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Six people see Head Over Heels. Millions show no coeurage.

February 13, 2010

Given all the social media available these days, how is it that only six people attended a new play where we were asked to pay whatever we felt it was worth?

Six.

Coeurage Theatre just opened Head Over Heels inside the Lankershim Arts Center with 3 performances a week, when its host, The Road Theatre Company, is dark. Six women. Several more characters, including Eve. Yes, that Eve. One tightly-written scene, mostly monologues, after another. And, almost without exception, the scenes made me think. You hear people say that good theatre reflects our culture? Then what about poor attendance? What does that say about our culture?

This got us talking on the way home. We saw a moving, thought-provoking play, with skilled actors. We saw it with four other people. Forgive me for repeating myself, but I sense that the experiences of each character were not unlike the proxies in every empty seat: insecurity, judgment, fear.

I don’t know that this Coeurage production (the name has a dual meaning: coeur, French for heart; courage, you well know) is a microcosm of theatre in general, but it begs the questions: Does intimate theatre ask too much of its audience and are we generally too shy or insecure to participate? At this NoHo stage, the action takes place about 6 feet from the front row. Not highly unusual; of course, none of us sat in the front row, and there are only three rows. At one poignant moment, an actress and I maintained eye contact for a good 20 seconds or more. Intimate theatre audiences, by nature, cannot be shy. It demands our support.

And maybe that’s why only six of us were there.

Theatre asks for our support in ways few venues do. Reading a book? Passive. Watching the Olympics? Passive. Attending a lecture? Passive, generally. Public radio? Okay, that’s another story. But theatre? What is theatre without the relationship between the actor and audience? Just ask anyone who’s performed on stage and on film or TV where they feel their core is most met.  So, do most people shy away, afraid of that eye contact or the hammer that can hit us over the head, for fear of being exposed? Has Facebook and and our TiVos made us that insular? Have our shells become that much tighter that we can’t poke our heads out?

Coeurage is a small company, in its first year. To make it to tw0, it (like so many, many other small companies), must unlock the key that convinces new and occasional theatregoers to walk through the door. Because you sure can’t put the blame on their ticket prices.

WHERE: Lankershim Arts Center 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601 

WHEN: Now through February 28, 2010

PRICE: Pay what you can

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