Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Is theatre dead?

Visitors to could read a short article on April 14 about actor Gabriel Byrne's thoughts about the death of theatre.

According to the article, Byrne was in the middle of a run of A Touch of the Poet on Broadway when he "decided theatre-goers were a dying breed."

Byrne saw that the audience members at a particular show were older, well-off people.

"'After the show I turned to one of the other actors and said, ‘Theatre is dead. There’s no one under 60 out there, they’re all white and they can all afford £200 for a night.' Seriously, theatre as we’re doing it now, is dead,' he said."

You can read the entire article here.

So, it's reported on a well-known entertainment Web site that a well-respected contemporary actor believes that one of the establsihed forms of entertainment is dead. That's a pretty damning testimonial.

How would you respond to Byrne's statement? Is theatre dead, or dying? What have you seen or experienced that either confirms or refutes this theory?


Steven Koehler said...

I'm not even going to give him the time to bother reading the article, what you stated is enough.

First, audiences at cultural events have been "greying" for decades. This is not a new phenomenon, and there are always shows that defy that and bring in new and young crowds.

2nd - the price. This is an old issue with American Theatre, looking to not just New York, but Broadway to define what theatre is. It is arrogant, and ignorant. American Theatre is not confined to a couple of blocks in one city, it never has been, but in the past 50 years that concept has become completely inane. The regional theatre movement brought professional theatre to the rest of the country. Taking it out of the east coast cities. The little theatre movement in the early 20th century had primed the pump for this, giving people all over the country a tast for theatre.
The prices currently on Broadway are insane, but these are the realities of for profit theatre. Art should not be driven by profit.
For this actor, who frankly is nobody I know, to make such statements based on such a prfound lack of knowledge is irresponsible and idiotic.

The one point he does bring up that sadly applies to much of the country, although not all, is the white audience complaint. Theatre has not done enough to diversify audiences and programming to help bring in a snapshot of America audience. This is a tough issue and one that theatres have struggled with and worked on for a long time, but more needs to be done.

Okay, off my soap box for now.

Mark Allen Carter said...

I am sooooo tired of people telling me that something is dead. Newspapers are dead, TV is dead, radio is dead.

I'm just tired of hearing all these falsehoods.

Anonymous said...

Gabriel Byrne won the Golden Globe last year for Best Actor in a Television Series, Drama for his work on HBO's In Treatment. And, a few years ago, he was nominated for a Tony Award for his portrayal of James Tyrone in the revival of O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten. He is a talented actor who is extremely intelligent and well-respected. However, I do think he is prone to pessimism. I strongly disagree with his conclusion that "theater is dead." And, I agree with the excellent points made by Steve Koehler.

Steven Koehler said...

Ah, the name was a little familiar, but not enough to bother looking him up.

I do think theatre is in a transition position, as it always has been. I also believe that if was as an art form do not adapt and grow we will, and should die. I think the same is true with newspapers, TV and radio, times change, change quickly now a days, and if the businesses do not change at least a little, they will die.

I think that newspapers have been very slow to adapt and we very well may see the end to newspapers as we know them. That is also a part of how things work, we don't have town cryers anymore, or pamphleteers, their time has passed. The same may be true for a lot of things, but not theatre. The art form has grown and adapted quite a bit. We may not see that change on Broadway, but again, Broadway has never been "American Theare". It is commercial theatre, it is tourism, the true American form of theatre is found in the wonderful regional theatres, The Guthrie, Arena Stage, The Goodman, Seattle Rep, Berkley Rep, Yale Rep. It is the thousands of Community Theatres, large and small. American Theatre is Off Off Broadway in New York, the countless storefront theatres in Chicago, the 99 seat theatres in Los Angeles. American Theatre is represented by the groundbreaking work of the Tectonic Theatre Project (Moises Kaufman), the political theatre of Borderlands Theatre (50 miles from the Mexican Border), and the cutting edge work seen at the Curious Theatre in Denver. American Theatre is the countless Youth Theatres, from Theatre IV in Richmond, VA, TheatreWorks USA in New York, Minneapolis Childrens Theatre and Seattle Children's Theatre.

The vast array of theatres is amazing in this country, and attendance at most of them is steady or rising. We sell what we do short by glorifying Broadway. When we call the Tonys, the "Oscars of Theatre" we are selling ourselves short. The Tony's, important as they are, are the Oscars of a few blocks in New York City, nothing more. I look also the the Jeffersons in Chicago, and the Helen Hayes award winners in Washington, they are just as important, if a lot less flashy, as the Tony's.

Back off my soapbox. It is just one of my biggest pet peeves when anyone looks at Broadway an the end all be all of Theatre, nothing could be further from the truth.

Now we return you to your regularly scheduled morning.

Acting classes los angeles said...

For me, the theatre is still not dead.. I'm still seeing people watching a theatre play and earn lots of admiration.. We can't just forget about them, theatre is the root of acting, right?