The Art of the Business

A blog dedicated to artists who are serious about their business.

How much is production value worth? April 22, 2009

On Saturday night, I went to see The Zoo Story at Second Beach (full disclosure: Itsazoo Productions are one of my

The Zoo Story at Second Beach

The Zoo Story at Second Beach

clients).

We, the audience, got to sit undercover in the picnic area just above the children’s playground (red firetruck, anyone?), looking out over the playing fields and the pool. Just outside the picnic area, there was a park bench, and upon this bench, the play took place. The bench was the only set, unless you include English Bay (you could do worse), no lights, no sound (unless you count the ambient noise associated with a park near a beach), and certainly no special effects.

Stripped of all of its theatrical trappings, the production was forced to get back to basics: the words and the acting. And based on that, I’d say the show was a success–Albee’s work and its execution were both very strong.

This week, I’m gearing up to work on the upcoming Leaky Heaven Circus show, antigone undone. Bone in Her Teeth, last year’s Leaky offering, was one of my favorites of last season. It offered jaw-dropping moments of pure beauty and theatricality. For example, there was a moment at the top of act two where two people were fighting drowning. The entire scene was danced behind a wave of cling-film that stretched across the stage, and was being kept constantly in motion by others offstage. In one moment, Billy Marchenski reached up and put his fist through the cling-film, creating a perfect, captured-in-time moment. It blew my mind.

I’m a theatre junkie. Like all good junkies, I want to get as much of my drug as I can, and I crave better and better quality stuff, all the time. These two productions both satisfied me, but in very different ways. For The Zoo Story, it was about executing the basics really well, and letting that be enough. For Leaky Heaven, it was about the innovation and creativity and theatricality.

What do you think? In what proportion do you like to see pretty production values and outstanding theatricality, versus well-executed basics like script and acting? I’d love to hear.

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The Era of Twenty-Something Theatre April 8, 2009

Back in December, at a performance of The Drowsy Chaperon, I lamented at the age of the audience. “Where are the young people?” I wondered, and “where is our future audience?”

Well, I’m happy to say, I think I’ve found them. I’m happy to say, there is a movement in Vancouver, of young, twenty-somethings starting theatre companies and producing seasons. Not just a group of friends getting together to do one-offs in the slow film times, but companies that are forming and doing a series of productions over the year.

Allow me to introduce:

Fighting Chance Productions: Fighting Chance burst onto the scene in a very controversial way. Their production of The Laramie Project late last year got some negative attention (from someone whom I will not name, because I don’t want to give him any more attention), which lead to sold-out shows and a baptism by fire. Fighting Chance, lead by Ryan Mooney, is doing lots of cool stuff with a twenty-something edge: their production of Tick… Tick… BOOM!, written by Jonathan Larsen, opened last night at Jericho Arts Centre. TTB deals with the struggle of an artist/composer on the cusp of his thirtieth birthday–how far should he pursue his art? Should he continue to be a waiter/starving artist/composer with promise, or pack it in like some of his friends, and get the corportate job, the classy apartment and the Beemer?

I would estimate the median age in the audience last night was 23-30. The play speaks to young artists, and is produced by and was written by a young artist. It has appeal.

Itsazoo Productions: Started in 2004 by five UVic Theatre grads, Itsazoo conquered Victoria, and has now set its sites on Vancouver. Some of their stuff is original, lots is site-specific. They just finished an original piece at the PAL called Death of A Clown (which, like TTB, involved themes of corporate consumerism and the soul-stealing day job), and are currently producing Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story outside in Mt. Douglas Park in Victoria. Vancouver audiences will get a chance to see Albee’s surreal first play April 15-18 and 22-25 at Second Beach in Stanley Park.

Again, whenever I go to Itsazoo shows, I see a younger demographic–and what I’ve experienced in working with them over the last year, is that they have an audience that supports them.

Twenty-Something Theatre: Sabrina Evertt, Artistic Director, says she has started Twenty-Something to create “life-affirming, socially-relevant productions featuring the city’s best up-and-coming artists.” Sabrina, also a UVic grad (what is it about that program??) is producing Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love, a beautiful-but-brutal piece of theatre, and has started a blog to document the process. Past work includes Bogosian and LaBute, sharp, modern, smart, and appealing to the younger set.

These three companies have lots in common, besides being helmed by those who have still not hit the big 3-0. They are creating theatre that they, as twenty-somethings are interested in, and that translates to their demographic. They are embracing new ways of getting bums in seats, like social networking, particularly Facebook.They are dedicated, and serious about the business.

The future’s looking brighter….

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