Magazine article American Theatre

Similarities, Not Differences. (Letters to the Editor)

Magazine article American Theatre

Similarities, Not Differences. (Letters to the Editor)

Article excerpt

Exactly one month after Sept. 11 ("The View from Here," Sept. '02), during a sermon at our Unitarian church, my wife and I were reminded by a speaker just how many gay people had been killed that horrible day. We were disheartened. For one bittersweet month, we'd felt as though, finally, we were all inhabiting the same world. Gay, straight, Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, Asian, Swedish, Middle Eastern--everyone had been killed that day.

Now we are being urged back into an all-too-familiar tribalism.

That divisive tribalism, I believe, is one of the biggest problems facing the theatre today. If audiences were becoming more diverse, along with playwrights, I probably wouldn't have a leg to stand on. But, arguably, they're not. The affluent go to the theatre--mostly the older affluent.

Why isn't the audience for live theatre younger? One reason, I believe, is that playwriting has become more than a little politically elitist. Often, attending a new play is like being forced to eat one's vegetables.

Don't get me wrong: I'm glad there now exists a wide range of ethnic and gender diversity among the playwrights being developed. But the way that diversity is being narrowly focused on has contributed to the ever-shrinking audience. The theatre too often takes itself too seriously. And that, in turn, only marginalizes the experience for ticket buyers.

We need to develop the kinds of plays that would encourage more and younger people to attend. This includes plays that might not have overt political themes, but that would go over like gangbusters in front of a live audience. …

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