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Theatrical musings

For this entry, I find myself at something of a personal cooling period before my annual push to get a play ready for the high school. So, I’ll use this space to remind you of upcoming events, as well as a theatrical musing that’s currently on my mind.

So, to recap, in case you haven’t marked your calendars already:
You have two more musicals this season. After seeing “Fiddler on the Roof” at Sheridan High School at the end of February, these other two musicals have some big shoes to fill. I once played a character that claimed that the two most beautiful words in the English language are “musical comedy.” The CTG is presenting “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” at the WYO Theater (it opens this weekend – get your tickets!). Charles Schulz’ Peanuts characters leap into live 3D, all played by adults — several of Sheridan’s favorite actors, along with a few new ones. Sheridan College’s No Frills Theater has presented “Charlie Brown” in the past, but now they’ve set their sights on Sondheim’s classic musical comedy, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” Keyword here: “Funny.” If you’re looking for a good laugh — or several — this one’s for you. This will also be presented at the WYO Theater, for one weekend only: April 11-13. I’ve had the opportunity to work with many of the “Forum” cast members as we prepare a new improvisational comedy format (news to come). Take it from me — these students can deliver on comedy.

Rounding out the season is the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Margaret Edson, “Wit.”
This production also opens Aprill 11, but will be performed at the Carriage House Theater for three consecutive weekends. I really can’t wait for this production. It’s not that I’m so into schadenfreude that I’m looking forward to watching a cancer patient go through the final days of her life, which is the central plot. Rather, I’m interested in watching a new and uncomfortable concept come to life.
In my opinion, some of the best plays address the uncomfortable facets of humanity, particularly those that are difficult to discuss. Putting them on the stage makes these concepts much more difficult to ignore. And, here comes the theatrical musing part.
I often wonder how a play gets to become a favorite. Not a classic, but a favorite. Perhaps a personal semantic distinction would be appropriate.
To me, a classic is a work that addresses a greater truth of humanity; a work that remains relatively pertinent throughout the ages. A favorite is a play that remains popular for a significant amount of time due to its entertainment value, but may or may not really speak to anything significant.
I’m not planning to answer the question about what makes a play a favorite or what a play’s stress test might be. This topic often comes to mind when a director or a theatre company is planning a show or a season: what will people like, and what can we ask them to give a shot.
I’ve been quite impressed with the Sheridan audience’s ability to give a play a chance.
I’ve also been impressed with the audience’s ability to remember when a play was enjoyed, so much so that they will attend the play when it is produced again.
That kind of faith may be the stress test. Seeing a new production of a play is not like plugging in a favorite DVD and noticing things previously unnoticed.
It is a completely new company bringing a completely new twist and interpretation to the play in question. Perhaps it is the success of that new production that determines its status as a favorite.
As I wrote earlier, I didn’t plan to come to a definitive resolution about what makes a play a favorite.
I’d like to again thank you, the audiences for giving all our plays a chance, and hopefully, we can create something you’d like to see again and again.
See you at intermission!

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Tom Cotton

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