No More Rubber Cheese Plates!

The essential Chloe Veltman has a great post about a friend’s experience at a season-opening party for a German theater:

“A sprawling beer garden was set up in the courtyard in front of the theater, with a portable stage featuring various music groups throughout the day and evening. Every corner and catacomb of the theater was open to the public, who could peruse the costumes, the house library and photo/design archive, stand on the stages…or take voice and acting workshops in the rehearsal studios. …Lead artists, including the artistic director, were serving the soup at the soup counter. The house make-up artists were anointing children with gory wounds. …It was like a community street fair in and around the theater, and it was packed to the gills. …Gives one hope that such a thing is still possible on earth.”

Like my friend, I am refreshed to hear that not all theatre parties are based on the model of a bunch of board directors in suits chatting politely around rubbery-looking cheese plates with glasses of wine in their hands.

My take on this: It’s another example of the importance of creating a community, and should be carried over from fundraisers to the theatrical experience itself.

Some of my favorite experiences of late:

  • Just Theater: Seeing tons of people I knew before I HAVE LOVED STRANGERS, so that it was almost a party, and then Jonathan Spector doing a “talkforward” to put the play in context and pull us all together as an audience.
  • Sleepwalkers Theatre: Seeing tons of people at DEEP FRIED CHEESE who all seemed to know each other, or knew people who knew each other, and then being offered a $2 beer on the way in, making the show seem less like church and more like an event.
  • UnScripted Theater: The improvised puppet musical I was in. On Thursdays, we set up a table onstage and the audience came together to make finger puppets and bond before the show. Those were always exciting and fun nights because, once again, the audience came together as an audience instead of being individuals preparing to “watch theat-uh because it’s good for you.”

Now, I’m not advocating that jugglers wander through the audience right before a Beckett play.

But I’ve definitely been to shows at the big institutional theaters and heard old women sitting near me whispering, “Oh good, it’s only 70 minutes with no intermission.”

Maybe if theaters encouraged people to have fun and relax before the show, they’d send the message that the experience was going to be cool, instead of just short.


2 Replies to “No More Rubber Cheese Plates!”

  1. As you know, I’m a big fan of breaking down barriers between “audience” and “artists.” When we acknowledge right up front that audiences help shape the art, it’s a beautiful thing. And if we can get them drunk before a show, even better.

  2. Your comments on a visit to ‘Deep Fried Cheese’ brought back happy memories for me.

    On Friday August 10th 2007, at the start of a two-week break in California, I ‘happened upon’ Sleepwalkers Theatre’s performance. Arriving at the building, I immediately met some great people! Not only that, but I enjoyed the cheap beer, thought the performance was ace – and left feeling good!

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