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Preview of theatre roundtable discussion at KPCC

February 14, 2010

Representatives of several local theatre companies gathered Saturday morning at KPCC’s studios for an hour-long discussion on the question, “Is Theatre Dying?”

I’ll write a fuller discussion, with participants’ comments, once I get the audio transcribed. A segment of the conversation is scheduled to air on Saturday, Feb 20, on KPCC’s Offramp show. The audio will appear here, too, so you can listen to the entire conversation. It’s pretty eye-opening.


One of the more memorable quotes of the day came from Ben Hill of Hollywood Fringe. “Theatre is dying. Long live theatre.” Ben’s point was that theatre must endure occasional deaths (think Pasadena Playhouse) in order for new growth to appear, much like forests need to burn. I’d like to know your thoughts on this – please comment.

I asked theatre writer, Evan Henerson, what he believes theatre is missing. Where does it go astray? He was stymied at first, but his response opened up a conversation on whether theatre has to be socially or culturally relevant to succeed. One can argue that we attend theatre for different reasons and relevance may or may not be high on our list. See my earlier discussion on audience responsibility. So, if I were to ask you what theatre lacks today, what point it misses, what it must do to thrive, what would your answer be?

My thanks to participants Ben Hill of Hollywood Fringe, Michael Michetti of Boston Court, Terence McFarland of LA Stage Alliance, Frank Minano of Inland Valley Repertory Co., critic Evan Henerson, Matt Wells of needtheatre, Paul Millet of Nom de Guerre and formerly the Pasadena Playhouse, and Gedaley Guberek of Coeurage Theatre, and Felicia Friesema for snapping photos throughout.

More on this later… enjoy your Valentine’s Day.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. julianabroad permalink*
    February 14, 2010 11:43 am

    David Rambo sent this comment via email:

    Steve, Just read your post on the roundtable and, again, was very sorry I couldn’t be there.

    Interestingly, I heard a KPCC piece on, I believe, Thursday evening about the Pasadena closing and how the subscription model no longer works. It led to a long conversation with my husband about post-war, post-European immigration culture and how the very idea of culture has changed so radically in the last twenty years. Theatre, of course, is only a part of it. Serious music, publishing, even public intellectual discussion have all been enormously diminished as, sadly, more and more people don’t see them as relevant. Remember when network television aired documentaries in prime time? And we all talked about their content the next day at school? I doubt we’ll ever see that happen again.

    Frankly, I blame Gingrich and the whole “Contract with America” that eviscerated the NEA and made erudition a quality to mistrust rather than something valuable and useful to which we should aspire. Thought, especially critical thought, was portrayed as un-American, something practiced by “elites” and other subversives. Hell, I was raised to think being regarded as elite was a good thing.

    The ’80s Republicans were brilliant in their in their populist rage. Without their efficacy then, Sarah Palin would be working in a cannery now. This is one of my favorite soapbox topics, and I won’t run on here. But what’s happening to theatre is happening throughout the culture. It’s not irreversible. But it’s going to take a while. And education has to be free or near-free again for everyone.


    • February 14, 2010 5:56 pm

      I can’t wait to hear this and I’m glad the discussion is happening, but looking at the picture and the list of names, how in the world can you have a roundtable that is all or almost all white men? If this is truly representative of the theater community, I’m shocked and disappointed.

      • julianabroad permalink*
        February 15, 2010 5:09 am

        That’s an excellent point and one we discussed. In fact, I asked everyone present why there were only men. We had a brief laugh over the fact that I chose the panel (I invited Jessica Kubzansky of Boston Court, but she couldn’t attend, so Michael Michetti appeared on her behalf, and I invited a couple other females, but they were busy). Terence McFarland of LA Stage Alliance, however, named several women who are in leadership roles at theatres throughout the southland. -sj


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  2. Coeurage Theatre Company » Theatre Discussion On 89.3 KPCC
  3. So, is theatre dying? Listen to roundtable discussion «

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