Can you mid-size that?

From Joanna Horowitz, Communications Department

So, I've been letting Paul do most of the talking (typing?) about The Lady from Dubuque process, and maybe you've been thinking, "Where's Joanna? I can barely live without her!" (well, a girl can dream). Here I am.

First off, John Logenbaugh had an article in last week's Seattle Weekly about whether or not Seattle is really a theatre town. You can read it here. I've been thinking a lot about what John says, essentially that Seattle is seeing a severe deficit in mid-sized theaters and that's hurting us. Now that the Empty Space is closed, there's a sizable gap between fringe theaters (and there are lots and many of really high quality) and the "big houses" like us at the Rep. This clearly affects those of us working in theatre--it means less places to work that can afford to pay actors, directors, etc.

The question I have is, how does the lack of mid-sized theaters impact us as audience members. Will the gap change what we see on stage? I don't feel completely confident in answering these questions, being relatively new to the Seattle theater scene and to the Rep. But my very knowledgeable boss Cynthia Fuhrman may have some answers.

According to Cynthia, who also just had this same conversation with Rep Casting Director Jerry Manning, widening the gap between fringe and large theaters will mean Seattle will be less likely to retain the young actors who move here or stay here after school. They will act in fringe theaters like WET and Theater Schmeater, but most won't be able to make the leap to ACT, INTIMAN or the Rep without the stepping stone of a theater like Empty Space. That means eventually you'll see fewer local actors on the big stages.

It also means you won't have the opportunity to see an actor like Lori Larsen in a fantastic production like Frozen in an intimate 120-seat venue. Someone like Lori can't really perform with a fringe theater because of Equity contracts and the fact that most fringe companies can't afford to pay. So, with mid-sized theaters dwindling, your opportunity to experience professional quality theater with really great veterens in an intimate setting also dwindles.

Finally, it's a pretty common belief, said Cynthia, that the more theater that is available, the more people to see it. It's more accessible (if there's theater in your neighborhood, you're more likely to go see it), and you have broader options to match up with your taste. And once you see enough that you connect with, the more you get in the habit of going (like heroin, Cynthia said, but I think she was joking).

So what can we do to try to slow and reverse this trend? Well, for one, don't stop going to theater. All kinds of theater. We say now in hindsight, "Wow, I wish I would have gone to the Empty Space more." So, go to the mid-sized theatres in Seattle: Book-It, Seattle Shakespeare Company, etc. And go to the smaller fringe theatres, especially the ones that you think have a potential to grow: maybe WET, Theater Schmeater, Seattle Public, Balagan. With our support, they may be the next generation of mid-size theatres.

Ok, off the soapbox for the day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ok, I also read that article. I immediately felt guilty that I don't pay to see enough mid-size theatre. So last night, I saw Comedy of Errors at Seattle Shakespeare Co. It was a fantastic night! It didn't have the grand feel of a show in a big house like the Rep, but I completely enjoyed myself.

Go see it!