Sunday, May 14, 2006

I went and saw Chess last night in Cincinnati with Marc and Christopher. Not only was it great company (and food and martini's!) it ended up being a fabulous show. Seriously, it was amazing. And, it was community theatre.

Which made me jealous, and a little mad.

Why is Columbus not offering community theatre like what I saw last night? There's no shortage of talent in this city, nor money, nor even spaces to rent and perform from, but nothing seems to work here. Many theatres close after short runs, or they put out lackluster shows, or they're run by people who just don't seem to care very much, or they were doing some great stuff, and somehow ran into financial problems and went kaput. I just don't get it.

I understand that community theatre isn't Broadway, and you're volunteering your time (oftentimes after a long day of work), but why can't it be the kind of quality work you'd see in a professional setting? I know for a fact many of the actors in Columbus are more than willing to work for free, just to get a chance to be on stage, and if there was a place where they knew they'd be pushed and challenged, and allowed to reach their full potential, and able to participate in something that's not necessarily Rogers and Hammerstein, I know they'd be on board in a second.

I, for one, am bound and determined to put my money where my mouth is on this one. (Okay, maybe not my money, cuz I'm poor, but at least my time and efforts.) Randy and I have had serious talks about starting our own gig, and I know of several others who are willing to be on board. I'm ready to do some edgy stuff, to tap into the different communities and arts that Columbus has to offer, and shock and amaze people with what can come out of our little cow town here.

Who's with me?


Marc said...

Where did you see Chess? Is it still running? I've always wanted to see it on stage. I don't know that I know how to answer your question. When I got here six years ago, the theatre community was abuzz. There seems to have been a malaise somewhere along the line and I'm not really sure where. Most people seem to blame everything on money woes, but I'm not really sure that's the answer. I wish I knew. I'd participate in any theatre that was going to be of a high quality, whether it was "edgy" and contemporary or purely classical or even Rodgers and Hammerstein :).

Tammy said...

I want to join you guys! Let me know and I will try to join you.
Love doing theatre and I hope one day to get better at it.

Megan said...

You definately need to talk to Ewing. He had some great ideas for a theatre company, but due to lack of cash and the fact that all of us who were going to be involved can't say no to other projects, its just kinda died. If you start anything, I'm in!

Commodore said...

A long time ago in a theatre far, far away ...

It was done. My friends and I started a little group and did shows that you just didn't get to see very often (in Smallville, Appalachia) ... community players wanted to do stuff everybody's heard of and seen a trillion times.

We were small. We were poor. We rented an auditorium at the local art museum and built our set in my backyard, and carried it in piece-meal.

Our audiences were small, shocked and grateful.

We barely made a nickle above our initial investments, but we did an entire season of shows, and had a wonderful time.

I think finding the venue will be the toughest challenge ... may need to find a sponsor. Then we do a show with as little costuming, props or scenery as possible. Then sink the revenue into an account to finance the next show, and so on.

Any ideas on a performance space?

KL said...

I wasn't gonna say anything... but what the hell, that just ain't like me.

I was part of starting a couple of theatre companies. Here in Columbus. Yes, me. The old redheaded lady. It was a long time ago, and both companies are now professional -- neither one anything close to what it was when it started. One sold out. The other completely changed its focus to accommodate a niche market.

Anyway. What do you think the problems are with some of the local, established theatres? Actors? Politics? Money? Venue? I think it might be important to figure that out; else it'll be easy to make the same mistakes.

I'm convinced that a big problem with the inconsistent quality of commuinity theatre in Columbus is directing. People who are not actors can certainly pretend to act, but people who are not directors cannot pretend to direct. I've been out of the "scene" for too long for that comment to be a dig on anyone in particular -- so please don't take it that way. I just believe that good directing is pretty much the answer to any problem. I really do. Stages, sets, costumes, money -- none of it matters if you have solid actors and a kick-ass director.

I'm probably far too jaded to comment on the possibility of you guys starting yet another theatre company. I don't think that's the answer, by the way.

But we can talk about that sometime over a beer or two or three or four, okay? With lots of PASTA, if that's what you want.

See you tonite, you oh-so-shrilly twitch woman.

Sarah said...

Yeah, KL, you could have a point about the directing...but I'm still not sure that's the entire problem. I think two other problems are politics and egos, which can either go hand and hand or be separate. I don't think money is the problem, either. I think people in Columbus are willing to spend their money on something that they believe is a sure bet (the Broadway in Columbus series does quite well for itself).

I dunno...I'll have a new post soon that goes more in depth. But I do have ideas for the first show we'd do... :)

dale said...

I'm not sure what I could offer...but I would be interested in talking/listening...

Sony said...

Great points from everyone. I think there are some solid community theaters here in town and rather than starting up another one to compete, perhaps there should be more of a collaborative effort here to have the ones we have work together to promote each other, help each other, and work as -- well, a community.

I guess that's the point of Theatre Roundtable, but it seems the theory behind that got lost in the practice. And maybe, Sarah, that's what's happened to the theaters? They stick to what worked then, and maybe not what they should now. But there's no reason every community theater show in this city shouldn't be amazing.

Sarah's right, we have these theaters here that all have quality people doing quality work; it's good, it's packing the houses and all, but sometimes it's not, you know...boss.

And sometimes we pull off the most amazing nights of theatre here in Columbus. But some consistency would be nice. I agree with Sarah and KL -- it comes down to talent. And we have it. This's everywhere. It just needs some focus.

So many people in this city don't even know we exist. Changing that might be a good start.

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