Sunday, March 7, 2010
Show #11 "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" at Theatre NW
I had not seen the original movie upon which this evening's musical comedy was based. So, I came to "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" without any pre-conceived notions about what this story was about and how it all should be performed.
The only thing I heard (and I heard it from many, many people) was that Theatre NW's production was very good. Probably the best thing they have ever done in their 2 seasons of existence as Tacoma's newest professional theatre company.
Having seen most of Theatre NW's shows these past couple of years, I will heartily agree. "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" is an absolute scream.
Last evening was their second to the last performance before concluding a (sadly) poorly attended 3-weekend run at the Theatre On The Square. I am not quite sure why that was, but it is a dirty rotten shame.
Since the closure of the Tacoma Actor's Guild in 2007, Pierce County has been without professional theatre. We have enjoyed the steady presence of some strong community theatre. Occasionally there will be an enterprising group of artists who will endeavor to produce some theatre in alternative spaces, such as parking lots, empty commercial buildings and coffee houses. With only one exception, these groups haven't lasted.
I'm still relatively new to Pierce County. The greater Seattle area has always been my artistic stomping grounds. When I peer into the vibrant arts scene in King County, I see what Tacoma artists only dream of.
I see a city where performance spaces of all shapes and sizes abound. I see a place where I think nothing of climbing a staircase of a third floor walk-up into a room furnished with garage-sale furniture for audience seating and a simple platform for a stage. Lighting effects are switches on the wall that turn on overhead lighting, just like in your kitchen at home. Sound is piped in from a large boom box in the back of the room. But the show? Fantastic work from dedicated actors willing to take risks to present something new and different....and loving every minute of it.
I also see a city where I enjoy professional theatre by such fine companies as the Seattle Repertory Theatre, ACT, Intiman Theatre and the Seattle Children's Theatre.
I hope Theatre NW and the dream of professional theatre in Tacoma doesn't die. The performance I attended last night was almost full, but I suspect many of those folks were using comp tickets. "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" did not sell well at all, so the theatre was "papering the house" for the final weekend.
But, I also hope that "alternate theatre" is planted and begins to grow in Tacoma. I know there is a place, even in these tough economic times, for cutting edge theatre that goes beyond the usual Neil Simon, William Shakespeare and British farce that is offered elsewhere.
In the light of the poor attendance (despite glowing reviews from both the media and audience) suffered by Theatre NW, I know artists will be reluctant to step onto a new path. But, the ironic thing is this: during economic hardship, sometimes that is the best time to risk a new venture. Doors are closing all around us. But that might be the ideal time to open a new door.
I just read an article that noted that during economic downturns, like the Great Depression, movie attendance goes up. If this is true of movies, why not live theatre?
One does not fail because you tried and it didn't work. One only fails when you quit trying.
Please, Theatre NW, keep on trying. And to all the rest of us artists in Tacoma, please START trying. We're in this together, and our audience is out there. We just have to keep on wooing them.
Graphics courtesy of Theatre Northwest