Thursday, July 9, 2009

If you have the opportunity to get donkey-kicked in the chest, Cont'd

My friend Zev asked why I was so interested in the "Word Of Mouth" review of Waiting for Godot.  There are quite a few reasons, and I'll try to touch on a few of them now...sketchily.

Three Preliminary Interests
1) "Average Joe's" I think this is really interesting because I just read this study on the excellent The Producer's Prospective blog and the absolute cheapest "Average" ticket price is $56.39.  I'm sure there are discount seats but these are people with a lot of money to spend on theater.

2) Broadway.  Like Hollywood and movies, it's important to acknowledge that Broadway is an entirely different thing to theater.  But it is representative of theater for a lot of people or, even, representative of THE EPITOME of theater.  

3) My impression is that the participants in these interviews got free tickets to the shows and I wonder if they would have gone to see Godot without this.  As soon as a person is geting paid to go to a show he wouldn't go to otherwise, he is actually a critic, not an Average Joe.  The selection of a show is a selection of a key demographic for an audience.  I don't think the producer had a fifteen year old from suburban Philadelphia in mind when finding backers for this show.  Which doesn't mean she isn't invited or that her opinion doesn't matter, but it complicates her inclusion in the show as an average person.  What the hell is an average person?

Institutional Interests
1)  Celebrity. Nathan Lane they loved,which is interesting to me because he's so Broadway.  John Goodman they loved from his film work.  This is fascinating because his familiarity worked against him.  He looked fat, but they didn't consider it a fat suit, they believed when he fell over that he couldn't get up, but they didn't identify this as good acting, they identified it as him doing poorly--in life.  In my black heart I wonder if this indicates a subliminal belief in theater work as evidence of lesser success than film work.  

2)  These quotes: "Kind of confused as to what the hell it meant but it was well written." "I went in kind of intimidated because you know it's Waiting For Godot it's very artsy and ritzy." "a classic kind of play" "an important piece of theater" "never-ending pain" "not sure all my friends would like it."  

I think that of the three Joe is the most convincing as giving us an honest impression of who he is and what he saw.  I mean, the only external influence on his experience that he belies is his desire to enjoy the show.  That's pretty much the platonic ideal of criticism.

Mary and Helen both indicate that they knew a lot about the show before going in (Mary had heard about it 1000 times, she says, and Helen was intimidated by it).  Their impressions of it seem deeply colored by this knowledge.  They seem to be wrestling with a cultural demand to like it or at least to be in on it, that Joe is unconcerned with.  In this way, Joe went to the theater to be entertained.  Mary and Helen went for something else.  If we could find out what that is and give it to them while satisfying Joe we'd be in great shape.  That was easy.   (I'm kidding.)

3) Theater as object.  This sounds silly but have you ever, ever heard anyone say "Sometimes movies can be boring?"  No.  Is it true?  God yes.  I've talked about this a little before here, but we have the very interesting burden of having a Medium that is itself the Attraction.  People think of theater as a thing.  As a single thing that can be easily characterized.  This means that the stakes are high in making it good.  No one is going to walk out of Transformers 2 thinking: I'm never going to a movie again.  It doesn't matter how bad it is.  That is not true with theater. Is this something we should fix?  Is this something we can fix?  Well, it's at least something we should know.  

For these reasons at least, and I wrote this quickly and poorly, I think the video is a profoundly interesting document.  

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