The Revolution in Turnaround

As a committed (re: otherwise unemployable) theatre artist, I can say with confidence the money’s in TV and film. People ask me why I don’t work in those mediums, and my standard line is that, yeah, you make the money, but you spend it all on shrink bills. Actually, in theatre, you have more control of your words, working live is fun and vibrant, there’s more latitude for weirdness, and your colleagues treat you with respect (sometimes embarrassingly so) rather than as the janitor.

Mostly though, Hollywood scares the shit out of me.

So I’m neither a member of the Writers Guild of America nor on strike. I’m a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, which is kind of like being a Democrat–not being a member of an organized group.*

I have friends in the film industry, and I’m worried about them: this strike looks to be a tough, protracted one. And I know shows like “Law and Order,” “CSI,” and “Gray’s Anatomy” keep a lot of playwrights afloat.

But I can’t help wondering what the strike means for theatre, particularly if it lasts into next year. People will certainly spend the winter catching up on DVDs they’ve meant to watch, but, at a certain point, could their hungry minds be turned to…the stage?

It won’t affect the programming of full-season theatres, which plan a year or two ahead, but it might affect rough-and-tumble indie theatres, whose ticket prices are closer to first-run movies. Could this be a golden opportunity for new, adventurous theatre companies doing new, adventurous plays, building a whole new audience from dedicated moviegoers who never realized theatre could be so dynamic and well done? Could it, in short, mark the beginning of a bold new age, a theatrical renaissance for new works and writers? A time we will all look back upon with gleaming eyes and churning hearts? Could it? Just maybe?

Nah.


*A cheap and easy joke, stolen from Will Rogers; I’m actually very fond of the Guild; they’ve been very good to me and do wonderful things. Still applies to the Democrats, however.

About Steve Patterson

Steve Patterson has written over 50 plays, with works staged in Portland, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Austin, Tampa, and other U.S. cities as well as in Canada and New Zealand. His works include: Waiting on Sean Flynn, Next of Kin, Farmhouse, Malaria, Shelter, Altered States of America, The Continuing Adventures of Mr. Grandamnus, Bluer Than Midnight, Bombardment, Dead of Winter, and Delusion of Darkness. In 2006, his bittersweet Lost Wavelengths was a mainstage selection at Portland Center Stage's JAW/West festival, and, in 2008, won the Oregon Book Award (he also was an OBA finalist in 1992 and 2002). In 1997, he won the inaugural Portland Civic Theatre Guild Fellowship for his play Turquoise and Obsidian. View all posts by Steve Patterson

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