The Playgoer: "The Play's the Thing"

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Monday, June 12, 2006

"The Play's the Thing"

Apparently original dramatic plays have as much trouble finding an inahbitable climate in the West End as on Broadway. And mega-producer Sonia Freedman's solution has been to collaborate with an "American Idol"-style TV contest show, "The Play's the Thing" for the UK's Channel 4.

Of course, American Idol itself was a Brit export, so let's see if a Broadway version of this ever makes its way here. Not that it's a good thing to turn a playwright and his/her work into a commodity for a freakshow.

Freedman's intentions may be good (and the show's other "judges" seem top notch), but once again we see producers of her noble ilk just have trouble coming around to the fact that ours is an era ( or at least a phase) when, for whatever reason, theatre art can only be truly developed in the non-profit/subsidized marketplace. As this Guardian promo for the show explains, the institutional theatres are now just better equipped to serve the playwright's needs.

As if to prove the point, Channel 4 itself is a "publicly owned not-for-proit broadcaster."


Anonymous said...

This is fascinating for all sorts of reasons, but I'm at work and don't have time to say much about it. One thing that struck me in the Guardian story is that Channel 4 has previously produced search programs for (I think I made it out from the titles) opera singers and musical-theater performers. Whatever we make of the fact that Britain is choosing performers and now entire plays in a kind of televised popularity contest, it's more high-toned (less deplorable?) than reality TV in America.

Playgoer said...

FYI, for those of us without Satellite Dish hook up to Channel 4, Webloge seems to be following the show as it airs over in London. So read her for the play-by-play: