Variety and Theatricality

I had a great trip to New York last week.

This season at Williamston Theatre, one of the shows we’re doing is a fun, quirky, musical called The Usual that’s going to be a world premiere. The show is still under construction, and the writers/composers are a couple of guys we know in NYC. So, I went out and did a quick workshop reading of the piece with them so we could get some audience feedback, hear the piece out loud and plan the next steps in the process. That part of the trip went well: we learned a lot, and I think the piece will be better, tighter, trimmer and funnier.

I also got the chance to see some shows. I saw 3 – Chinglish, Avenue Q, and Cymbeline. All 3 were wonderful, and very different – I loved the eclectic mix of shows, and it got me to thinking about how important a good variety is. I’ve posted this quote before, but I still love it:

Unless you commit to the whole range of what theatre can be, you haven’t created an interesting theatre. -Christopher Ashley

Although we’ve only just closed the first show of this season, I’m already looking ahead at what next season might be. The reminder from this quote, and the trip to NYC, are nice to have in my head as I’m considering options for the 2012-2013 lineup.

One of the interesting things about the shows I saw is that they all included some kind of direct audience address, too – none of them tried to be a movie onstage. Even Chinglish, which is pretty episodic (not in a bad way at all), and the most “realistic” of the 3, really embraced and had fun with the theatricality of the scene changes and transitions. (The direction on that show is really terrific.) The more I do this job of mine, the more I find myself pursuing that – there are things that you can only do in a theatre, and making sure we embrace those is becoming more important to me.

I personally would like to bring a tortoise onto the stage, turn it into a racehorse, then into a hat, a song, a dragoon and a fountain of water. One can dare anything in the theatre and it is the place where one dares the least. – Eugene Ionesco

I’m not sure, honestly, where all this will lead us as we work on the rest of this season, and lining up what comes next season.

But I know that I’m pretty excited to find out!

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