A Plague on the Playhouse

In keeping with this tendency, too many programs barely acknowledge the playwright aside from a nod to his or her name on the title page. Sorry, but I'd much rather read background on the person who composed the play than read in a bio about an actor's high school role in the chorus of South Pacific. And those typos. I understand the immense effort it takes to hoist a production onto its feet, particularly when so many theaters are understaffed; proofreading has got to be the last detail on anyone's mind. But programs are a document of the show for both the company's archives and spectators, and they deserve as much care as other aspects of a production. Leaping from programs to production photos -- in a word, abominable. Hasn't anyone figured out that the picture printed along with the review in New Times, even if the review is unfavorable, is invaluable publicity? A sharp black-and-white photo makes a much better impression than a fuzzy shot with the photographer's knee in the foreground or the exit sign in the upper right corner.

A final note: Given the economics of paying actors for rehearsal time and the fact that many local actors hold down day jobs, I understand that local rehearsal schedules tend to be short by necessity. Like ten days short, in some cases. Or even three weeks. As can be evident in the final product. Often when I attend an opening night, it seems as if the actors have just finished absorbing the director's blocking of their movements on-stage. Likewise, actors seem just barely comfortable with the text, sans manuscript. What an enormous difference it has been to attend shows that I know have benefited from longer rehearsal -- shows where directors moved heaven and earth to carve out more time to work on a piece because they anticipated the demands of a particular work. Longer rehearsals ultimately showcase the immense talent in this town to a much greater degree. Although I love an audience's anticipatory energy on opening night, I prefer going to local shows later in their runs, when the actors have finally begun to hit their stride.

Have I mentioned the dearth of productions by black playwrights in South Florida, not to mention the limited roles for black actors? Or the lack of audience support for most work that vaguely smacks of the experimental? I could go on but, in truth, I have spent an often sublime couple of years covering the theater scene here (yes, there is theater worth seeing in this tourist town). I've enjoyed Shakespeare elegantly performed on bare stages in tiny theaters. I've caught challenging interpretations of old favorites, been treated to productions of works I've anticipated for years, and been dazzled by contemporary pieces fresh from New York, London, or Louisville's Humana Festival, through both local and touring companies.

I've also witnessed the flowering of native writing voices, nurtured by gathering places for writers such as the Writers' Alliance and Theater With Your Coffee? And I appreciate the essential role the Theater League of South Florida plays in the region's theatrical life. Unlike New York, London, or Chicago, where theaters elbow each other for room in close urban quarters or are only a walk or a cab ride away from one other, South Florida has no theater hub. The League, hosting groups not only for writers but for directors and actors, functions as a floating central meeting ground for far-flung theater folk, sort of like Nathan Detroit's peripatetic crap game in Guys and Dolls.

Frankly, I've been blown away by how hard people work here, by their dedication, and by their willingness to shoulder multiple tasks in running a company. Seeing plays and writing about them demands tremendous reserves of time; does anybody who actually produces shows ever get any sleep?

I have been impressed not only by show business pros -- it's been a delight to get to know audience members, too. While I was quite conscious that theater community people were reading this column, I truly wrote it for the playgoers who have no professional connection to the stage but who are addicted to live drama and who choose going to the theater over television, movies, sports events, or nightclubs. I've been enchanted to meet you and especially pleased when you introduced yourselves to me. Your passion keeps theater afloat, whether you see shows in massive performing centers or tiny black box spaces. Forgoing a weekly deadline, I now join your ranks. As a Carbonell voter I will continue to see productions with you on a regular basis, and it will be my pleasure.

The Living.
Written by Anthony Clarvoe; directed by Louis Tyrrell; with Roger Forbes, Brenda Foley, Dan Leonard, John Felix, Gordon McConnell, Stephen G. Anthony, and Terrell Hardcastle. Through February 23. For information call 800-514-3837.

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