Thursday, August 17, 2006

The State of Knoxville Theatre

As many of you likely saw, The Baron Von Wasteland posted this comment in thank you, five's recent KATC poll:

NO Awards

The thought of the KATC awards staggering back to life is ridiculous.

The greatest impediment to theatre anywhere in the US is a distinct lack of respect for the purpose of theatre. The act of a performance must arouse the ineffable feeling of connection and moment that has remained unchanged since the greeks invented theatre as a way to connect to this heightened consciousness. A feeling so important they called it "the god"(Dionysus).

Most American actors are on stage for one thing: personal vanity. the proof of this vanity is easily seen by most actors actions. Actors do not cooperate or work together, they do not seek to bring truth or integrity to their performance, and they refuse to get far enough beyond their own fears to reach that point of connection when they seem witnesses to their performances rather than the authors of their performances.

Thus shows are dull, inept, and unispired. There is no semblence of art in what is on stage. It all, to paraphrase The Bard, "signifies nothing."

With all this in mind, the thought of an additional source of potential narcissism, the KATC awards, is the LAST thing this town needs to improve theatre. The reason all the infighting and pointless intrigues associated with the former KATCs occured was presisely because no one involved understood or respected what's truly important about theatre. Anyone who did understand what's important likely ignored the KATCs or just didn't participate.

So forget it. It you want accolades buy yourself a trophy and keep your self-adoration TO YOUR SELF. If you want to improve local theatre, and increase interest in same, get off your self-reverential ass, leave your ego at the door, and go create something worthy of the god.

(KATC, for those of you still wondering, stood for the Knoxville Area Theatre Coalition, a group whose main function was to deliver the KATC awards once a year in a drunken, Oscar-ly fashion.)

Okay, kids, let's discuss. The Baron does a LOT of generalizing here.

"Actors do not cooperate or work together." I find this ridiculous. If we don't work together, the play doesn't come together. I've rarely come across the actor who refuses to cooperate because his ego won't allow him to move from stage center. The directors in this town -- even the ones plying their trades in community theatre-land -- are smarter than to let egotistical buffoons trainwreck their shows.

"They do not seek to bring truth or integrity to their performance." Because we don't want the audience to believe us? And what about the director of the show? Did he not cast us because we showed some semblance of the truth that he and the audience are after?

"And they refuse to get far enough beyond their own fears to reach that point of connection." Is the Baron only watching high school theatre by night and Passions by day? I have seen many a fearless performance in this town. I have seen audiences weep openly at the connections they are experiencing. Is the Baron perhaps refusing to go beyond his own fears of connecting with the human beings he is watching? Or does the Baron only connect to ancient, translated Greek tragedy?

I would like to assert my belief that there are a lot of people doing theatre in this town for the sake of the art. Yes, some of them are doing it because they didn't get enough love in their childhoods. However, it is in my experience that, in the end, the love of the craft outweighs the love of the self. I've seen some amazing theatre in this town. Surely I'm not the only person who has been moved. Let me give a damn award to the people that moved me.


Anonymous KissMeBlack said...

High Fives.

8:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen brother

3:46 PM  
Blogger glasshole said...

Good show, indeed.

5:39 PM  
Blogger E.M. Green said...

From up high in the balconies waves homemade concert style poster sign (with glitter) written "Sing It, Brotha!" in illegible bubble letters.

Foam wig falls off.

"Noooo! My identity!"

Fade out.

6:27 PM  
Blogger Truscott said...

It was my experience that the KATC awards went undetected by Knoxville, other than the people nominated, as there were basically no other people in attendance. It was a party that usually held in attendance the nominees, the key figures of all the local theatres and artists. There really weren't many theatre viewers there ever that I could tell. If you were nominated, which I had been more than once, you were in control of how much meaning it had. I'd say that for most nominees that won, it became more important to them, and those who lost, brushed it off...after all it was just a KATC award. My point is that an award doesn't make someone a narcissist. They were either already that way or not.

The negative side of the KATCs in my opinion was the system of the awards. The panel could or wouldn't watch all the plays, so things got overlooked sometimes. Also, the votes were sometimes counted by nominees which seems sketchy to me. Also the manner in which people voted was sorta hard to keep fair. In other words people won sometimes that just plain didn't deserve it or at least not as much as others.

The positive side of the KATCs was that it was an annual meet and greet for all the theatre people in Knoxville, or at least a lot of them. It brought everyone together to celebrate the year in theatre, as well as form bonds with people you hadn't worked with.

In response to the argument of the awards being detrimental to the artistic integrity and blooming potential of theatre in Knoxville, I can only say that the awards would neither help nor harm the quality of the show themselves, or the quality of the artist that act in them, design them, direct them, or run them. It is a false argument. It can neither be proved or disproved, and it therefor lacks relevance. I do see the point that is being attempted and I do not disagree that there is often much left to be desired in the plays done here in Knoxville, TN. and I whole heartedly agree that theatre does have a function and porpose beyond entertainment. I also agree that a true actor has a great deal of responsibility. However, there is a reciprical sembience with the actor and audience that must also be considered. I saw it summed up once on a proscenium arch in a theatre in chicago. It read, "You yourself must light the torches which you have brought".

I think that this blog is a good thing and it is good to hear different views and opinions that are beginning to surface. It is important to respect and understand the perspectives of others, or we won't truely understand our own. However, i do reserve the right to chide one's delivery. "It is foolish to divide people as 'Good' or 'Bad', people are either charming or tedious." -Oscar Wilde

In closing, I would be in favor of an annual celebration of the year in Knoxville Theatre. if there are awards, so be it.

3:19 PM  
Anonymous Sara said...

I'm alittle confused...

Yes, I know that The Baron made vast, sweeping, baseless generalizations about local actors & theatre, but I can't help taking his comments straight to my apparantly artless and fame-seeking heart.

After all, I have shared my stage with The Baron and often been on the receiving end of his now meaningless compliments. I have also heard him give praise to several other performers in our midst on more than one occasion. (As an egomaniacal actor/singer, I notice these things.)

What am I to do, then, with this new information about how he really feels about local actors--many of whom he calls his friends?

Is this a change of opinion, or has he always felt this way but told his friends otherwise?

Doesn't he realize that he's totally off the mark? None of us perform to satisfy our own needs--he should know that by now. Screw "ars gratia artis"!

I guess I thought it was obvious that we only go onstage to satisfy The Baron's needs!

Silly me...I'll try to make that more clear the next time The Baron wants to share the stage with me.

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow - I hate to be late to the camp where there is fire to be fueled.

I will say that Dennis didn't seem to target local actors and theatres specifically, he took on the entire nation.

I don't have anything to say about that. Well, except this: theatre, generally, is an art that suffers in our country - and in most other places too. Yet that problem is a manifold one and so too is the source of the problem.

We can easily target actors, but we must not forget directors, producers, producing entities, and the economics of theatre (money, time, resources): all of which contribute to the many compromises that we have all made and in which we have all participated.

I suspect that the vitriol of the post in question was related to the timing of the primary question: should we resurrect the KATC and its eponymous awards?

While I can't and don't follow Dennis' reasoning, I do, at the moment, agree with his conclusion.

It's not that I think that a celebration of our efforts is a bad thing. On the contrary - I think it would be a great opportunity to promote our work and encourage us to better our production. Nevertheless, the idea is unmanageable.

To attain valdity, any such award process requires objectivity and consistency. It requires an unbiased pool of ajudicators who will see every production eligible for nomination and judge it on its individual merits.

The idea demands an independant body - otherwise, it retains the stink of cronyism, favoritism, popularity contest, and questionable judgement.

Oops - I think I just described the bulk of national awards shows. Still, even the Emmy changed its process this year. Nominations for major categories are referred to a panel that votes only after reviewing the nominated shows and episodes.

Of course, we don't have the advantage of video playback.

If the suggestion for a local award for theatre is made in earnest, the I suggest that we consider the way that the Joseph Jefferson awards are handled in Chicago. (DISCLAIMER: I have one of those awards - but I don't got no trophy as I had to share the award with an ensemble.)

I have to attend to my roasted tomatoes or else I would describe the process in deatil. In short, a panel of judges (selected for membership by interview - oral and written) sees every eligible show. They vote to recommend the show or not. If recommended, the larger body attends the show and, thus, all can cast informed votes when comes the time for final nominations and subsequent awards.

Without an honest and independant process, a local awards show would be meaningless at best and divisive at worst.

-Dennis Perkins

8:20 PM  

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