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Apr 6, 2009

Don't be so boring

Found Via Matt J

Don't make Boring Theatre--



Malachy Walsh said...

I hate advice like this.

Don't bore people?


Thanks, that was really helpful, Anthony.

I'll do that. I'll stop boring people.

Really. I will.

Adam said...

I think the inverse of this is that many of the play considered "culture" or "important" I find boring. The new classics are often as boring if not more boring than the most boring old classics. (Don't get me wrong, when done right, SOME of the classic plays are the most engaging theatre)

But there is a culture that goes to see theatre to get their dose of medicine. they think they have made themselves better people by going to the theatre but may be vague on the details of how and why.

I wonder if we new playwrights are expected to turn out plays that are more like medicine than candy. I'm trying very hard to create entertaining plays but maybe that's the wrong way to go.

Malachy Walsh said...

There's no "wrong" way.

You should do the plays you want to see onstage.

Anthony has no magic formula for what's "not boring".

And you'll find everybody has different reasons for going to the theatre. And if a play doesn't meet those reasons, you may be "boring."

ADs are charged with figuring out what's "not boring". They pretty much miss the boat as a whole.

Our job is to not get in the boat with them.

MattJ said...

It's a pretty long article. It's not as if he doesn't back up his "advice" -- Don't bore people.

What he is getting at is that somewhere along the line we in the theatre decided to take the marginalization that we saw from culture and use it to further marginalize ourselves at an attempt to form a niche.

What we didn't realize is that in doing this, we became incredibly pretentious, lecturey, interested in issues rather than performance, and yes, boring.

All of this comes with saying theatre needs to be Art with a capital A. But "Art" is craft etymologically and I get very sick of the pretension that comes along with Capital A art.

As is said in the article, there are much better places where we can have debate about very important issues in very focused ways: Newspapers, blogs, TV, actual civic engagement, etc. Why does sociopolitical critique have to rest on theatre? These days it seems like if a play doesn't have any sociopolitical critique embdedded in its subtext then it is "not a good play."

It's great to have that happening there, as he says, a great play works on many levels, but the medium we are working in is theatre. It's different from other art forms. Audience is inherent in the theatre. And box office is inherent. And shared experience is inherent.

In fact, if we make entertaining work that people genuinely ENJOY going to and weave interesting ideas and social critique through an entertaining narrative, then we have the kind of theatre that Shakespeare was writing, and the Greeks were writing --

The entertainment is at the heart of the event, which Shakespeare and the Greeks and mostly everyone pre 20th century understood. But the idea is to stop demonizing "entertainment" for some krazy notion that the theatre should be about "ideas." Who made that rule in the first place?

So it's not simple about "Don't bore people. "

It's about the point of attack.

Malachy Walsh said...

I don't know anyone who sets out to write a play that's boring.

I don't know anyone who sets out to produce play that's boring.

I don't know anyone who sets out to direct a play that's boring.

I don't know anyone who set out to act in a play in order to make it boring.

If you know such people, you should post their names so we can stop them from getting near a theatre.

We'll put up barricades that say "You Shall Not Bore Us."

And while I agree with many of the things Anthony says (and I read this "pretty long" article all the way to the end) - and that Matt says here, too - how can anyone actually disagree?

Which is the point of my attack.

Finally, I don't see any lack of entertainment - pure, simple entertainment - on the boards. There are plenty of long running shows on Broadway and Off-Broadway that clearly entertain by doing what theatre does best - creating live moments.

Nothing museum like about WICKED or MAMMA MIA or a show like BEACH BLANKET BABYLON in SF.

Or to put all this in a more positive way: You can only make what's interesting to you and then hope it's interesting to others.

Anyone applying any rules like "Don't Bore People" are simply pushing their own agenda of what they find interesting.

splattworks said...

Is it just me or have there been dozens of articles, web posts, etc. of late defining what theatre is or should be or trying to determine the source of a perceived malaise in the theatre community? Maybe it's the economy, but it seems like I can't pull up the Internet without confronting another "what's wrong with theatre today" article...which usually contradicts the one I've just read.


Adam said...


okay, but if people are being bored by it, you can up the stakes, you can make it funnier, you can cut the parts that are putting people to sleep. Not every play is for every person but there is a difference I think between being bored by something and disliking it. Or there is if a play has action.

Malachy Walsh said...

I agree with you Adam.

And I've written a few plays that seem to get people very upset. But so far, boring is not something I've heard used as a descriptor for any of them.

But I'm sure someone was bored, somewhere during the shows.

Should I change it for them? How many people would have to be bored before I should? What if those changes make me bored?

Ultimately, I really don't know how you'd know with any certainty if you've made a good decision based on any reaction other than your own. Because one day, it's wonderful, but the next night, it might not be.

Just ask people doing Rep work.

And, yes, we all want to write/do/make interesting theatre. But advice like, "Don't be boring" is really about as helpful as saying, "Just write better."

All I can say is, Sure. You bet. I'll get right on that.

I like the quote you posted a few days ago:

"At the end of the day, I think producers, like Mr. Rudin, and artists, like Duncan Sheik and Lin-Manuel Miranda, achieve success by pursuing their own visions, and not by trying to conform to someone else’s idea of what makes a good movie or musical. For those of you who are sitting down at the piano for the first time or who are contemplating a career as a producer, I would encourage you to do the same."

RLewis said...

You can bore some of the people all of the time; you can bore all of the people some of the time; but you can't bore all of the people all of the time.

ok, so I bet you get the opposite point. This article takes an objective approach to a subjective question, and it really just gets us nowhere but a few days later.