I Am The Problem

Isaac Butler does a phenomenal job over at his blog, and he’s almost too prolific for my somewhat slower moving mind, I very often want to respond or comment, but by the time I’ve put my ducks in a row, and found a free chunk of time, the moment has almost always passed.

I’m gonna ignore my impulse to feel behind the pitch and post a response to a blog post that Isaac wrote a few days ago. In his post on criticism and reviews he said that he felt the stream-of-conscious review, where the writer fails to establish useful parameters or any kind of thesis, were the very thing that makes old media folks nervous about new media. And he agreed with them.

Now, I don’t think Isaac was talking about me, specifically, but I do think that this is exactly what I do, and I don’t actually see a lot of other people doing it, so I thought I’d take a swing at explaining it, if not defending it. I kinda feel like blogging about blogging theory is a little like writing a book about theater – it feels utterly counter-intuitive to me, but I’m gonna give it a go.

I have a marketing theory about theater that I adhere to, almost entirely because it doesn’t seem that anything else is working and we might as well try *something*. The idea is two-fold. 1) People love gathering in a place together, sitting in chairs and witnessing theater. I believe this because, despite all of the easier ways of getting entertainment and inspiration, people are still going to movies, going to sports bars to watch games, going to church every sunday – people are still gathering in chairs and witnessing a story being told. 2) What is good for any one theater company is good for all of them. A rising tide raises all ships.

So why is it so hard for us to find audience? Ken Davenport has an amazing blog where you can find really fun inside baseball about the big boys, but I am always astonished, every week, to see the sheer quantity of human beings who show up to Broadway shows. Last week? 260,000 people.

So why did Craven Monkey have empty seats at The Brick? Well, for a hundred reasons, and everyone knows their favorite fifty out of those hundred, and I think there have been a lot of creative ways to address this. But I think people just don’t know how good it feels to sit in a small theater and watch a fantastic little show.

When you’re at dinner with your family, and your dad is cracking everyone up, or you have an Aunt that is always taking off for some festival in Nebraska, or Irkutsk or something… I think a lot of people have forgotten that we have that for you. One small strange voice that can keep you on the edge of your seat, you know you can find that at a bar, or at your house at a dinner party. I want you to know that you can get it from us, too. You can come, and get your mind blown.

And you can totally get that on Broadway too, I am not one of those people who believe we have a superior product. But we have a comparable product for a tenth the investment, and people just don’t know that it’s available. Every Sunday, you’re at Church with a hundred or so other people, you catch a movie the fourth week it’s out and you’re in the theater with nine other couples, and the quality of the experience isn’t *less*.

So, when I write reviews of plays I’ve seen, I am unfortunately incapable of including a thesis or even very deep analysis. Which, actually, means I’m not writing a review or a criticism, I’m writing something else, and I don’t have a name for it. I’m trying to conjure a visceral response to being in the space, to the physical act of being drenched in a piece of theater.

My blog isn’t wide read enough to make any difference, and I am not desperate to create a marketing movement in any way, so it could be that I’m doing less good than I hope to. I have a blog, and I see theater, so those are both pluses, but I’m also pretty over-enthusiastic and I don’t really have any external training in the theater – everything has been immersion, on-the-job type educatin’, so I can be easily impressed with a turn of phrase or a performance that is clearly a rip-off of something one learns about in an MFA program. I know that sounds snotty, but I’m completely earnest here, my education is half-assed, but I try to make up for it by *showing up*, and letting people participate in the joy for what I’ve seen.

My hope is to inspire anyone who *does* read my blog to remember that spark of being in the auditorium in high school, when your friends were doing Camelot. I want my readers to get the sense that next time I go to a show, they might like to go with me. And if I’m not going, maybe they’ll go by themselves.