|Source: Trinity Rep.|
Logo for Melancholy Play: A Chamber Musical
I am always struggling to remove myself from what I see as a conditioned desire of satisfaction-catharsis, or direct relation- when I see a show. Wanting theatre to always be about or for myself is a very limiting view, and blocks me from expanding my knowledge and objectively judging work. Therefore, let me discuss what the question the piece is tackling, and then how it led me to think about a broader situation in musical theatre.
Melancholy Play is asking why melancholy isn't a part of the social fabric today. One of the first lines, paraphrased, says: "This is a defense for melancholy." Like the show, I also wonder why it isn't as present in society or mainstream art these days. According to program notes, melancholia instigated the European Romantic movement, and regarded those with it as "having a mark of genius." These days, it's all selfies, crooked smiles, and nice hair at microphones. There really isn't room to be murky.
I felt genuinely engaged, though never shaken to my core, and that's okay. It's an oddity of a piece, and it's meant to discuss something that not everyone really thinks about, or wants to. Example, a lady in her 70s said during the talk-back, "I'd never see this if I wasn't a subscriber [to Trinity Rep]." This show was for her, and I am so happy she got something out of it.
In summation: It's small, it's weird. It's absurdist, really. And the lyrics didn't really rhyme, if ever (whatever, I like that, personally). I kept saying to myself, "How wonderful that this show has been written, and likely not for Broadway."
WHOA! Is that actually one of my initial reactions when I see a show?! Should it be?! This is the Golden Age of Broadway with less financial risk anymore, so what I am saying?!
Why is it so common that musicals are so closely linked to Broadway, or commercialism. A commercial audience in a post globalized world is a very different thing from a regional theatre in Rhode Island or Minneapolis. Sometimes, non-profit transfers to Broadway strike lightning (Fun Home is rightfully doing so, and partially because it didn't just transfer, it reimagined itself, giving one a reason to see it in the particular space within which it plays). But Broadway is ONE place that is trying to appeal to tourism. It is ONE community. It has money, it has exposure. But we shouldn't let that limit ourselves from curiosity about the equal caliber of work happening elsewhere. We shouldn't be blinded by the saturated exposure that community receives.
If there's one thing I agree with Joe Dowling about (soon to be former artistic director of my alma mater, the Guthrie Theater), it's what he said in a recent article of MSP Magazine:
"...we, [the Guthrie], don’t want to [go to Broadway]...when you talk about regrets...[I regret] dabbling in that whole development for Broadway thing, which we did for Little House (2008), and also with Roman Holiday (2012) and a couple of other things. But I have no interest in the Guthrie having a play on Broadway, and nor should anyone. And I’ll tell you why: The very foundation of the theater was a result of the feeling that Broadway was not the end all and be all of American theater. The for-profit world is fantastic when it’s vibrant and alive—but the not-for-profit world, like the Guthrie, we have to be able to speak to our community, and once you say we’re doing this show with a view to taking it to New York, you immediately start using your audience as a tryout audience, and this is not a tryout audience."
|Rocky at NY's Winter Garden Theatre|
It opened after having already premiered
in Hamburg, Germany.
That all musicals are born dreaming of an apotheosis on the stage of a commercial theatre in the Times Square area is still a common assumption, dying by slow degrees but alive enough to be worrisome to the kind of people who worry about musicals — about the musical theatrical form, as opposed to the musical theatrical dividends. Musicals are very expensive to produce, and someone has to pay for them, and get paid back, and there's nothing wrong with dividends. Well actually there's plenty wrong with dividends, but that's another story.I am wondering, how can we have more musicals in our go-to canon without always speaking solely about New York City? How can we encourage more musicals to be written in response to specific communities throughout America, and with professionalism and craft? Rather than trying to create work to be commercially viable, create work to respond to a question, and if it happens to have a commercial life, amazing. It's a crapshoot anyway, so why not just keep on contributing to the theatrical landscape until something hits?
I have been considering, and now finally really being open, to taking time away from Broadwayworld.com (my preferred source for that community, by the way) and seeking out theatre news from other sources. Howlround.org is one I use, sometimes. But where else? What are some other sources?
Oh, art, you are tricky!