by 99 Seats
I've been thinking a lot about the future. On a lot of different axes. And I've been thinking about theatre. One of the reasons I've been largely radio-silent lately is that I was very busy. I got pretty lucky and had a nice run of readings, workshop presentations, commissions and whatnot to keep me on my toes. It also kept me out of theatres, mostly, at rehearsals or facing looming writing deadlines. So, to be honest, most of my theatre experience of late has been second-hand: reading invites on Facebook, hearing reports from folks who've seen shows, etc. I'm not proud of it. In fact, in many ways, I feel rather embarrassed by it. This is my chosen field, after all, and most of these shows involve friends and colleagues. I should show up to them, if only to insure that they'll show up to see my work. Plus...this is a tough business and we should all be there for each other. So, to everyone, I apologize.
That's part of why I haven't been writing about theatre much here lately. The other part is...what would I write about? Seriously. What's going on that requires comment, discussion, dissection? There was the Guthrie contretemps, but that seems to have resolved itself nicely. The NY theatre season announcements have actually been fairly delightful, intriguing and interesting. My bugaboo of diversity seems to be satisfied for the large part, really. We're in award season and I've been quite pleased to see some good friends and colleagues win awards and accolades. The Tonys, as indicated by Isaac's post here and the New York magazine articles he links to here and here, seem to have caused some consternation about musical theatre...but the unspoken word there seems to be "Broadway." As far as I can see, musical theatre is doing pretty well: some very exciting playwrights are creating musicals, a lot of the major Off-Broadway houses have new musicals in their next seasons, people are still making them. Honestly, the same goes for new plays. It seems like, for the time being, we've hit some sort of equillibrium: there are new plays by exciting new writers planned, the indie scene here in the city feels really coalesced and connected in many ways, and lots of communities are coming together and connecting. Again, this is just a cursory glance, as I pull my head out of my own, um, trench, and look out over the field. I'm sure I'm missing things, or ignoring things, or failing in various ways that will rapidly be brought to my attention.
So the question that comes to me is: what if this is it? A lot of us invest a lot of time in being semi-professionally upset about things. We want change! We want it now! What if, though, there won't be any significant changes? What if the new movement in theatre is here, it's now established and this is it? We've landed at Steady State: Broadway is a place for mass entertainments at a price set for tourists, Off-Broadway and the regionals will continue to cater to an aging, upper-middle class audience with the occasional feint in the direction of diversity, the indie scene will remain largely segregated by class, race, gender and sexuality with occasional cross-pollination, and theatre will, in general, continue to hover in this place, this narrow, wobbly space between being a luxury good for cultural elites and something that connects to a wider audience. What if that's what we can expect for the duration? It does seem fairly resistant to change. Oh, we have our little flare-ups, dust-ups, scandals, donnybrooks, but pretty quickly, order is restored. The natural order of things re-asserts itself and the whole system spins on.
So. What if this is it? What do we do then?