What’s a Good Show to See?

Seldom does a day go by that someone doesn’t ask me, “Are there any good plays going on right now? What should I go see?” I guess being the publisher of a theatre magazine supposedly gives me some authority. Now I’m more than happy to share what I’ve seen, but really, how do I know what you might like? How do I know what will tickle you, what will challenge you, or for that matter, do you really want to be challenged? And that’s just to get started. And god forbid, what if I suggest something you don’t like, suddenly my opinion sucks, and then I’m an idiot…

Let’s face it, picking a show to see requires some knowledge, familiarity and perhaps more than anything else, a keen awareness of just how far out of your comfort zone you are willing to go to see a play. I’ve got some friends, that don’t want to see anything political. As I think everything is political, I have no idea what to tell them. There are others that tell me I’m only interested in comedy, great, do you think Beckett is funny? I do, but then my wife spends a lot of time poking me in the ribs for laughing too much at a lot of plays, some of which are not supposed to be a comedy.

So just how do we go about picking a play to see? Sadly, the most frequent answer I get to this question is, “I go to support my friends in their efforts.” Sigh, that’s nice, makes you a good friend, but how does that impact how you feel about a show? How does that urge you to suggest to someone that doesn’t know your friend to see that particular show? Because to be honest, unless your friend has “name” value, saying they’re in a show is probably not going to be a big selling point.

As a publication about theatre, we try and provide insight into plays and to those that create them. In this issue, we take a look at a new show at the Road on Lankershim, The Lyons, Tracey Paleo explores the world of the Hollywood Fringe Festival and on our website you can discover an intro into, Five Guys Names Moe at The Nate Holden Performing Arts Center. In fact if you go through our website, footlights.click, you will find profiles and interviews on much of LA theatre.

We strive to be a compendium to theatre, as our mission states, to illuminate the theatre community. But we need you. If we want our community to thrive, to grow, to become more relevant, reaching beyond theatre makers and their friends, we need for each of you to be ambassadors for the art form. To do that, we need your insights. What can we do as a community publication to encourage you to see more theatre?

The reality is, that the very best promotion for any theatrical production is word of mouth. A show that moves us, a show that addresses our concerns, a show that supports or challenges our POV. If those buttons get pushed, we’re more likely to recommend a show to our acquaintances. When we do that, we’re inviting an extended dialogue. Later, you can ask them about the show, you can discuss the themes, the meanings, it’s not just the experience of seeing a show, but it’s the gateway to knowing others more deeply.

But that takes us back to risk aversion. How do we make it more comfortable to see something new, or do we just say, what can I lose? For myself, I want every play I go to, to be great. But that’s unrealistic. There can only be greatness if there is something less. So if I walk in with greatness being my expectation, I’m probably going to be disappointed. But if I go in with curiosity and a willingness to be present, I may just be pleasantly surprised. I have been going to theatre for a very long time, have seen hundreds of shows, maybe into the thousands, and I can honestly say that there’s been less than a handful of times in which I’ve regretted being there. So for me, I now see very little risk of going to see a show, which results in me being more likely to try something new.

It takes a certain amount of information to get us to that tipping point. What will it take for you, for your friends to go from, “I don’t know if I want to chance it, I mean the tickets are (fill in the blank) how do I know I’ll get my money’s worth?” to “yea, let’s give that a try!” What information do you need that will make it more comfortable for you to try something new? What will it take for you to step out of your door and go see a show that you don’t know, nor do you know anyone that’s in it? These are serious questions.

If you had a magic wand, and could create a button that would suddenly make LA theatre look like Broadway, what would be the elements of that action that would pop up before your eyes? Let’s in fact make this a project. Let’s call it the Theatre LA project!

Reflect for a moment, you are getting ready to order that wand. List the properties that you want this custom-made magic wand it to control, and then, send your thoughts to me.  Peter@Footlights.click No matter how silly, no matter how smart, without restriction, we will publish on a regular basis a list of those ideas. We, FootLights, will share those ideas with the community at large. And where we can, we will implement those ideas, or seek out those that may have solutions. Let’s make this a community project to promote our community.

Ultimately the reason that theatre exists, is that beyond being a place where stories are told, it is an experience. We as the audience are, or at least should be swept up in the world that is presented before us. This is a vital part of life, it drills to the visceral, and allows us to experience life outside our own skins. If we can share that with more people, we will have accomplished something profound.

So, if these questions are my first reaction when asked, “Are there any good plays going on right now? What should I go see?” My actual response for now is to tell them to go to footlights.click.  It’s a central point of theatre information. With your help, tomorrow it will be a window into the world of theatre, the world our world needs. FL

About Peter Finlayson

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Peter Finlayson is the Founder, Publisher and Editor-in-chief of FootLights magazine and footlight.click. While working on a prelaw program at the University of Michigan, he happily got involved with the theatre program. Much to his mother’s chagrin, law school never happened, but in a career spanning more than 4 decades, Peter has performed, directed or designed more than 150 productions. In his spare time, he is working on a new play. You can follow him on Twitter @Thtrdog .

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