Care for an Appetizer?

First things first. Tonight we open Appetite Theatre’s Bruschetta Festival. The shows are hilarious, and the talent is great! Plus they serve bruschetta and bubbly. Come see these wonderful shows and help Appetite Theatre continue to produce high-quality work.

Directing for Appetite has been a very pleasant experience, and I sincerely hope I can work with them again. I also met many new and fun actors, directors, and other theatrey types. As I said to Will last night, “Well, that was the least painful tech week of my life.” Not because it’s a low-tech show, but because I was surrounded by fun people with positive attitudes and a desire to make a good show. Fabulous. Come check us out! The scripts are all new. There’s been much talk behind the scenes about emerging artists. It’s a great way to get rolling in the 2009-2010 theatre season. Back to school, indeed.

Meanwhile, everybody’s talkin’ ’bout The New Colony’s mission for a Storefront Summit. (Count me in, btw.) I was poodling around their blog reading up on what everyone had to say, and I stumbled upon an entry from April of this year about children’s theatre. I’m going to be directing a show for Rascal Children’s Theatre beginning this Monday, so I found the talk to be very enlightening. I garned from it a lot of not so much inspiration, but confirmation of my beliefs about theatre for children. I remember what attracted me to theatre when I was 4 and 5 years old. My parents didn’t take me to see “children’s theatre” (minus a production of Sharon, Lois and Bram’s Elephant Show). They just took me to theatre. I sat through my Dad’s production of Camelot a couple of times. At age 4. Loved it. Charlie’s Aunt? THought it was hilarious. (that is, until my Dad fell off a chair and I stood up in my seat and thought he was actually injured.) The point is, I wasn’t bored or in over my head. I was also a fantastically weird child, so I’m not saying let’s load up a bus and take the kids to see The Oresteia. I’m just saying I feel like those kids are still out there. As the New Colony blog states: Children’s Theater – theater made with children as the audience in mind. This kind of theater suffers from a condescension that is not actually unique to theater, but applied to almost anything targeted to children: children’s restaurants, children’s movies, children’s TV shows, and so of course children’s theater. I imagine the rationale is simply that children don’t know anything and so are easily duped and uncritical. Well, this might be true for mathematics, and maybe biologically speaking a kid’s palate isn’t refined enough to enjoy the height of the culinary arts, but on aesthetic matters, kids are never to be underestimated.

As I sit weeding through my script for the show, and shaping my rehearsal schedule, I’m not thinking about my audience. Certainly, I’ve made choices with them in mind. As I’ve said in other posts, I decided NOT to use the ol’ sea chantey “Baltimore Whores”. But I’m not thinking about “will they understand?” What I’m hoping is what I hope with all shows: Will they be entertained?

The number one path to good entertainment is good people performing it, and I have that. So check 1. The second path, for me at least, is utilizing as many art forms as I can. This isn’t a “musical” production, but there is music. There may not be formal dance, but likely there will be choreography. Visually, I plan on painting pictures, except I’ll be using bodies instead of paint.

New Colony’s blog also talks about how the best works for children are often the best works. Their examples: Huckleberry Finn, Alice in Wonderland and Looney Tunes. (I would argue about Looney Tunes…they were actually created for adults…but then, look how they resonated with kids, so okay…I’ll give them that). My favorite book as a child was To Kill a Mockingbird. Still is on some level. Is it a “kids” book? No. I don’t think so. But it’s told from a kid’s perspective and Harper Lee obviously thought very highly of Scout. It’s not a fluke that kids are known for cutting through bullshit and saying “what it is” right out loud. Just like…perhaps…a critic? Perhaps?
The point is, I’m not going to direct this show like a “children’s show”. I’m going to direct this show like a show. And I’m going to do my best. And I’m going to add the elements that I like to see in a show (minus bawdy sex scenes. Just kidding.)

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One thought on “Care for an Appetizer?

  1. In college I directed a production of Waiting for Godot that my English professor brought his four year-old son to. The boy sat through the entire show laughing at all the jokes and sometimes commenting on the action. He was one of the best audience members I’ve ever had. And recently a man brought his six year-old daughter to a production of Saint Joan that I was in and she, too, was completely engaged for the whole show.

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