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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"So, What Happened?"

I recently had another disturbing conversation much like this xtranormal video:

Whilst working a holiday job I am NOT too giddy to return to (but grateful to have), a young co-worker learned that I had gone to college many moons ago. Here is our conversation:

Her: "So what did you go to school for?"
Me: "I got a B.A. in musical theatre."
Her: "So, what happened?"
Me: laughing uncomfortably, "What happened?!"
Her: "Yeah, don't you audition for Broadway?"

I've had many conversations like these. The kind where that one response:

"So, what happened?"

just repeats and repeats in my ear. Sometimes it pisses me off. Sometimes it makes me sad. This time it just made me giggle. A lot.

Whether or not it as simple as this cat thinks it is. Do I still even want to be on Broadway?

Maybe.

The recent closing announcements of two new-to-Broadway shows, "The Scottsboro Boys" and "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" has me upset and curious about the current state of Broadway and how it compares to the Broadway that I fell in love with. Two new musicals with compelling storylines and new music MADE IT TO BROADWAY in a time when only jukebox musicals and blockbuster movie-to-musicals which all leave oodles to be desired are being produced and worse, selling tickets. Within just a few short months they get their closing notices and the theatre community mourns their loss. What is the problem here? Is there truly not an audience for these shows? I am inspired by these shows and I have not seen them yet. So am I to blame? I can't afford to see them!! Even at a student rate (which I am far from a student) I have no extraneous cash (yes, people can actually not have an extra $25-35 for a ticket). I have relied for the past several years in this city on the kindness of friends who work in box offices and theatre marketing companies for all of my theatre-going needs. Even when I receive a comp, my word-of-mouth can only go so far. I am well-connected but, to a sea of artists much like myself. I know numerous people who would thoroughly enjoy and support work like this but who do not have the means to. Is that where things stand? Is the only true audience for shows such as these the very theatre community which cannot afford to support it?

Since I have limited time for research on this topic at this moment but really want to get this off my chest, I did a very quick search. The following is from a review of "BROADWAY: THE GOLDEN ERA", (a documentary being shipped to me next from Netflix!) by Seattle Post-Intellegencer movie critic WILLIAM ARNOLD

"If you don't believe Broadway had its greatest years in the two decades between 1945 and 1965, all you have to do is open a theatrical section of The New York Times on any day in this period and you'll see row upon row of listings for plays that are now classics.
It was the heyday of Tennessee Williams, William Inge and Arthur Miller; of Rogers & Hammerstein, Lerner & Lowe and Cole Porter; of "The Glass Menagerie," "Death of a Salesman" and "Guys and Dolls," of Shirley Booth, John Raitt and Carol Lawrence.

And the plays were performed in intimate theaters, mostly without audio systems, at ticket prices that were often less than that of a first-run movie in New York, so that theatergoing could be an affordable part of any New Yorker's life.

Now, according to the nostalgic documentary, "Broadway: The Golden Era," it's all gone, replaced by endless revivals and English imports targeted at tourists, performed in large auditoriums with canned music, at hundred-dollar-plus ticket prices."

Though I have often been saddened by the current state of Broadway, there is always a part of me that feels that if putting an American Idol 13th runner-up in a "Rock of Ages" is what will get a younger audience interested in musical theatre, then I can't totally discount it. But when nothing new can survive in the theatre next door how will that new fan crossover to something closer to theatre?

The good news is that there is still amazing theatre being produced elsewhere. The truest of theatre-goers have been looking Off-Broadway for the past several years to find the creativity, inspiration, and art of live theatre. Clearly Broadway is not where it's at, and even when it is, no one can afford to support it.

So while I begin reassessing my life-long dream of performing on Broadway, I'd like to propose my co worker's question to Broadway itself:

"So, what happened?"