Here’s a crazy idea. What if theater journalists wrote about shows the same way TV recappers chat, or the way friends talk about their favorite art? TDF Stages is launching what I believe to be an innovative approach to theater writing, with more informal, buzzy coverage and an attitude of unabashed enthusiasm. Check out the latest installment of the new Geek Out/Freak Out, in which I geek out about “guilty pleasures” with none other than Nate Silver, up-and-coming director extraordinaire. Don’t be afraid to share the article, and join the fun!
Welcome to Geek Out/Freak Out, where theatre fans get super enthusiastic about things.
This week, Stages contributor Jack Smart geeks out (via Google doc) with Nate Silver, Managing Director of Chicago’s Jackalope Theatre and assistant director of the upcoming Broadway production of Disgraced, which previously played at Lincoln Center.
Today’s Topic: What are your favorite “guilty pleasure” shows… and what constitutes a “guilty pleasure” anyway?
Jack Smart: Well hello there, Nate. You and I have managed to see a lot of theatre together despite the fact that I’m in New York and you live in Chicago. I feel like we tend to see the kind of theatre some audience members might have a hard time publicly admitting they like. I think everyone has their tastes and preferences, but some shows are generally deemed “classy,” while others must be enjoyed secretly. What do you think? How low under the bar of lowbrow culture are we “allowed” to limbo? Is there something shameful about sitting gleefully among dozens of tweens in princess dresses at the very first preview of Cinderella? That was us, after all.
Nate Silver: For me, going to the theatre means different things at different times—to satisfy different cravings for different moods. In the same way that I am equally engaged by Mad Men and Modern Family, there’s a place for both Bring It On: The Musical and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Sure, there’s the idea of hate-watching (see Smash), but I inherently trust the theatre more than television. If something makes it all the way to Broadway—if it has financial backers, critical interest, a top-notch production team, actors at the top of their game—I’m going to see it.Bring It On was a surprise high point for me. I’ve never seen that brand of athleticism onstage. I had a similar experience at Rocky: I’ve never seen a set move in the way that one did. Was I truly moved by either of those musicals? No, not really. Was I actually, legitimately, not faking it, shamelessly entertained? You bet. Sometimes that’s all I’m looking for.
Jack: Yeah, Bring It On was a revelation for me. So original and infectiously fun. For a while after seeing that show, I was met with obvious skepticism when I recommended it to friends. But I think it’s our responsibility as audience members and appreciators of art to champion the fun, frothy shows just as much as the serious, highbrow ones.
Nate: Recommending shows to people is so hard. Because tickets are such an investment, I don’t want to guide them to something they end up not enjoying. Knowing a person’s interests and background is crucial. In my summer job as the Director of Operations at the National Student Leadership Conference in NYC (the main reason I’m able to see so much theatre here), I am in the position of recommending shows to people who have never seen a production on Broadway before. So I don’t necessarily tell them about the things that I enjoyed the most, but the things that sell Broadway to newcomers and exemplify the magic of live theatre. I send them to The Lion King, to Wicked, to The Phantom of the Opera… People lose their minds over Phantom.
Jack: For real.
Nate: I am still interested in this idea of “the point” of theatre, though. Like, is it not crazy that The Realistic Joneses and A Raisin in the Sunwere playing just a few blocks away from Rock of Ages last season? Continue reading