If a tree falls in the woods . . .

You know how this cliche ends, so I’ll spare you.  But here’s my version:

If a show is produced, and no one sees it, is it any good?

My answer?  No.

A book needs a reader.

A steak needs someone to eat it (sorry, my vegan friends).

And a show needs someone to see it.

Recently, I questioned an author about whether he thought people would want to see what he had written.  If he thought people would have an experience at his show that they could somehow relate to and that would move them.

The response went something like this . . .

“I don’t know, and I don’t really care.  I didn’t write this for them.  This is my play and if people don’t like it or don’t get it, well that’s too bad for them.”

Too bad for him, actually, because I don’t know anyone that would produce a play commercially without thinking about whether it’s going to touch an audience.

Theater is like kindergarten.  The first lesson we should learn, before ABCs and 123s, is sharing.  If you don’t share with your audience, you’ll be like that kid who ate paste.  No one is going to want to play with you.  And your mouth will be stuck together and you won’t have a voice anyway.

Writing without thinking about your audience is just selfish and stroking your own ego.

You can do it, and if that’s what you want, then go for it.  More power to you.

But don’t come whining to me when you’re the only one in the audience.

What is the sound of one playwright clapping?

  • Oh Ken,
    It drives me *crazy* when playwrights say things like that. It’s seriously the most selfish thing a writer could ever truly believe and shows such disrespect for craft and audience. I also think it’s a subconscious excuse on the writer’s part not to do the hard work of writing plays that are artistic, clear– and can also move an audience.
    In my opinion, if you’re not thinking about audience at all, if this play is truly just for you, then you’re not a good storyteller.

  • Nick Cavarra says:

    Amen to this one, Ken. However I think you really have to drive home the caveat of an author attracting “commercial” producers. I am certainly not the exception, and would not produce something that I didn’t think had the potential to “touch” an audience or “give them an experience.” But I do represent a piece, Richard Cory, (written by A.R. Gurney and Ed Dixon, both of whom are not slouches) that gives audiences an incredible experience. So much so that it won the Audience Award at the NYMF festival in 2005. But because it is not a “commercial” piece but rather a very thoughtful piece with an ending that is not upbeat, I have faced nothing but a challenge in getting it into the commercial world. Unfortunate because this is a piece that really does “need” to be seen. The only solution I can think of is where is that “national” theater at Lincoln Center that could do shows regardless of commercial returns? Hey, I’m like the next guy, I’d love to produce the next Wicked, but there really should be a place where “thoughtful” work could be seen. It’s tough out there except for Disney, and until that changes, we’re going to be seeing a lot more of Tarzans, Mermaids and probably spotted dogs, before we see something that might just change the way you thought before you entered the theater.
    Keep up the good work with your blog. Enjoy it.
    Nick Cavarra

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