Thursday, May 25, 2006

Irrelevance 2.0

Repeat of quotation from below: U.S. Army Chief of Staff (1999-2003) Eric Shinseki once said, "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less." Gonna be a mantra here.

So, we're going to start keeping track of all the new ideas that are floated in this space that are rejected because they will change things. Alison shudders at the thought of losing that "breathless, magic moment when the lights go down and the entire possibility of theatre hangs in the darkness" (apparently under the assumption that the lights will no longer go down in the theatre once ads are introduced -- never mind that many, many performances across this country already have a pre-show speech (live or on the God mike) asking theatregoers to turn off their cell phones, subscribe to the whole season, patronize the program advertisers -- horrors!); George envisions a Century 21 ad prior to The Cherry Orchard (apparently under the assumption that a similar ad won't already be in the program -- we'll sell ourselves only so far, I guess); and Lucas Krech is ready to let the whole art form die rather than permit ads into the temple -- even ads for other theatre performances, which was my proposal.

New Ideas: 0
Doing Things the Same Damn Way: 1

All aboard for the Irrelevancy Express!

Stay tuned for the next New Idea -- same bat time, same bat channel.


George Hunka said...

Oh, good lord, man, already?

There is a qualitative difference between pre-show announcements to which audiences have become accustomed and staged, paid advertisements in the playing area that some of us, at least, consider the center (yes, I'll say it: a locus of sacred possibility) of the theatrical experience; between a print ad that can be elided and a living hard-sell that can't be escaped; between a performing art that moves even closer to the experience of commercial film and TV and one--just one--that refrains from the embrace of consumerism.

Pasting ads where they've never been before, because we all have our price: "I've got a mortgage to pay," what Christopher Buckley in "Thank You for Smoking" defined as "The Yuppie Nuremburg Defense."

This is a New Idea?

Scott Walters said...

Yep, already. I've decided to be a cheerful provacateur on my own site, and avoid as much as possible negative comments on other sites. The new Theatre Ideas contract.

So there is a qualitative difference -- and that quality is... the fact that it's paid for? What if it wasn't paid for? What if it wasn't in the sacred space? What if it was something that was played over the sound system? What if it was not paid for, but was a plug for another show at another theatre (like the Amazon recs that come with each book search)? Then would you feel less violated?

George Hunka said...

It's not a matter of violation, really, and that's an odd term to use; I'm not a victim, no matter how much that term defines me as one, and it tends to rob me of my legitimacy. As I mentioned at "Superfluities," I'd scarcely want to compel anyone to dismiss the idea of advertising or free promotion if they desire it. What worries me, from the standpoint of a playwright, is that theater managements and administrations may want to compel me to give up my own conception of theater: that, indeed, they'd insist that my plays be preceded by their commercials, and that neither I nor the director would have any say in the matter, regardless of what we consider to be the theatrical experience (and as artists that should remain in our purview, not that of the Development or Fundraising department--who would be the "victims," as you might put it, of my own intransigence; then they'd have to come up with a real New Idea).

I can hear the response (not necessarily from you, Scott, I'm not putting words in your mouth, but I'm trying to keep my bases covered) that if I don't like it I should just lump it and get my own theater: "Love It or Leave It." I've heard that before, in a different context. Such ludicrous and impractical suggestions hardly constitute a rationalization of this position.

E. Hunter Spreen said...

It's interesting how people respond to the idea of these "live" ads. So much outrage, but there also seems to be an implicit acceptance of the ad as something we'll just have to swallow whole - forgetting the immedicacy of audience response. I've been in movie houses where people boo the ads - what will that be like "live?" Will people start showing up late to miss the ads? Will people talk over them? Will the audience start to become aware of its power? Might that extend to the performance? I'm also curious - how might the French respond?

YS said...

Hi Scott,

Welcome back!

My take is on my blog:

Running a theatre company, and being an artist in the midst of it, all these things are very interesting to me.

YS said...


the link is;


Lucas Krech said...

I am truly sorry you have chosen to return to blogging with an even more antagonistic attitude than when you left. I wish you the best and do hope you one day can find peace with your soul.

Alison Croggon said...

What's the point of theatre if it's the same as everything else, only more stupid? If it's like that, it deserves to die.

Scott Walters said...

Alison -- exactly what is the stupid part?

Devilvet said...


I for one think that position is wonderfully provactive. I think that we "artists" should stop thinking and acting and producing with such "holy intentions" toward the form of pre-show.

Three cheers you son of a gun! Welcome back!

p.s. I think you might even be right!