on, check email on, surf the web on, conduct bank transactions on, check the weather on, play games on… and keep beside my bed so that it’s near me the minute I first wake up.

As an artist, furthermore, I’ve embraced every possibility technology offers us. I’ve advocated for integrating Twitter into live performances. I’ve written podcast plays. I’ve had two different plays live-streamed. I’ve created two different transmedia performances that incorporated video, photography, Tumblr posts, and on-the-spot photos taken by audience members. And I’m just getting started.

But it’s not wise, I believe, to advocate blindly for the future. Change always comes with costs, and we who push for it really ought to be sensitive to the things that get lost when we get what we want.

I listen to a Bose Wave radio; I stream Pandora on both my phone and my tablet, and for several years I had a satellite radio subscription, too. But if you walked into my living room, you’d also see a 1940 Philco radio occupying a central position. In my dining room sits a 1938 tabletop radio—one I restored myself, by hand—and similar antiques occupy primary spots in my library, study, and media room, too. I love them; they’re among my most-prized possessions. They remind me of the critical importance of stories: how they’ve always made us gather. When I gather in my living room with family and friends, I sometimes drift out of the conversation to imagine us all sitting in silence, hunched forward toward that Philco, listening to an episode of a favorite radio drama or a news bulletin from some part of the world none of us would ever visit. What charged moments those must have been for people! But no more.

And yet: there was a time before radios. Radios were once a new technology. They inspired cultural changes, and those changes must have seemed difficult at the time. What was lost when radio arrived? The private time one might have spent with a newspaper? Was there a drop-off in attendance at movie houses? Did people have fewer conversations? Read fewer books?

Whatever the cost for embracing radio, we paid it. And I happen to believe that we got a good deal. But still: we paid.

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Do you know the historic Lincoln Theatre in DC? National Register of Historic Places; more than a thousand seats; Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Pearl Bailey, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, and Cab Calloway all appeared there, among many others. It was restored 20 years ago, but it’s badly in need of money to keep it up to snuff now. Of late, the DC government’s basically been asking the city’s arts leaders for permission to turn it into the only thing that could possibly fill that many seats on a regular basis: a movie theater.

More than a thousand seats. To fill a room like that, you need to DO something or SAY something that one in every 5,000 people in the broad metropolitan region (or one in every 600 just in the city proper) are really not going to want to miss. You have to create an experience that absolutely must be had: that will convince all those people to show up at an appointed hour, credit cards in hand, fears cast aside, their own personal bubbles temporarily abandoned. And to make sure the theater keeps thriving, moreover, you have to do the same thing, night after night after night. 150 or 200 times a year. Year after year after year.

The whole thing feels really, really daunting. Heck, it even feels daunting if I imagine a 250-seat theater. So I’ve been asking myself… what does get people out of their personalized houses? For what reasons do they come congregate in the ever-unpredictable public square? What makes us sit around the radio, metaphorically-speaking, and tune in together?

We gather for sporting events. And movies, though less often than we used to now that we can watch them at home. We gather at houses of worship, though in increasingly smaller numbers. Parades get us out on the streets. Circuses. Fireworks displays. Inaugurations. Music can still draw big crowds. Even some really popular restaurants. Oh, and bars. Night clubs. Parties. Festivals. That sort of thing.

What do those things have that theater doesn’t have? Because they’re all more successful at gathering crowds than we are. Let me ask this another way: what can we have that they don’t have? How can we beat them? (Can we beat them?)

I hear a lot of people say that the one thing we have in our corner is that theater is live. Usually this claim is made when theater’s being compared to film. But ALL of those things I just listed are live. Films are even live, in the sense that a live audience is watching the story unfold on the screen at the same time. The fact that theater is live, I believe, can’t be what distinguishes it. It just can’t. We need something else than that.

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Let’s ask a different question: why do people gather for, say, sports? Sporting events have real, extreme, often-brutal physical competition; we watch sports, and our mirror neurons get excited enough that we feel like we’re out on the field or the court ourselves, so our hearts really get racing. Sporting events are also unpredictable, a fact that often forces us to live in the moment while we watch them: we don’t know whether we’ll be victorious-by-proxy or not. They also contain echoes of both war and mythology, so we can let one team stand for good and the other for evil—not consciously, perhaps, but somewhere deep inside us—and transform the experience into a comedy or tragedy, depending on the outcome. You can see the appeal, I should hope, even if you don’t share it.

(Aside: I find the condescension that some theater artists display toward sports very disappointing. They have a great deal to teach us, I think, if we let them.)

So… what do we in the theater have that compares? Well, we don’t have the same feats of physical strength (though acting is athletics), but we do have conflict: characters vie against each other for competing desires, at least in traditional drama. But while sports are clearly real (I’m setting aside the possibility that games might be fixed), theater’s artificial in some sense. Our mirror neurons do fire… but maybe not quite as hard as they do when you’re watching a sporting event. I think maybe the uniforms make the players “generic” enough that we can more easily project ourselves onto them… and the lack of diversity in the characters we’re putting on stage might also make it tricky for some people to empathize completely.

Finally, there’s the matter of unpredictability. Yes, audiences don’t really know how a story will turn out when they walk into the theater, unless it’s a historical drama… but the performers do, and I have to think that saps at least some of the whoa-look-out! out of the experience. Furthermore, the fact that we tend to rehearse plays until they’re polished, until so much of the sense of the risk of being out there in front of people has vanished, must make our work less interesting to people. As evidence, I offer the fact that the hardest-to-come-by theater ticket in DC every year is for a “bootleg” production of Shakespeare in which the entire cast has blocked, rehearsed, costumed, and lit an entire play in fewer than eight hours. THAT is some derring-do right there, and people sense it.

In 2010, approximately 45,000,000 Americans attended live theater events (at all levels, from Broadway to high school productions). In the same year, more than 70,000,000 Americans attended just Major League Baseball games. The total figure for all sporting events, as far as I’m able to determine, is between 500,000,000 and 1,000,000,000 per year. I’ll have what they’re having. Won’t you?

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It wouldn’t be hard to do similar comparisons between theater and the other human pursuits I’ve listed—concerts, churches, and so on—but it would be rather tedious, wouldn’t it? Because we all know: whatever we’ve got, they’ve got a more appealing version of it. Usually much more appealing. They’re so much better at convincing people to get up out of their chairs and sit in a shared, real space together at the same time than we are that we ought to be begging them to tell us their secrets. But instead we act haughty and superior—not always, but often. As if everyone else is just stupid and wrong for not realizing why they ought to be spending their time inside theaters instead. Which is, you must realize, part of the problem in the first place.

Would you want to belong to a club that believes you’re beneath being a member?

But I think that’s exactly it: we treat the theater all too often as if this is still the 1980s, and (to paraphrase the most popular commercial slogan of that era) membership in the drama club has its privileges. But we don’t live in a country club world any more. We live in—no, we occupy—an Arab Spring world. The top-down, hierarchical corporate structures of most of our theaters (which are by-products of the industrial era) aren’t as relevant any more as they once were. The future belongs to open, collaborative peer networks, modeled after the distributed nodes of the internet, not the spoke-and-hub frameworks that defined everything from the early American railways to the original AT&T network. The future looks very different than the org charts of most American theaters. The future looks more like a revolution.

Oh, right! Revolution! That tends to get people up out of their seats and leave their isolated bubbles, too, doesn’t it?

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Here are some questions to which I do not have answers but which I believe nonetheless to be revolutionary:

What if we did embrace a peer-networked worldview in the theater? What if we threw caution to the wind and started transforming the American theater so that we embraced the evolution of culture instead of trying so damnably hard to preserve what we’ve already built?

What if we stopped turning up our noses at all the experimentation going on with tweet-seats and live-streaming and transmedia storytelling? What if we stopped saying “That isn’t real theater?” (To be clear, what I normally hear from traditional theater practitioners is “That’s a nice little experiment and all, but it’s not real theater”—a response that resounds with equal parts condescension and dismissiveness.) What if we invited people to bring those personalized universes they live in with them when they come to the theater?

What if we started combining what we usually think of as theater with, say, biology experiments? Or yoga classes? Or podcasts? Or role-playing games? Would we find new collaborators to work with us? And thus other audiences to engage with?

What if we started inviting our audience members to make theater with us? (Instead of us making it for them?) How many people do you think might come join in if we started saying Theater is a chance for you to make something instead of Theater is a chance for us to do something to you—maybe even something you might not like? 

What if we stopped defining the value or success of a piece of theater by how it measures up against some “objective” standard of excellence or quality? What if, instead, we defined success as the measure of how personally relevant and resonant our work is for the largest number of our community members?

At this point, I think we need to be asking all of these questions. We need to re-energize the research and development division of the American theater. (Though we might need to find it first.) We need to put experimentation and investigation and exploration at the core of what we do. We need to become explorers and scientists, first and foremost, in our theater practice. (And no, doing another straight play by an MFA-adorned writer, after it’s done in New York, does NOT make you either an explorer OR a scientist. It makes you a capitalist.) We need to at least re-consider and re-test every single premise and first principle we hold dear… and, if they prove to be inaccurate, be fearless in letting them go.

We’re living in the Age of Pandora. The Sirius/XM Era. But we’re still telling stories that are best suited to the antique AM radios with which I’ve decorated my house. We’re fiddling with the same few dials, trying harder and harder to find a clear signal while the static continues to swell. There’s abundant creative possibility all around us, but we keep limiting ourselves, time and time again, to the same few channels.

Look at where people are. Where they really spend their time. If we want to connect with them, let’s go where they are, not force them come to us. If we want to create art, let’s make it and take it to them. If not literally, then at least psychologically. And technologically. Let’s use theater—whatever it looks like—to create one united state out of the various and independent algorithm countries we’re all living in. Let’s re-animate and re-invigorate our fellow dopamine-driven citizens. Let’s end loneliness. Let’s create belonging. Whatever it costs us. And let’s do it soon.

23 thoughts on “Theater of Belonging”

  1. Steve Carpenter

    You’re asking hard questions and I think you’re absolutely right to. I’ve heard since I started in this biz that it’s a dying art form. I’m not sure that I agree with that entirely (shouldn’t it have gasped its last by now?), but with so much of our personal experiences rapidly evolving by way of technology, I do fear that without adaptations, it will become harder and harder for theatre to survive (especially if people hope to make a living at it!).

    I haven’t been, so I’m speaking from others’ experiences, but it seems like Sleep No More might have found a new “mode” of theatre that touched a popular nerve. It doesn’t “plug-in” in the way I think you’re advocating, but in terms of form and personal experience, it seems to be a first step. What could be learned/evolved from that?

    I’d love to talk further with you on this. Maybe a lunch date is in our near future?

  2. Excellent post, Gwydion. Let me add something, if you don’t mind. Sports, pop music, bars, restaurants, church, sporting events — what do they all have in common? Spectators actively participate in them while they happen. They cheer, they sing along, they talk while they eat, they sing hymns. What they don’t do is sit quietly like good little boys and girls while the special people tell them a story. Study theatre history — plays were a contact sport. Look at the art forms that are least popular today — theatre, dance, classical music — all sit-down-and-shut-up art forms. Also, many of those popular forms are local: we pull for OUR team, we pray with OUR pastor or rabbi, we eat at OUR neighborhood restaurant. Local and active. Theatre could be this — if we just got over ourselves, stopped with the self-important BS, embraced what it is that makes theatre different (because, yes, it is LIVE), and stopped seeing ourselves as ersatz priests.

    1. Ooh… yes. This I love. The OUR angle, the appeal of civic pride, resonates particularly strongly for me. And I also agree that while sit-down-and-shut-up is a fine mode in which to offer art, it’s far from the only mode… and making it the default mode has done us a great disservice.

  3. I love how you stated this Gwydion: “The future belongs to open, collaborative peer networks, modeled after
    the distributed nodes of the internet, not the spoke-and-hub frameworks
    that defined everything from the early American railways to the original
    AT&T network. The future looks very different than the org charts
    of most American theaters.” We’re all holding each other back when we continue unwittingly to cling to and exclusively exist for our older, monocultural “channels”. Our field’s most exciting challenge now is to figure out how to amplify peer networks, peer production so we can create a completely new mental map for producing theater culture and community.

    1. And I love how you’ve said that, too. The mental map is what’s really, in some ways, the most important change we need to make. The metaphors that govern are thinking, which are so deeply embedded and almost completely invisible, are what need desperately to be refreshed.

      1. Why the older, spoke-and-hub models are still such a powerful influence for the field’s mental map is that they still have a disproportionate amount of the (dwindling) financial resources— but, probably most importantly—they still have a social pull and influence that grants social rewards such as “validation” and “legitimacy”. These are resources and social dynamics that shouldn’t be underestimated and that can be positively aligned for amplifying emerging models of collaborative peer networks.

  4. I think that, for me, it’s not a matter of wanting this kind of theatre (because my sentiments are right alongside yours) so much as making this kind of experimentation accessible. Not to put too fine a point on it, money and space remain the biggest issues for many of us.

    I also wonder how to go from great idea to actual practice. I am keen on doing something like this: http://rvcbard.blogspot.com/2013/02/back-to-my-roleplaying-roots.html. Finding people willing an available to get on board with that, however, is a different story.

    Perhaps this suggests that we need to look outside theatre for future collaborators who are less bound to traditional methods of creating theatre.

  5. Steve Spotswood

    This is a great summary of the big challenges and questions we’re facing as theatre artists and storytellers. It’s not the first time I’ve thought about (and been concerned by) that personal bubble that we all create in our electronic lives and how it relates to the stories we choose to see/hear/participate in. Having spent the last week mostly offline and in an uncomfortable environment, it impressed on me just how easy it is to fracture that bubble and how easy it is to retreat back into it.

    While I’m not sure that more/different tech is the (only) answer, I do think we should be unafraid in calling out outdated paradigms wherever we see them.

    Another note: For me, personally, the come on line of “Theater is a chance for us to do something to you—maybe even something you might not like” works. And it probably works better than promising the opportunity to create something in partnership. That might be because I have that opportunity in my daily life. But I think it’s also because I make a concerted effort to see theatre that is challenging. I think discomfort is highly underrated. If I could impress on our potential audience anything, it would be that. Nothing truly rewarding has ever been achieved in total comfort.

    I think that’s one of the big challenges as a storyteller: people crave surprise (something that really gets those neurons firing), but we also crave comfort. By surprises, I don’t just mean people jumping out of closets, but stories taking turns that you don’t usually see them take–something that would never happen in your personal bubble. Create a narrative that deviates too much too quickly and you chance losing your audience. Create a narrative that deviates too little and you have to ask why are you doing this in the first place.

    It’s one of those challenges I love tackling when creating a new work: craft a narrative that provides those surprises, while keeping the audience on the hook.

    And that’s enough. I’m off to make my characters do something I hope will have the audience screaming in outrage at intermission.

  6. Mariah MacCarthy

    Lately, it seems like a LOT of shows that are successful are “events.” When you go to NATASHA, PIERRE, AND THE GREAT COMET OF 1812, you eat a meal with your fellow audience members and get free vodka and the actors are literally all around you. HERE LIES LOVE is a dance party (I hear–haven’t grabbed a $90 ticket yet); ditto FUERZA BRUTA (which closed not too long ago after a number of years off-Broadway and also featured performers being lowered on Plexiglass from the ceiling until they’re so close you could touch them if the Plexiglass weren’t there). In MURDER BALLAD there’s a fully-functional onstage bar that you can hit up before the show and the staging is very “in your face” (again, so I hear; haven’t attended yet). SLEEP NO MORE is not a play, it’s an experience. So even non-theater types are excited about these kinds of shows, because they’re not “plays” (or not JUST “plays”), they’re “this cool thing I experienced.”

    On a smaller scale: Rising Phoenix’s “Cino Nights,” which are rehearsed in just a week and presented for one night only, free of charge, are ALWAYS packed to the gills. While these plays are only sometimes as openly “immersive” as any of the above-listed shows (sometimes the line between audience and actors is very sharply drawn, other times we all sit onstage and drink vodka together), they still feel like “events”; you’re packed in the back room of a bar, and you drink with everyone afterwards, and the space is so unusual that every play there kind of becomes “site-specific.”

    Flux’s “Food Soul” nights are also, as far as I’ve seen, extremely well-attended, and they’re EVENTS. The food is as much a part of the night as the reading. You sit down and eat with your fellow audience members beforehand. You feel like you’re all in this together.

    A lot of these shows blur the line between “play” and party, play and rock concert, play and communal dinner, etc. That’s what makes them “events.”

    That said: I love a good straight-up straight play as much as the next person. They don’t all have to be dance parties. The challenge, then, becomes: how do we make even the straight-up straight plays (the “real theater,” if you will) as communal and engaged and special as the dance parties and the potlucks?

    As an aside–and I know this is only one piece of your puzzle–but I’m not sure tweet seats will do much to revolutionize theater. Not because of the usual “but the glow from the screen!” argument–I know, I know, we can put the tweeters in a special section where the light pollution won’t be an issue–but because I find it extremely annoying when I’m on twitter and someone else live-tweets an event I’m not attending, and in fact find myself tempted to unfollow whoever’s live-tweeting. I haven’t seen any evidence that live-tweeting shows does any *good*; correct me if you’ve found differently. I also find that most live performances–not just theater, but musicians as well–are simply nowhere near as good via a screen as they are in person (even with an expert behind the camera), and so while live-streaming can make theater more accessible, my objection to it is simply that it’s a poor substitute, not that it’s “not real theater” if it’s live-streamed.

    But transmedia, yes. Transmedia makes a play an “event.” Builds suspense. Makes the world of the play more easily accessible. Makes it more communal. Breaches the stuffy connotation some people carry in their heads when they hear the word “theater.” Not every single play lends itself to transmedia, though. I’m sure there are transmedia possibilities for THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST but I’m having a hard time thinking of what they might be.

    So what else? Communal meals are awesome, but potlucks are a little hard to pull off on a large scale (and then you run into insurance issues, what if someone gets sick, etc), and having a kitchen on-site can jack up your costs. How do you make it an “event” when it’s not a dance party and it’s in a real honest-to-goodness theater, not the back room of a bar? I love what you and Walt said about the “OUR” angle, the ownership. I think part of what makes these immersive theater experiences, these “events,” so effective is that the audience is given the opportunity to really bond with each other. I’ve seen this at MRS. MAYFIELD: people befriend each other, pass along information when something’s happening in an unseen location, assist each other, talk about each other afterwards as if they know one another. Maybe, then, it’s the audience’s connection *to each other* that we should be most closely examining, and trying to figure out how to enhance?

    I’m rambling/riffing, and I might not have been clear, but I love where you’re going and want to collectively figure out more specifics of how to get there!

    1. I totally agree: events, increasingly, are where it’s at. And we writers (event planners?) would do well to start figuring out how to get better at creating them. Do we begin with a script, or do we start somewhere else? How do we learn how to do that?

      1. Mariah MacCarthy

        I’d be happy to talk to you more about Mrs. Mayfield sometime…definitely an “event,” unlike anything else I’ve ever done. Not done to ride the tide, just because it seemed like what I wanted to do at the time, and I noticed the “events” thing later.

    2. TOTALLY agree about the live tweeting when you aren’t there. I had to avoid Twitter all last week because of TCG…

  7. This is an absolutely wonderful article with tough questions. I have a very basic one, so forgive me, but I’m curious as to your specific response: in introducing technology into the theatre-going experience, how do we manage the slippery slope of attention?

    By this I mean, I am ALL for live-streaming, and finding new and innovative ways to bring our modern tech existence into the artistic fray. However, I’ve also sat next to those patrons who are not tweeting about the play or engaging with their tech, but rather tuning out, which I can’t help feeling is utterly disrespectful to the artists on stage, the writer, the crew. So how does a company, a venue, an artist manage this particular risk – trying to celebrate the role of technology as a part of the artistic experience without providing an avenue for people to disconnect from the communal experience they are partaking in?

    And as to Mariah MacCarthy’s comment, YES! (I started writing more of a response, but realized that you said it all so well, so I will just add a hearty “YES” and continue trying to nurture this in Chicago.)

    1. IMO, the idea that we should “respect” artists is part of the issue. If what an artist is doing is less interesting than what is on their phone, then the artists needs to step it up. The audience isn’t there for the artist, the artist is there for the audience.

      1. Hear hear! Please entertain us! The idea that the notion of “the artists entertaining the masses” is ripe for overturning seems spot-on until you see a really, really good play, like Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike. There was great audience co-creation the time I saw it: laughter. Individual styles of laughter that are distracting and distressingly unmodulated. Then you realize that your own braying yelp is out there wafting in the air alone because you alone found a line funny. To be in the audience on such a night is better than any beer or glowing screen or mask-wearing Event-partaking. Could it be that stupid? Most plays are despicably bad, and the good ones need better marketing.

  8. Jenny Splitter

    Great post. I’ve been thinking so much about this lately. And then I saw a movie with my son and was wondering why anyone still goes to movie theaters these days. The big chain theaters have really ruined the experience of going to the movies, or I’m getting old, or I’m turning into my dad. Or all three. Anyway…

  9. Nicole Burton

    Interesting post and discussion. Many years ago, the Kennedy Center was taken over briefly by Peter Sellars who was young and innovative. He brought amazing theater companies to the Kennedy Center, some as paying shows, most as free ones: Dario Fo, Squat Theatre, the Wooster Group among them. The KC was THRONGED with young people day and night eager to see fabulous free theater. The paying shows such as Ajax and the Count of Monte Cristo got good reviews and did well financially. After about a year, Sellars was invited to leave (the regular KenCen patrons were not fans of his taste) and KenCen theater went back to its usually-boring normal. I find this instructive because when we offer straight plays for free or suggested donation, we change the risk equation for the audience and “free” creates a party atmosphere. If they like the show, they’ll put $10-20 in the basket. Backers and patrons who love theater could be found to do the major underwriting. Having a paying audience and making a profit is fabulous but it’s unrealistic to expect straight theatre to compete with the likes of NFL. Theater – even without technology tricks – still has much to offer: it’s immediate. It’s non-persistent, and when done well, it will change your life forever.

  10. One thought about this is how theatres are more and more becoming “brands.” You want your classical fix? Go to STC. Movement your thing? Synetic has you covered. Thought-provoking storytelling? Hit up Rorschach. Devised theatre? d&p and Happenstance have you covered. Political theatre? Call the Federal Theatre Project.

    Sure, prolific playwrights still exist, including some well known ones in DC. But I think the public (audience) has started identifying more with the company than with the production, and that’s a tough nut for a playwright to crack.

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