The Art in the Art

              There is a saying around the theatre community that states, “the show must go on.” This maxim has duplicity regarding application to entertainments. Not only does it speak to the avalanche of the production process and the inevitability of opening night, but also the phrase applies to the very nature of entertainment. There is a reason that the performing arts are called show business. Their audience is there for entertainment. The more self-important a production becomes, the less likely it is to draw an audience. In short, part of the job of creators is to give the audience what they want – not necessarily how they expect it. But if you are not putting out a product that has aspects of engaging the audience, beyond the cerebral message you are attempting to convey, then you are producing a list of beliefs, not an art. Artists can have a manifesto, but the manifesto is not the art.

              Productions do not have to be littered with gags, skin, and light topic shows – devoid of message. But neglecting the show aspect deprives your audience of a vital component of entertainment. That is what makes performance an art form. Anyone can create a work that talks to the audience, directly or indirectly, but the art lies in finessing this message into a spectacle. There can be focused moments – heavy-handed storytelling – this not a total admonishment of that, but you must not forget to entertain. That is the truth of this art form; we are not meant to sermonize the audience. We can moralize. But we cannot abandon the audience’s wants, or the audience will abandon the production.

Memory, Our Faithful Friend

The past passes. One of the reasons behind our society’s love of nostalgia deals heavily with the idea that if there is a return to the past, there will continue to be a future. It is a reassuring notion to know that when you see something set in the “ye olde times,” no matter how dark it is,  that civilization will continue until time catches up with the present. The uncertainty of the future drives our thoughts backward instead of forward. We cannot imagine, with any assurance, what tomorrow or ten years from now will look like, but any period entertainment will remind us of our accomplishments as a society — filling us with pride over the difficulties we have overcome and the science that we have invented. Reassuring us that humanity is, on the whole, a species of survival. That the problems humanity encounters can be conquered in the face of an unpromised sunrise.

If you need a bump in audience frame your entertainment through the lens of by-gone, easily recognizable era to gain the need exposure to help you keep creating. We love being reminded of our greatness as a species, even if it does bring up troublesome aspects of our past – the audience can brush off that old wickedness as something not from the present, rarely does it stick that many of the problems of the past remain in today’s society. They are mistakes of a less enlightened time rather than a lingering sickness that needs attention.

This nostalgia notion is the same time of circular logic many politicians use to garner votes. By returning, to yesteryear think we are promised a tomorrow because we made it to today. Paradoxically, they don’t see fault in their thought. You cannot bring back the past any more than you can advance into the future. The revisitation of the past would mean institutionalizing, again, the same problems of the past. In essence, any person offering a return to ideologically is offering their listeners a hamster on a wheel proposition and knowing the solutions to problems that the reenactions of policy that society has already solved. It is the same as a professional theatre company only producing a single show over a ten-year run. Sure the faces might change in the cast, but the same story is told. There is no forward momentum to this thought, which is what some want. The deification of nostalgia creates an audience ill-equipped to deal with new concepts in entertainment. In a way, it is a form of monopolizing the market. If enough creators only produce nostalgic works then when a creator attempts something not reliant on glorifying the past, the audience rejects the new work opting for the safety net of nostalgia.

Entertainment Matters

           Why are there so many artists in exile? Think about this question; take in the totality the meaning of what it means to be a refugee from your home country for making art. All too often when tyranny arises, artists, writers, musicians, and performers find themselves at odds with the tyrant – like any person who has a differing political view. So, why do tyrants seek to eradicate the creators? These people can tap into those things that define humanity. They are capable of coding messages into the fabric of their work which cannot, on a cursory glance, be recognized. This is why the church demonized performers; why music and art had to be screened by censors. It is why the McCarthy hearings targeted the entertainment industry. There is an inherent fear/distrust, by those in power, of those individuals who can communicate with the soul of humanity. They believe that if you are not working directly under their control, then you are the enemy.

           Don’t believe it? Think back, if you are old enough to remember this, to when television shows and radio broadcasts were called programs. Words matter. Through indirect means, entertainment is used to create subtle indoctrinations of its audience. The concepts of “white hats and black hats,” how a poor person behaves and what they look like, how casual racism, misogyny, abuse is forgivable if the individual is loveable, or laughable, are products of entertainment’s programming.

            All too often, somebody says that “so and so is just a product of their time,” but why has this person – who is a living breathing entity capable of change – not moved forward? Think about the depiction of villains in most major forms of entertainment. How often does this person have a foreign accent, or is a person of color?

            There is power in creation. This blog examines entertainment, particularly theatre. I am providing you with my opinions and views from up in the affordable seating area. Grab a beverage. And I sincerely hope that you will enjoy the show.