Monday, May 19, 2008

Curtain call

Last year I saw an incredible high school production of Les Miz. It may have just been because the show was a technical marvel, but they chose to have all the techies take a bow during the curtain call.

I think it's pretty awesome, but most of my friends think it's a terrible idea. They tell me that there's no theatre in the world where techies take a bow, and if these kids want bows then they should just audition for the show. I get that, and I don't disagree, but I've been trying to explain to my kids what an important part of the show the techies are, and I'd like to give them more exposure. But the very nature of their job requires a lack of exposure, so I'm not sure.

Plus, the idea of letting techies take a bow runs contrary to my own personal desires. When I act, I hate curtain calls. I think they're self-serving begs for attention. Similarly, I think that directors should be neither seen nor heard at a show. When I direct I hate giving curtain speeches because I think a director's work is done when audience members start showing up.

Still, I think back to how the audience of Les Miz applauded loudly for the techies, and though my friends and my instincts advise against a crew bow, I wonder if it's the best choice for the kids. Thoughts?


At 11:28 PM, Blogger Meg O'C said...

I think it all depends on what you want from your program. If you want something mimetic of professional theater, then no, the tech kids wouldn't bow. If you want to celebrate the participation and contribution of all the kids, then of course you can let them bow.
I used to be on the other side of this arugment--I wanted my theater program to be taken seriously, and so I thought it was crucial to make it as much like a professional theater as possible. Then I realized the flaw in that thinking--if I truly wanted to be "professional," I couldn't let the fat girls play romantic leads, or allow two white "parents" to have a black "child" on stage, I certainly wouldn't be buying all my costumes from Goodwill and I wouldn't be making sets out of cardboard. There are so many freedoms that we have in educational theater that the pros are too stuffy to allow. I dunno, I guess now that I work at a professional theater company, I love that educational theater is a different entity from what the Equity actors are doing. It's the reason I became a teaching artist and not a professional director--what we do is not professional theater--it's something much wilder and more innocent of certain conventions. For many of our kids it is not a stepping stone to a career in the arts; it's this moment, right here and now when they spoke a line or painted a set piece or moved a prop and felt like a part of a group. It's Theater we're trying to create--not the trappings of the profession--the art form.

I've never regretted letting the techies bow. (I've also never had status problems between tech/actors) I totally get why people think it's a bad idea; in the end it all comes down to what works for your community and your program.

As for the act of bowing, I got my head around it this way while performing this winter: it's a moment for actors and audience to witness each other as humans beings (not characters) and to thank each other for the shared time spent and the stories told. If theater is a thing ultimately created between artists and audiences, the final bow is an ackowledgement of that creation.

Sorry for getting a little highfaultin there--there's no zealot like a convert, eh?
Hope everyone is ending the year in style!

At 10:35 PM, Blogger Sandi said...

First, wonderful to read y'all again.
Second, it's a bit impossible to follow Meg and not come off as anticlimactic. She says everything much better than I could.
Third, Craig, I too witnessed an absolutly amazing high school production of Les MIz--including absolutely astounding tech. All of the labor and talent was volunteer, but I found out that they had spent over $50,000 on their materials. And you saw every penny of that money on the stage. Plus the male voices were amazingly mature for their ages, which is necesary for those very grown-up parts in LM but rare for teenaged males.

Fourth, it wasn't an Equity show, but I was once in a big community theatre production (sold out 8 shows in a house of 400) with lots of pyro and lasers and stuff flying all over the place--and it was great. On closing night, the director had all the techies take a curtain call. The crowd went wild. I've never seen that happen since (at least not in our beloved Von Braun Center) but that was easily the happiest show I've ever worked on.
Last, I hope you all have a great summer. I handed over direction of Shakespeare on the Mountain to former assistants this year and plan to spend the summer beginning International Baccalaureate training (our school is starting that proecess) and hiking the Appalachian Trail with the spouse. I think of you often, I hope you are all well!


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