Friday, June 18, 2010

What You Won't get at a Grassroots Show

Has the following ever happened to you?
You pay an exorbitant amount of money for a little slip of paper. On this little slip of paper is the written the location of a single seat in which you must sit for several hours. It's sort of like timeout, except you are expected to come dressed up. A man takes the little piece of paper you just paid a lot of money for, and he tears it in half. You go and sit in your timeout seat and they turn off the lights. You sit in the dark and think about what it is you've done to deserve this. Then, a group of people appear in some light at the distant end of the room. Sometimes it's hard to see them because they're so far away. They pretend to be somewhere else. They pretend like you don't exist and will ignore you if you try to speak up. They also expect you to be totally silent and not to cough or shift in your seat because it will distract their delicate pretending. They will also expect you to pretend like you're not there either. (At this point everyone is pretending they're not there. Or at least wishing they were somewhere else) Then, the lights will come up again for a bit, and you will be allowed to wait in line to use the restroom and spend four times the normal price for junk food. But you must be quick about it, or they might not let you back into the dark room. Also, if you lose your ripped up paper slip, you might not get back in. But if you do, you'll get to sit quietly in your special seat again, until the people up front are done pretending to be somewhere else and finally choose to acknowledge you. They'll bend at the waist and expect you to show your admiration and gratitude by slapping your palms together like a walrus.  They may run on and off their platform several times, or hide behind some velvet fabric that comes up and down from the ceiling until all the people in the room are done acting like walruses. Then, if you're really lucky, as you're leaving you'll have the opportunity to pay fifty bucks for a t-shirt with the special people's faces on them. The pretenders will pretend the same thing in exactly the same way every night for years on end and will ignore the watchers in exactly the same way. If you pay money to come to timeout again, you will probably see nearly the same thing every time. 
Yes. This is bad theatre. Theatre that is dead. That has lost any semblance of being responsive or sensitive to the audience. Is all modern theatre like this? Of course not! We love theatre of all kinds, shapes, and types! Sometimes we even like the above experience! But at the same time we realize that this sort of an experience is pretty weird when you think about it.
We promise that when you come see a Grassroots show, you'll probably be in for a pleasant surprise as to how something so crappy and low budget can be so entertaining at the same time.
Our idea of the word "Play" might be a little different:
We show up at the park. Or the festival. (where else but the park if you're going out to play?)  We set up a makeshift stage. It looks a little funny, and people walk by and ask us what on earth we're doing. We invite them to stick around and find out. We come out wearing things we found in our closets or bought at DI. We've spent the absolute minimum time we possibly could in rehearsing the show. It appears to be a nightmare. But people like watching a train wreck. Or at least they're fascinated by the potential of one. So they stick around and watch for a minute. Dan is wearing a dress and a wig. He comes out plays the accordion. He teaches everyone a song. We talk to the audience and are sure to let them know that they can actually throw rotten fruit at us if they don't like the show. They laugh, but they're still afraid/intrigued by our yardsale appearance. Things progress from there and the rest is magic. Our shoddily clothed actors are beneath their makeshift trappings master showmen. They are equipped with a lightning fast one-hour cutting of one of Shakespeare's greatest works and they know how to use it. They speak directly to the audience members. They walk in and out of the crowd. The audience speaks back. They listen. They respond! We all laugh. We tell a story together and then we dance a jig. No one has paid a dime because we'd do it whether we had the money or not, but we ask the audience to contribute a dollar or two after the show because with a little padding in our pockets we're able to play a little more. And they do. Our audiences are incredibly generous in support both fiscal and non. We couldn't be happier.
So what are you waiting for!? Come on out and play with us!

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