Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Advice for Seattle's Theater Artists

An interesting piece from The Stranger, by theater critic Brendan Kiley. Some points I enjoyed:

#5: Offer child care on Sundays. This is a great idea. Simple, but the grant proposal writes itself. You keep young parents coming to the theater and teach young kids about theater while they're entertained with drama games for two hours. The only thing I'd add to this is that all of the Seattlites with kids who've come to see Yoga Bitch at Re-bar have wanted nothing more than to have a drink or two afterwards. (They're like escaped convicts! Dropping the f-bomb! Bumming cigarettes!) But if you also take his advice and implement #7, Build bars, then the kids can just keep on playing Zoom-Zorch-McFigliano while the parents have a nightcap right there in the theater. Everyone wins!

#8: Boors night out. Kiley wants us to encourage audience participation. Well, at Re-bar, they sometimes don't need encouragement. That's where #7, Build bars, comes into play yet again.

Two Fridays ago, I had a lively house of mostly women who arrived well before the show started to get lubricated in the bar. By the time the lights came up, the energy in the room was a cross between a Girls Gone Wild video and-- well, like an audience full of mothers who've left the kids with their dads. (See above re: escaped convicts.) They were so excited they nearly gave me a standing ovation the moment I walked on stage. Like, before the show had even begun. One threesome in the front laughed heartily at everything I said, and then turned to one another to affirm the funny. "Isn't it true?" "It's so true." "So funny!" "So funny and true!" 

Another collection of women at the back called out responses and suggestions throughout the show. One in particular had a fondness for calling out my name. "Suzanne! Suzanne. Oh no, Suzanne. No. Suzanne. Noo." (That was during the pissdrinking bit.) (The first time she called out my name, I thought, Do I know her? Which one of my drunk friends is that? But, no. Just a theatergoer blowing off some steam.)

So, for better or worse, I'm doing my part to support #8.

Finally, I laughed out loud at #10: Drop out of graduate school. Hell yeah! I'm all for honing your craft, folks, but what I'm absolutely against is debt. Particularly when you'll be lucky if you ever see a penny for your art. The rhetoric of the MFA, with its lists of famous and quasi-famous alumni, exists to seduce young, wannabe Meryl Streeps into going deep into debt in the hopes that when they get out of grad school, the world will suddenly recognize their talent in ways it never did when they only had their BAs. Now, saddled with debt and depression and probably a sick feeling in your uterus any time anyone says the words Suzuki Method, the only thing you can do with that MFA is find some college to hire you to teach acting so you can pay off your student debt, thereby becoming yet another acting professor who never actually did all that much acting. When debating whether or not an MFA acting program is right for you, best to consider this: Would a smart, savvy actress pay $100k to spend three years being told by professors who once had bit-parts in Scary Movie 3 that the Suzuki Method will help you in Hollywood? Ladies and Gentlemen, I call bullshit.

(Unless you get into Yale. Then the connections you'll make might be worth $100k in the long run.)

That said, every time I have a bad day, when I'm overwhelmed by the difficulties of creating theater, or writing, or promoting my work, I invariably think: Grad school. Grad school. Oh, grad school. So, I get the allure. But even then, I don't think MFA in acting. No. I think Iowa. Columbia. Fiction workshops! Because there sure as hell isn't anything wrong with spending three years of your life paying out the nose to sit in a room with other whinging fiction writers, right? No waste of money there, right?


Kathleen said...

Perhaps journalism is best avoided, as you are a careful writer. Look what happened to this guy!

Kathleen said...

Maybe you don't want to go to grad school. I just read this in an academic article:

"The 'question' is a favourite one, the one that is not actually put in Garcilaso's first eclogue: which is the unhappier, the lover whose lady does not return his love, or he whose lady is dead?"