Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How "Safe" Should Theatre Be?

In a note from Producing Director Jim Crabtree (a.k.a Head Dude in Charge) that was in the playbill for Chicago (currently at the Cumberland County Playhouse) there is a question asked of patrons:

“We are a bit out on a limb, for a “family theatre” with Chicago. But should our stage speak only of warm friendly stories, only of traditional, untroubled, comforting families and friends? Clearly, we love to celebrate heritage, beauty, tradition, integrity, and values. But the broader, sometimes dysfunctional family of humanity is very real.
“Is the dysfunctional world, and its starker tabloid stories, its flash and trash, something about which we should speak?
“Please let us know.”

Well, Mr. Crabtree, below is my answer to your question.


The truth of the matter is that life isn’t perfect for anyone. If they say it is, they are not being truthful with anyone, least of all themselves. In today’s world you are met daily with people who are cynical and jaded. The world (the media?) and life in it has made us this way. We are a post 9/11 world. Even the most conservative people will admit that life isn’t what it used to be.

Theatre serves several different purposes, and while I’ll admit that one of them is to make you forget for a few hours and slip into a “perfect world,” that can get old at times. Happy endings are wonderful. Sometimes I even wish for them. But living life has taught me that the real world is more like “A Christmas Story” and less like “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

These generations of people who are living in a world that is often confusing and troubled need something to relate with when they come to the theatre. Sometimes you want to escape, other times you just want someone to say “I understand you.” We are, unfortunately, a generation that is offended by little and shocked by even less.

It’s a balancing act. I’m not na├»ve enough to believe that it isn’t. But I think there can be a balance of “safe” and “not so safe” theatre at the Cumberland County Playhouse. The talent that is housed there is incredible and I loved seeing it used to share a story like Chicago. I hope that CCP will continue to take these risks. And I think that there are others feel the same way that I do.


  1. Some terrific ideas here, Cara! And c'mon... how funny is it that we both chose to write about similar themes, both chose to quote Jim's program note, and both chose virtually the same quote?!?!?! I guess Fran Lebowitz was right when she said, "Original thought is like original sin. Both of them happened a long time ago to people you couldn't possibly have met." :)

    Your observations about yearning for forms of entertainment that are more than mere escapism are wonderful. When no less an august authority than the New York Times calls Conor McPherson's The Seafarer "a thinking person's alternative to It's A Wonderful Life," it's a sure bet that the public's concept of "entertainment" has changed dramatically! I guess some producing organizations are slower to realize that than others. Yeah, we've lost our innocence. Globally. And that makes the world of art (theatrical and other) a dangerous and exciting place.

    I'll make sure to send Jim a link to this post. But you might consider emailing him directly and expressing your views... I'm sure he'd be receptive to a new viewpoint!

  2. Oooops... I used the quote to introduce a post on my PERSONAL blog, not the "Rating Game" post on the company blog! [color me embarrassed]

  3. I'm linking your personal blog on my site too! I didn't know it was there. :)
    I do find it funny that we used the basic same quotes.
    And I'm still thinking that if you could get away with using "the f word" that Next to Normal would be a fantastic show for CCP! :P (Currently reading the book)

  4. I agree Cara--there is no joy without risk. Joy is synonymous CCP! Thanks also for the boo tip!

  5. Thanks for adding me to your blogroll, Cara.

    Yes, Next To Normal would be a thrilling choice, wouldn't it? Ah, well... maybe one day. Small steps and all. :)