Blood! Dead cats! Punk rock!
Audience | Vision
Go to the Pioneer Press website and gently place your pointer on the word “Entertainment” in the banner. Now scroll down the list of entertainment options. Scroll past Movies, Music, Books, Restaurants and Comics—past Puzzles & Games, Horoscopes, and Lottery and you arrive at, finally, Stage. That’s right, Stage is under Lottery. If you’re like me, you’re reaching for a fork and looking for a dog to stab. But cool, calm reason stops you. Out loud, you find yourself saying, “It’s the Pioneer Press. Its barely a newspaper.” I know. But still…
How did we end up here? How do we fix this sinking ship? How do we regain our rightful place between Comics and Puzzles & Games? Sitting here with my unemployment check in one hand and an eviction notice in the other, suddenly the elusive answer comes to me:
We need a new audience. – Now, I know there is a lot of handwringing across town about how to build a new, younger audience. And I have a crazy idea: We start picking plays that speak to a different generation. Really. People need to see themselves reflected on the stage. People need their stories told. People need to see their hopes, their dreams, their failures, their dilemmas, their faces up on that stage. Why would the average twenty- or thirty-something want to see another version of Richard III? Because they’re supposed to? Because it’s good for them? Fuck that.
Enough. No more Shakespeare; no more Shaw, Chekhov, Albee, or Ibsen. I call for a decade-long moratorium on dead writers! (Yes, I know that Albee is technically still alive.)
Together we are going to begin the hard work of putting the shine back on theater in this town. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to take some time. Lions of the Minnesota Theater, are you up for it? No? We are now less important than horoscopes! Will this be your legacy? Where are your guts? How about some fight, huh?
C’mon – “One fist of iron, the other of steel!”
I wanna see some blood. I want blood on my hands, in my eyes, on my tongue. Which brings me to the first show of our new season:
The Lieutenant of Inishmore by Martin McDonagh
Blood! Assassination! Dead cats! Terrorists! For readers of a certain age, it’s kinda like Vietnam, but funnier. Way funnier.
What? You don’t like blood? How about music then? And not fucking jazz, either. Rock and roll! Our second show?
God Save Gertrude by Deborah Stein
This show was produced by the Workhaus Collective last year. It’s a punk rock riff off Hamlet. Punk rock. A real, local punk rock band played during and after the show every night. It deserves another staging. I’m sure none of the Lions in this town were paying attention, but this show probably was attended by more people in their twenties and thirties than the entire seasons of all the mid-sized theaters. The night I went it was sold out. It sold out a lot. The place was packed with people I have never seen in a theater before.
No? Too loud? How about sex then? Show number three:
Red Light Winter by Adam Rapp
Mr. Rapp is a prolific playwright who has never been produced in town. Lets change that. He hasn’t written a great play, but Red Light Winter has a weird heart to it. It is by turns vulgar, sweet, messy, brutal, and hopelessly romantic. And he will write a great play; we should be ready for him before then. Think Sam Shepard leading up to Curse of the Starving Class. Plus there’s sex. Pathetic sex and brutal sex. Who out there can’t relate to one or the other? And, did I mention gratuitous nudity? And singing? And Tom Waits?
Refuse to look at pathetic and brutal sex? How about just plain ol’ youth?
“Based on True Fiction” by Ike Holter
Mr. Holter is a young man, fresh outta college, a Many Voices Fellow at the Playwrights Center, and one hell of a writer. It is our job to give local writers the opportunity to have their shows produced. Minneapolis should be the première city in the country for new plays. Playwrights need their plays produced to get better. Let's stop outsourcing ‘em and do the work ourselves.
For our fifth show, I say – more youth (“youth” means anybody who did not come of age in the late sixties or early seventies). You can’t be afraid of youth, can you? Can you?
Play TBA by TBA
This is the slot we give to a local playwright to create a play with a group of local actors about what its like to be alive in Minneapolis right now – the stories a younger audience can relate to performed by people they can relate to because the audience, author, and performers are the same age.
We are also going to be doing late night shows, ‘cause, ya know, the youngsters like to stay up late. Every Saturday night at eleven, we‘ll do a rotating blah blah blah – I’m not writing a grant application here! Fuck it. --
- 1st Sat. – A serialized stage version of the Flaming Lips movie Christmas on Mars with a different local band providing the music and a rotating cast of actors.
- 2nd Sat. – Gus Lynch is given free reign to stand up and say whatever pops into his filthy mind.
- 3rd Sat. – A night w/ Rhymesayers. They get to do what ever they want. Watch the people roll in.
- 4th Sat. – Tommy Mischke does a live show. Lets put him back at night and watch him get weird. Think Prairie Home Companion for social misfits.
That’s how I start rebuilding an audience from the ground up. We need to give people a new reason to step inside our theater. No more medicine, we need meat! Red meat. We need to start talking about plays again, not “pieces.” And we need beer.
To the Lions in town: You are going to alienate an older generation of theatergoers who have been catered to for 30 years. It’s ok. Let them go. Their time is done. Yours isn’t. You have the marketing department, the ability, and the production infrastructure to do this right. It’s time to think about your legacy.
To my people: We have work to do. We need to try harder. We need to be better. We need to fail. And get back up to try again. If they want to lend a hand, fine. If not, we need to shove them the fuck out the way.❦