This is not the entry I had planed, but after Nora’s post I just have to get into this discussion. 😉
First of all I agree with Nora that, in any theater show, you will always have someone who likes and some one who dislikes what he sees. Though that‘s nothing special, it happens everywhere.
But I disagree with Nora’s views on theater and it’s role. I do not think that theater is some sort of superior art form, that everyone should inspire to.
Why does theater have to be so much more then mere entertainment? You say yourself that “theater is often considered elite and snobbish”.
Why should there not be light and entertaining plays for people to watch? You make it sound like watching a show should be in some way a burden. So, if the audience can just go there and enjoy itself, then obviously something went wrong during the production. A good show doesn’t have to be “heavy stuff”, it can be light and entertaining.
I myself wouldn’t rank theater above entertainment. And I especially wouldn’t throw TV and film on some artistic rubbish heap. Those can just as well be challenging or provocative, maybe even more so than theater. 😉
By implying that theater is somehow superior to movies or tv, you end up with the situation that theater finds itself in today. Less and less people visit theater shows, because theater is “so elite”. And to take the last bit of romance out of this: in the end you’re trying to sell tickets. If you don’t sell any …well that’s also a way of measuring success.
So, the question this basically boils down to is: why or better for whom are we doing this. Are we just “creating art” (to use Wolfgang’s terms) or are we doing this for the audience? And, if we are doing it for the audience, then whom are we trying to reach.
Being grounded in marketing, I would say, you should always keep an eye on your target audience. So, if a show is only suited for the knowledgeable, well-read kind, you’d better hope we find a lot of professors to buy our tickets.
In my view a well-written, well-produced show is one that appeals to every one. It should include subjects and themes that people of all levels can relate to, from easy laughs to intellectual stimulation. A small moment may already be enough. People do spent money and two hours of there time to come and watch your show. I can definitely say for myself, that I wouldn’t go to serbo-croatian play about Weltschmerz and hermeneutic circles (whatever they are^^) if I knew I probably wouldn’t understand most of it.
You should always include something for the “DAZ” (der Dümmste Anzunehmende Zuschauer – the most stupid viewer assumable) or you’ll end up with: “Der DAZ ist raus!” (as a former tutor of mine used to say).