Thursday, September 27, 2012

Just Outside Redemption by Dennis Bailey, Theatre en Bloc at the City Theatre, September 14 - 30

Just Outside Redemption

by Michael Meigs

In his current All Over Creation essay in the Austin Chronicle Robert Faires muses over the moral dilemma you face when your theatre friends come to you after a performance you didn't particularly care for and expectantly await your reaction. Faires has been on both sides of that dilemma, for in addition to his roles as a reviewer, critic and arts writer he's an actor and a director, opening his staging of the comedy Moonlight and Magnolias for Penfold Theatre next week.

The opening paragraph above might make the Theatre en Bloc folks flinch, but please be reassured, everyone. That's not where I'm going with this. What intrigued me about Faires' meditation wasn't the dilemma he discusses but rather the reason that it occurs at all.

What I've learned through four years of theatre reviewing in Austin is that live theatre is community, whether it's happening on the polished and ever-better-financed stages of the Zach where they changed the logo last year to include the motto "Austin's Theatre" or at the "seat-of-the-pants" productions like Chris Fontanes' Stage that I reviewed last week. Your response to your performer friend, acquaintance or family member really does matter, because you have bonded with that individual both in the world outside and by participating and witnessing the stage experience. In the best of cases, you've even had the close up and personal experience of making theatre art with that performer somewhere else at some other time, investing yourselves in that common, perhaps communal, perhaps community experience.

That doesn't happen with touring shows or national media. After all, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman probably don't give a rat's ass about what you, personally, think about the Sherlock films from BBC and PBS.

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