One of the great joys of running FootLights Publishing is that I learn about a lot of shows that are being produced throughout greater LA. The sad part is that because of the sheer numbers, it’s impossible to see everything. Now my want, as I’m guessing is the case with most people, is to go with the familiar. A show we know, a theatre we know, an organization or an individual we’re familiar with, those are the quick and easy choices. It’s safe.
Then it occurs to me that a safe theatre experience is not really what I’m really looking for. I want theatre to challenge me, to introduce new ideas, new perspectives, give me a chance to grow even just a little.
What we the audience bring to any theatrical presentation is our willingness for suspension of disbelief. We walk into a theatre knowing that what is in front of us is a set, furniture and flats that represent something. We then grope to figure out what that scene represents. Once we have an idea, we buy in. “Okay, this play takes place in the parlor of a Victorian home, a battle field, a throne room, etc.” Whatever we imagine, we believe, and we start our journey into the play.
If we continually go to the same theatre, see the same actors, if we recognize a set piece or a costume, our attention whether intentional or not is drawn to memory. For that moment, we have dropped our disbelief, and we try to piece together the frame of reference. The safety of familiarity can in fact rob us of the most precious gift that theatre offers, a journey outside of ourselves.
Recently I went to see a production at The LA Theatre Center, (an amazing facility), to see The Robey Theatre Production of Knock Me A Kiss. As rule, I don’t comment on productions, but will say this was a an exceptional experience. But I was surprised that of the 100 or so people in the audience, my wife and I were the only people that were not of color.
Why is it that in one of the cities premier facilities, a world-class theatre company with an exceptional cast drew only a segment of the theatre going public? In 2014 is theatre, a leading voice in inclusion, still segregated? Is the fact the The Robey Theatre Company focuses on plays that deal with the African American experience preclude them as a choice for white audiences, or is it that The LATC is on Spring Street, and the area had a history of being less then gentrified. Or, is it that most of the theater going public had no idea that the play was going on, or that the LATC even exists.
My guess is that it’s probably a little bit of all of these. As a theatre going public we haven’t had easy access to information on productions throughout the city. As the old expression goes, we don’t know what we don’t know. And going back to that want of safe choice, why look for something that lives in the land of the unknown.
While reviews once used to inform us and prompt us to stretch our interests, the incessant decline of theatre review in the public forums has eroded the effectiveness of that opportunity.
FootLights is proud to have a solution. Recently we released an app for iPhones, (which will soon be available to all mobile devises) that in it’s Beta stage at least gives you in depth information on much of what is available throughout Los Angeles. The app is called FL Theatre. You can find it in the app store on you phone.
Theatre now becomes an option wherever you go. You can find shows around you or shows where you’re going. The show, the genre, a description, contact information, a map, a chance to rate the show, and if you want to see who’s in in or what the artists have to say, there’s also a copy of the program. In the next iteration, we will be giving you access to reviews as well as the audience ratings.
We believe this will assuage some of the practical fears of exploring new theatre, because we fervently believe that knowledge is power. We want you to explore all of the theatres in one of the most diverse cities in the world.
Fear of others is a consequence of the unknown, a reliance on anecdotal information that is provided to us by others. Our job as human beings is to explore and learn and overcome our fears. Theatre is the mechanism to accomplish that task, and FootLights is here to help. To borrow from an ancient text, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you. That is theatre, go find it.