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Broadway & the American Audience

I adore theatre as much as the next School of Theatre student; however, attending theatre school has made me really bitter because it has made me incredibly aware of how shallow the American audience can be.  I think this resentful attitude took shape when I started the final project for my Dramatic Literature (1950-1990) class.  As a class we were divided into 6 or 7 groups and each given a different lens through which to perform a 10-minute version of the American classic, Death of a Salesman.  My group was given the lens of Agitprop, or Agitation Propaganda.  At first glance, it seemed like an ill-fitting way to perform this play, but eventually my group found a way in.  The central point of our project was illuminating the idea that the people who should be seeing Death of a Salesman are the middle class Willy Lomans of the world, yet those who were able to see the Broadway version were the Howard Wagners of the world as the tickets costs were pricey to say the least.  We gained support through a wonderful article in the New York Times that illustrated the discrepancies in the recent Broadway revival


These feelings of bitterness resurfaced when I was deciding what to write my weekly blog post on.  I went to the New York Times website to find an interesting article on theatre and what’s happening now in the art world and was sad to see that one of the top stories was about a Broadway production of Rocky, based off the popular film series.


The show will probably be really good.  It will probably have amazing technical aspects.  It will probably make a lot of money.  But it also will probably not start a conversation about racism or sexism or the impending doom in Syria or gun laws in America.  Maybe I’m just too eager for the sweaty, in-your-face black box performance.  Maybe the rest of the world really just wants to be entertained by the story of Rocky Balboa.  Maybe I’m too demanding of the theatre world.  Maybe I’m too young and naïve to understand the importance of pieces like this.  Or maybe it’s time for people to be a little bitter like me.


For me, theatre and art in general should be used to start tough conversations, not to showcase a muscle-man singing about his fighting woes.  Stuff like that kind of sickens me.  Art should have a purpose! I am reminded of Pythagoras’ saying, “Be silent or let thy words be worth more than silence.”  I would like to change that to “Be silent or let thy art be worth more than silence.”  Art is a beautiful and holy thing for me and I feel as if Broadway is ruining that. What purpose do shows such as this one serve? I understand not every play or musical has to be driven by politics, but I think worthwhile works of art should lead to discussions about current events.  Art should be used to open people’s eyes and to open their hearts, not to open their wallets for a front row ticket for a Sylvester Stallone lookalike.  I must also remember that there is a difference between art and entertainment and shows like this are typically for entertainment, but I’d still like to see something more evocative in the New York Times and on Broadway.


One comment on “Broadway & the American Audience

  1. […] like to start with the use of technology.  In my first blog post I kind of bashed the marriage of theatre and technology, but this production of The Power of Duff […]

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