Friday, July 24, 2009

That within which passes show.

The house lights dim, the pre-show music fades, we go to black…. And then the lights come up and we are transported by magic to all sorts of new worlds.

I happen to be fortunate enough to live in the Philadelphia area—a region whose theatre community has blossomed into full-flower over the past 20 years. We rival New York, I think, for the number of productions running at any given time. And the quality?! Amazing. The pool of talent in this city is deep and wide.

For a number of seasons, I had the privilege to serve as a nominator for Philadelphia’s version of the Tonys: the Barrymores. I would attend an average of 20—25 productions per season and evaluate every aspect of them. I would then fill out a ballot as to which elements of the production I felt represented excellence in theatrical performance. It was a very enlightening and educational time for me as a performer and director. I soaked in as much as I could –and have tried to use the knowledge I gained in my own endeavors.

One evening I could be attending something at one of the houses with substantial budgets and resources, the next I could be seeing something by one of our many wonderful small companies we have. I could be in a 300 seat house or a postage stamp of a space that holds 50 people at best. It could be Shakespeare, Albee or a new work by an unknown playwright. So my exposure ran the gamut from A to Z. And the thing that struck me most of the time wasn’t the amount of “bling” a theatre company had, but the passion put into the work. Many of the productions that still resonate with me are ones that were done “on a lick and a prayer,” so to speak. The budget was miniscule [and boy do I know from that!] but the love of what they were doing oozed out of everyone—designers and crew included. As an audience member you were pulled into the story they were telling and you left the theatre enriched by what you had just witnessed: the perfect storm of performers, audience and material. I hope I get to be a part of providing that to audiences as much as possible.

I also worked front-of-house at an area theatre for 10 years. The many professional actors I have had the pleasure of getting to know are able to have a unique opportunity here in Philly. They can get steady work in a broad range of roles and they can be a part of a community [theatrical and otherwise]. And, as an added bonus, they can go to New York too. Many also teach in area high schools and colleges, so they get to share their art with future generations. Fostering and understanding and appreciation of the Arts is a vital part of education—but we’ll get into that another time.

I guess you’ve figured out by now when I say I’m a theatre junkie, I ain’t kidding.

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