Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama the Musical

Yesterday was a good day to just take it all in. I’m not feeling too eloquent so I’ll leave rapturous descriptions to the pundits. I’ll just say that in the middle of a dark cold time, I felt the spark of a warm bright future in yesterday’s spectacle.

I expect the producers of the upcoming “Obama on My Mind” are hoping to capture some of that spark. I thought this production was a joke at first but apparently it’s real. The next question will be, is it anything more than a calculated way to capitalize on an historic moment?

In much of the coverage of yesterday’s events, I heard many interviews with people saying variations of “I don’t really agree with his policies but I’m willing to give him a shot.” It is in that spirit that I’d like to talk about “Who Killed the King?” the production from Mystery Dinner Theater that I saw this past Saturday.

There are many things about the MDT shows that could rub the strict theater-phile the wrong way. The characters are flamboyantly one-dimensional, the jokes are fairly infantile, and the plots are essentially Spark Notes reductions of Agatha Christie. My biggest beef about “Who” was that the king was supposed to be a womanizer but there were also broad hints about him being gay. Hmmm…

Still, the actors are engaging within the narrow confines of their characters and willing to interact with patrons in an entertaining way. My favorite aspect of the evening was the way theater was taken out of the realm of high-brow fine art and brought back into the common denominator level of fun, interactive entertainment. I laughed out loud at a couple of the dumb jokes and the people at the table next to ours sharing the bucket of brews laughed heartily and often. At the end of the night, I found myself moderately eager with a touch of anticipation, thinking I was one of the two people in the audience who had all of the clues right. Unfortunately, my answer form was not one of the ones picked to win the final prize. Ah well.

I was surprised at how full the room was – I think they said the number of attendees was in the mid-to-upper 60s. I hadn’t seen an MDT show since my wife was in one many years ago, and it might be several years before I go to one of their shows again. Still, at the end of the night, I expect most of the folks who were there would say that they had had a good time. Who could ask for more than that, right?

1 comment:

Rick St. Peter said...

I know this is not on topic, but Mill Mountain Theatre in Roanoke announced it was closing to "reorganize" effective today. You could almost change the name of the theatre to TVA and it reads like the same article. In light of what is going on across the country with theatre's dropping like flies (in the last year, we've lost: Studio Arena in Buffalo, Theatre de la Juene Lune in Minneapolis 3 years after winning the Regional theatre Tony Award, Milwaukee Shakes, San Jose Music Theatre, Seaside Music Theatre, North Shore Music Theatre, Samford Theatre Works in Connecticut, Mill Mountain now in Roanoke...the Magic Theatre and Shakespeare Santa Cruz barely survived emergency fund raising calls, Temple Theatre where I just did Hamlet announced while we were in tech that they needed $150k to make it through the remainder of the season, I just had to completely restructure my Spring season here...)is the not-for-profit regional professional theatre movement going the way of the dinosaur? I know there has been like 784 petitions circulating for a "Secretary of the Arts" position but I wonder, with all the trouble the country is currently in, will the arts get lost in the cacaphony of the economy? How do we make our case when Circuit City is laying off 30,000 employees? The Arts clearly are not a priority in this country and we have yet to find a way in to making them so. Dave this harkens back to your posting of the survey and my cavalier response to it. Despite study after study that shows both the extrinsic and instrinsic value of having a healthy arts scene in your community, still we struggle for a fingertip hold and are constantly having to justify our existence...We are perceived as being "elitist", too expensive, to remote etc etc etc while cities fall all over themselves to build billion dollar sports stadiums with luxury boxes that I would have to fork over like 2 months salary just to be able to sit in and yet WE are elitist?

Is the model broken...all the talks on this blog center around Barksdale one day becoming a LORT theatre, which I think is an impossibility given the size of the Willow Lawn space, but I also think the LORT model is broken...We are going back to a pre-reigonal theatre revolution America where we will have theatre's in the big cities, New York, DC, Chicago etc and nothing that what we want? Does anyone else think it ridiculous that the LORT model is broke and we need to apologize for wanting to pay actors a whopping salary of like $600/w with some benefits?

Sorry for the rant, I'm just frustrated, I'm contemplating a career change and I needed a venue to amongst yourselves...


ps...I might have used this on this site before, but today is a good day for it:

The great British actor Paul Scofield gets into a cab. After a moment, the cabbie recognizes hiim and says, "You're Paul Scofield, aren't you?" Scofield reluctantly replies, "Yes." Cabbie: "I'ma bit of an actor myself..." After a few beats, the cabbie says, "Why do we do it, Paul?"

Why do we do it Paul, indeed...