Monday, 28 March 2011

Hundreds of amateurs, half empty audiences - why?

The north-east amateur dramatic scene is always busy, as I am sure it is in other areas of the country. However, every society out there has been standing on the stage facing a half-empty audience at some point in their theatre career. It did previously strike me as very odd that the musical dramatic types didn’t band together and help each other out now and again to create allies and a fall-back support net; after two years of experience, this has become mildly infuriating.

All societies are always looking for male members. Always. Bar none. They are quite often also always looking for YOUNG members. Now, within the confines of the Gilbert and Sullivan Societies of the North East at least (though I am sure it applies to a good many others), why cannot the major societies get together sometimes and discuss their show and rehearsal dates? If they could swallow their competitive pride enough for this to happen, we might actually get somewhere. Performances being spaced out around the calendar, without clashing rehearsals, would give anyone who wanted to be involved with more than one society the time to do so without ruining their own lives with incessant rehearsal, thus sharing out the male/young talent pool and preventing the stagnation of unsuitable performers. I am already sufficiently jaded enough to know that this will never happen. But it is nice to consider the possibilities.

The biggest issue I find within the NE societies is support (or lack thereof) for each other’s performances. While at University the creative groups supported each other without much encouragement; the fierce competition between the societies and departments was suspended temporarily in a movement of support and curiosity, resulting in a full audience for those playing. Even if all it meant was that you, the audience member, could be justified in belittling the dramatic efforts of a rival, because you had paid, sat through the show, and earned your opinion. In the NE creative groups might have one or two links with other societies, but by and large will have absolutely nothing to do with one another. Now this is very unfair. Numerous times I have sat through performances which were absolutely piteously ridiculous, in the name of ‘local support’ – but where are the members of their society when the curtain goes up on our shows? Did the local groups ever support one another? This anti-support movement must have started with someone similar minded to myself wondering why they bothered themselves to stew in the cringe worthy boredom of local society events for no return, and giving cause to an uprising against it. Or perhaps way back when these groups were formed it was forbidden to fraternise. Who knows. Perhaps in future I will withhold my support for those who I feel would benefit from it; but how would I ever know who was worth supporting if I didn’t attend the shows?!

Don’t get me wrong, support between some of the G&S groups is quite consistent through the concentrated efforts of some individuals, but between the G&S groups and most of the more mainstream Musicals Groups, virtually nothing exists. The least these people who consider themselves to be at the top of the am-dram/musical food chain could do is ‘Maybe’ attend rather than ‘Not’ attend on Facebook. I mean come on. We all know you are too puffed up with your own self importance to sink to the level of actually coming, but it wouldn’t cost you anything to pretend.

Rant over.

For today at least :)

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