Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Where Has the Creativity Gone?

Creativity is the basis of all things. You can’t get anything new without creating something. Sometimes you can start out with sometime and add to it and get something else. And that can work well. But you can only re-do something so many times before it just gets old.

I have a degree in education. I don’t teach, and I won’t go into all the reasons why I don’t teach anymore, but I will say that one of the things that bothered me the most when I was teaching was the lack of creativity and free thinking in schools. I taught second grade and even by that young age, children had been trained that there was a right answer and a wrong answer. Everything is yes or no; black or white.

I could, and pretty much do, blame it on standardized testing, where every answer is a bubble on a sheet and there is only one of those bubbles that is right. But even with standardized testing, there is a whole school year of teachable time that you can work with a child on being creative. Open ended questions, journal writing, group discussions. These are all things that encourage creativity.

Yet, when I tried to ask a child an open ended question, or asked them what they thought about something, I’d often get only a blank stare. That bothered me. Greatly. I tried to do journal writing several times a week. I tried to talk with children in a way that let them know that there isn’t always a right or a wrong answer. But it’s hard when they have been so brain-washed already.

Outside of school children are surrounded by television and video games. They aren’t encouraged to play outside anymore. They aren’t encouraged to play “pretend” and to make up stories about their dolls or their action figures. Every toy makes a noise or has it’s story already.

Where does that leave us? In my opinion it leaves it in a world severely lacking in originality and creativity. And it damages the arts in so many ways. With young people growing up into adults that don’t know how to be creative theatre, movies, and even books suffer unnecessarily.

Originality on Broadway is getting more and more rare. Sure, there are some great shows out there. But in the past several seasons it seems that nearly everything is a revival (which isn’t a bad thing per se) or something based on a movie, or it’s a juke-box musical. This past year I went to see 3 shows on Broadway and 1 off-Broadway. Out of them, two were revivals (Promises, Promises and A Little Night Music), one was a juke-box musical (American Idiot, which I loved), and only one was a little bit original (Avenue Q).

I have nothing against a good revival. I don’t have much against a musical based on a movie (heck, I saw Legally Blonde on tour and loved it). But when all the things that are coming to Broadway are shows like Elf: The Musical, and Pee-Wee Herman, and the seemingly doomed Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark….well it starts to get boring. I mean, The Addams Family? Really?

The last shows I saw on Broadway that seemed to be truly original were Avenue Q and the wonderful Next to Normal. Next to Normal has even had a decent run. I saw it two years ago this coming May. With the original cast still intact, that show touched me in ways that not many shows do.

And yet shows like Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson (semi-original in theme) didn’t even last long enough for me to get to NYC to see it. My thought seems to be that original shows don’t get tickets sold because people are afraid to try something new. And because producers are afraid to let the show build a following (a.k.a. they could be losing money), they end up closing a show before it even has the chance to shine.

Lack of inspiring creativity has hurt the art itself by not providing theatre and other fine arts with fresh minds to create new and wonderful stories. But it’s also hurt the audiences. When you don’t have minds that are willing to TRY new things then you end up with lack of ticket sales to original productions.

So, how do we fix it? I’m not saying that we should stop standardized testing, but I am saying that we should encourage the arts in schools. That we need to support creativity and free thinking as part of a core curriculum. And that we need to take the time to reward children for stepping outside of the box. Otherwise we may be doomed to “based on the movie…”, “based on the music of….”, and revivals on Broadway.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Lesson in Etiquette

This is actually a repost from my other blog. And a fairly recent post at that. But I figured that it needed to go here as well, since it relates to theatre more than anything else.

Etiquette. It can be kind of a big word if your vocabulary is small. But no matter what words you use, MANNERS are something we should have been taught as children. Simple things, like not talking during church, or during a meeting. Not jumping line. Turning your cell phone off in a hospital, funeral home, or place of worship.

But some people, it seems, never quite got the lesson. Including the 3 older ladies who sat behind me during a play I saw last weekend. They talked through THE ENTIRE SHOW. Even when I thought I'd be smart and say something about it loudly to my friend who was with me during intermission. But it didn't work, since they talked through the entire SECOND act as well.

For people who aren't aware, it is very rude to disrupt other people while they are at a movie. But at least with a movie, you can rent it when it comes out on DVD. To me, it is even worse when someone distracts you at a live performance. There is no getting that time back. You see it, and you never get that exact experience again. Sure, you can laugh or elbow your theatre buddy. But I have no need for live commentary. I can see the show myself. And I'm sure that your theatre buddy has no need for commentary either.

And for that matter, why do you feel the need to have that commentary be composed entirely of "Oh, that girl sings so pretty!" and "I saw him in two other shows here." and "Where did that other character go? I don't see him on stage anymore." and "Look at that guy dance!". Really, I don't need that. I'd rather watch the show and talk with my friend about it later. Just like you should have coffee with your friends afterwards and discuss the show then.

So, here are the rules for any live show:

1.) Do not talk during the show.
2.) Do not sing along with the performers. If you were that good, you'd be up there instead of them.
3.) Turn your cell phone off. Or at least put it on vibrate.

There are only 3, really. If you follow them, everyone will have a better time at the show. Including you. I promise.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

About Me

I'm not too young and not too old. I grew up in and still live in a very small rural town in Tennessee. My exposure to theatre was VERY limited until I became an adult and had the means to see shows. That aside, my mother sang me show tunes instead of lullabies as a child, and I grew up watching movie musicals.

My blog title came about because I am a country girl...but I'm also a theatre geek. It also is a play off the url of my other blog:

I saw my first Broadway show when I was 17 years old and have only been to New York a handful of times. However, my love for music, theatre and live shows has taken up root in my heart and soul.

I am not a professional writer, I am not a singer, actor, or dancer, and I do not get paid to see shows. I do, however, like to write about shows almost as much as I like seeing them.

I hope you enjoy reading my blog. Feel free to e-mail me with questions if you'd like. I'm pretty much an open book.

Also, please don't forget to comment! I love comments and I do try to comment back if you are a fellow blogger. I don't have a lot of time as I also maintain another blog, but I will post when I can.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Spider-Man: Train Wreck in the Dark

There's nothing to start off a blog like a post on a controversial topic. Truth be known, I don't think the topic is really all that controversial considering most people seem to be taking the same stance on it.

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark has brought Broadway to the mainstream media more than any show in the past several years. And it hasn't even opened yet. Between a 60 Minutes Special, music by Bono and The Edge of the band U2, and a budget of around sixty-five million dollars, it seemed that this show was destined to be over-the-top from day one.

Turns out the show has been wrought with problems from day one. The scheduled date for opening has been pushed back numerous times and there have been a string of injuries to cast members that are related to the technically extravagant wirework that is plays a major role in the show.
Monday night an actor fell around 20 feet and was injured seriously, including broken ribs and some internal bleeding. This seemed to be the final straw for many actors, bloggers, writers, and other theatre lovers. It was the latest in a list of injuries that includes two broken wrists to and actor, two broken ankles to another, and a concussion to yet another.
Some actors, like Tony award winner Alice Ripley, have taken to their Twitter pages to publicly attack the show's producers and director. Adam Pascal of RENT fame took to his facebook page to voice his anger with the show and the lack of safety for the actors.

While this isn't the first show to have injuries happen, it seems to most people that they are more than the "normal" and it has people up in arms. Director Julie Taymor continues to defend the show and after cancelling only one preview, the show is back to previews tonight.

Now my opinions are solely my own. And I'm not a professional of any sort. I don't act, sing, dance, or get paid to write anything. I'm purely a theatre lover. But it seems to me that if a show is having this many problems, you should can it. But I'm not stupid enough to think that will happen. The producers have way too much money invested in the show for them to back out now. The show will go on....but at what cost?

As for me, I won't see the show. Even with a free ticket. First off, Spider-Man was never really my cup of tea. Secondly, I have no desire to see a show that's been referred to as a "train-wreck" and that has cause serious injury to so many of it's actors. And I won't even let this post get into the lack of originality on Broadway.

So, in the event that someone actually reads this blog, will you go see it? What would your reasons be for seeing it (or not seeing it). I'm curious.