The Playgoer: Kitty Nibble

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Kitty Nibble

by Abigail Katz

Some food for thought. My friend and I were talking about theatre companies and their missions the other day (because that's what dramaturgs talk about in their spare time) and one question (among many) that arose was the concept of promoting and nurturing playwrights vs. promoting and nurturing plays. I can see the argument for either one. Playwrights deserve opportunities to have their work produced and to develop relationships with theatre companies and theatre audiences. On the other hand, the play's the thing, and the work itself should be the top priority when companies plan their seasons and decide what to produce. This all leads to the much larger question of the purpose of theatre in general. There is no one answer to this question as theatre means different things to different people. For some it is pure entertainment and escapism, for others it is an art form to be pondered and analyzed for its merits in terms of quality and cultural significance, and still for others it is a spiritual experience that has the potential to change individuals and society.

So having said all this, when theatre companies come up with their missions (often worded and designed to attract funders, which is totally understandable in the fierce competition for money) who are they serving? Are they serving themselves, the art form, or the audience? In the end does it really matter as long as the work is good? I believe there is room for many possibilities, and don't necessarily think one approach is more valid than the other, but I would be interested to know what others think about this. Or perhaps people don't think about it at all (unless you're a dramaturg) and they just go to the theatre. If you are one of those who has lost sleep at night pondering this issue, write in and get it off your chest so you can have a good night's sleep!

On another note, a shout out to my friend Tony Speciale, who has been named Associate Artistic Director of Classic Stage Company. Congrats Tony! They are currently rehearsing The Tempest starring Mandy Patinkin (and featuring another friend of mine, Nyambi Nyambi- congrats!) and will begin performances on September 3rd. For more info and tix go to

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As the former artistic director of a small theatre company, I think about these things too. And my opinion is that clear and strong mission statements best serve all - artist, audience and the art form itself. If a company seeks to simply serve the artists, eventually the vision and demands of the most powerful (or persuasive) artists will dominate, often unchecked. This may be brilliant at times but will eventually be deadly. If you seek to serve the audience, the dominant (and often bland) tastes of the majority will prevail; the eventual result is also theatrical pablum. A well-crafted mission statement is the most secure ballast through all the tensions and troubles, internal and external, that will roil a theatre company.