Tuesday, July 10, 2007


I suppose given the explosive growth of theater in the Lansing area, it should come as no surprise that summers are no longer "down times" for local theater.

Personally I've not seen much theater for the past three weeks, but certainly not because there weren't a lot of options available. I'm sorry that I missed many of the shows that went on in the past few weeks, but I'm not sorry that I've been able to have some down time and mentally recharge.

When I was at the theater critics conference this past year, one of the things that several of the speakers, most notably John Lahr of the New Yorker, had to say was that critics can't burn themselves out by seeing too much theater. He postulated that if you're seeing 100 shows a year, you're not going to be able to be a good critic. There's some truth to that. When do you have time to think about what you've seen when you're seeing three to five shows every week?

Not that I'm seeing quite that many. I saw 90-some shows this past year as well as several other types of performances. Eventually, some of the shows start to blur.

Granted, there are others that still stick out in my mind, in part because they made me think or because I connected with them on a greater than surface level. I wouldn't want all theatrical experiences to be of that level--sometimes I just want to be entertained--but I'm always grateful for shows that take me outside of the norm.

Peppermint Creek's Pillowman certainly did that for me this year. Had I been blogging then, it probably would have gotten several entries because I couldn't stop thinking about it. It was an absolutely stunning production and even the memory of it is heart-wrenching.

I was attracted by Icarus Falling's Fatal Error. It was one of those shows where you have to sit back and trust that it will unravel itself before its over. If you try to figure it out while its in progress, it would be an exercise in frustration. It had its flaws, but it's a show I'd love to see workshopped and done again.

I was also really taken by some shows I saw while in Los Angeles: specifically Kabara Sol and Deaf West's Zoo Story and Krapp's Last Tape. The former is a show I'd love to see done here if a group could find actors skilled in movement and eerie choreography. The lead actress would also have to be extremely talented, but we have many such talents locally and I don't doubt that role could be filled. The Deaf West plays fascinated me because of the way they interpret for the hearing.

In general, I was fascinated by stage movement this year. It's also why I was so delighted by the two shows I saw at The Gate: Once on This Island and The Disconnected. Both of them relied heavily on visual storytelling through movement and body language.

It was also a treat to see the very lush Florencia en el Amazonas at MSU. It was a gorgeous opera with fantastic storytellers singing each part. Even my 9-year-old was mesmerized.

All right, enough meandering. Tomorrow I'll try to write about some of the plays I've seen in the past few weeks: primarily Love Person and the Summer Circle shows.

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