Tom Minter's Off The Stoop Blog

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In 2004, in the Theater section of the June 20th edition of the New York Times, Jesse McKinley wrote an article entitled: THEATRE; Workshopped to Death.

This article identified a growing theater practice of putting plays through protracted opportunities, such as table readings, and workshops; the reasons suggested were twofold, and interrelated: money & risk.

It was articulation of a sharp moment of reality for the theatre world, playwrights, producers and audiences. It was a moment bemoaned as the possible ratification of a worsening trend.

That moment has indeed achieved some permanence in our theater culture; and having read, Hey, Kids, Let’s Put On A Reading, an article that appeared in the Theater section of the New York Times, by Erik Piepenburg on January 20th, 2011, I find myself even more concerned.

Being in on the ‘table reading’ is now seen as a commitment to the ‘journey’ of the play; supporting this opportunity, an audience feels it is directly supporting the opportunity of new work, and new voices –while, through the looking glass, in the current reality for playwrights, there is a new basement; and to achieve entry, you’d best be an even better and more fierce politician than before; this new tier is the bottom line of a company’s financing.

Having turned table readings into legitimate theater experiences, we distance plays even further from performance and production, and further codify the economy’s dominating strictures of money & risk.

We also seem to forget that this stricture did not always form policy, or substantiate a portion of a company’s demographic; and in forgetting, expectations are redefined; though there may be benefit in this, for theater audiences, and a broadening of their education in a play’s genesis, I believe it conversely shortens a writer’s reach; imagination will shirk from fully utilizing the ‘tools’ of stagecraft -multi-media, technology- as it is a layer of magic that often must be witnessed to be understood, and is never easily put across at a table reading.

In fact, the details of ‘stage directions’ is an encumbrance in a reading presentation, and if the play is too full of ambition, or if its presentation is a synergistic layer of production, an audience might lose the tale at table..

And what company would want to take that risk?

In adapting, we seem to be creating a new kind of entertainment; hopefully it is not one where we are endowing companies with the imperative to offer easily imagined fodder, being, as they are, momentarily short on forks and knives..

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Written by tomminteroffthestoop

January 23, 2011 at 1:25 PM

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