I was reading an article this week (and by “an article” I mean Buzzfeed) about Hollywood actors taking the stage in New York. Like any semi-pretentious, semi-entitled college theatre student, I rolled my eyes as I clicked the link.
Great. Another 2010 Tony Awards waiting to happen. Hollywood invades Broadway.
The tagline for the article was “Hollywood’s A-listers are trading in the silver screen for the stage”. Another eye roll.
When I saw the list, I was almost surprised. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart? Are they really considered “Hollywood A-listers” before well versed and well trained stage actors? When I read, and reread the list, I realized that many of the actors there started onstage. I consider many of these actors good actors–even great actors. So why do I feel pangs of resentment when I hear Hollywood and Broadway in the same sentence.
Growing up, I had a sense of entitlement about the theatre that I think every high school musical theatre geek feels. Broadway is much more honorable than film and television. This is the stage. It’s different.
Within my two years and two weeks of college, my image of “Broadway” has changed. I no longer revere it as a prestigious and noble beacon of art. Let’s be real. Broadway is the Hollywood of theatre.
I’m not saying these productions are not valid. Trust me, that’s the last thing I want to say. To be honest, I’d probably give an arm and a leg to see Waiting for Godot this year. I suppose though, I’m beginning to understand that with any major art form comes major commercialism and major business. My problems with the commercialism of Broadway now is not because they’ve plopped countless Hollywood actors in countless plays, it is because those plays are advertised like films.
Come see (insert household name here) star in…
(But I don’t think that’s anything new).
I have a proclamation that most of you are already well aware of, but it’s something the fifteen year old girl in me needs to hear:
Younger-version-of-myself, listen. Broadway is not experimental. Broadway is not avant-garde. Broadway, especially today, is not really doing anything groundbreaking. Broadway today is the stage equivalent to Hollywood today. It’s okay to be a little disappointed in both.
Now, younger-version-of-myself, don’t let that jade you. It’ll be easy (and, admit it, kind of fun) to prance around proclaiming that Broadway is dead and theatre is dead and creativity is dead dead dead…but let’s try to avoid that. There are still so many avenues to explore.
What isn’t on Broadway? What isn’t off-broadway? What isn’t off-off broadway? What can you create and how can you create it? Why do you want to create it? Also: what can you take from the theatrical commercialism of today? How is it something you can learn from? How is it something you can love?
I am excited for so much of what is to come this season on Broadway in the same way that I am excited for the films that will come out this year. I think I know what I will see. I think I know what I will like. I think I know what I won’t.
I suppose the most exciting part of this all, is the prospect of being surprised.