Monday, December 30, 2013

Honey or Sour Grapes

The Director's Notes Blog has been silent for most of 2013. 

The main reason is the Blog's decision that if there is nothing positive to say then keep quite. I've been told one attracts more bees with honey and not with sour grapes (Although I've seen yellow jackets dive and dunk into numerous glasses of wine that's been left out for a day). 

So,  for the past year DNB has bitten its lip for the sake of playing nice instead of posting some sort of gripe or concern about how fucked up the Buffalo theater's status quo is. 

Until I recently read an article by The Buffalo News resident theater critic, Colin Dabkowski entitled "Gusto Looks Back at 2013" in which DNB's favorite agenda journalist writes about how the theater scene has seen rapid growth but has seen a downgrade in production values mainly due to a diluted talent pool. 

Dabkowski's post has me scratching my head in wonderment into what he is tying to get at?

Clearly,  he makes a general statement that the talent pool is supposedly diluted because of the increasing amount of theater companies in town. Adding that the addition of Lazarus Arena, "The region’s greatest opportunity for creative collaboration and audience building (710 Main Street)" has "buzzed to life in the past year but has understandably not yet realized potential. It has, however, hosted excellent local productions for the first time since 2008, including Road Less Traveled Productions’ Circle Mirror Transformation and Clybourne Park."

Uh huh. 710, through Rod Less Traveled, has perserved the diversity and theatrical integrity of Buffalo theater, but has not reached its "full potential" after spending 2.1 million to raise the dead? 

Colin Dabkowski has not seen every theatrical production. He reviews shows he finds personally engaging, high-profile, or seemingly needs to dissect for public humiliation. He has missed several well-done productions done by lesser-known and newly established companies. 

Dabkowski even admits to using a Buffalo News colleague to provide insight into other productions he has not seen. "...he saw many more attempts at original or innovative productions from new and established companies, and that he took this as a positive step whether or not they came off perfectly." 

As a result, Dabkowski has not seen the complete utilizing of young talent who have been capable in their execution of roles. His article refuses to identify that there has been an explosion of new talent on WNY stages because of the increased opportunities. 

Instead, Dabkowski choses to highlight the slipping of quality due to "the region’s buzzing and highly Balkanized scene has continued to add new companies at a rate that belies the current atmosphere of tepid funding and population decline." 

Indicating Buffalo audiences have keen noses for theatrical amateurism, Dabkowski throws around "amateur" as if it is a negative quality. If there is any negative connotations about being an amateur, that can be reserved for the community theater companies who have done more to dilute the talent pool and spread out the entertainment dollar with their populist theater productions. 

One can't wield a "professional" and "amateur"  scale for Buffalo theater. All Buffalo theater companies are, in varying degree, SEMI-PROFESSIONAL, and what separates each company is their budgets. The distinction between what is good theater and bad theater cannot be determined by a misusing the definition of dramatic arts professionalism. 

The discrepancy can only be determined by money, and there is a great budget discrepancy between the established, tenured Buffalo theater companies and those groups who are just starting out or been around for 1o or less years. 

Low budget companies don't have the resources (because grant and government money is mistakenly going to their high-profile peers) to dedicate to production values. Additionally, unlike their predecessors, these type of companies have to pay some sort of rent to produce works. 

As a result, these low-budget companies have to be resourceful in numerous ways including finding unknown or underutilized talent for productions. 

Yet, despite all this, these companies keep producing works. And surprisingly, these productions are better than what one might see in off-Broadway or varying distances away from Broadway productions. 

That's the positive angle you can take from 2013. 

Congrats to the new companies Dabkowski mentions, Raíces Theatre Company fills a niche, Buffalo Public Theatre is utilizing a performance space in need of revitalization and paying rent to maintain it, and a new generation company that casts Buffalo veteran actors. 

Their presence can only add to a great cultural tourist selling point nobody wants to use when pushing the wonderfully diverse dramatic arts scene. That strategy is reserved for the Shea's billboard bombardment or Musicalfare's Randy Kramer's attempts at being the only spokesperson for Buffalo theater. 

Hello status quo.  

Sadly, The Buffalo News does not have a consistent history of being supportive of original or innovative works. And now added is the fact too many theaters are making for amateur productions. 

Respectfully, Colin Dabkowski has been adamant it is not his or his newspaper's  job to sell tickets. True, but there has to be care when an article puts into the public light that the Buffalo theater talent pool is diluted because of too many theaters and therefore production values are "amateur". 

Because that type of article creates an illusion for Buffalo, Western New York and Ontario patrons the only type of theater to attend in the city is what The Buffalo News cites as being "professional", and that measurement is rooted in agenda journalism, school ties and critical cronyism.  

That honeycomb only attracts flys. 

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