With that said, I believe times are darkening for SW Washington theater scene. Several theaters (Clark and Serendipity come to mind) have chosen to offer "edgier" material and have ceased producing musicals.
I, for one, find this both disturbing and disappointing. I am sure many of you are with me in this sentiment.
It is not that I feel there isn't a place for darker, deviant and dirtier drama; I just don't think Vancouver desires a steady diet of that kind of thing. And I don't think it will sustain tickets in this market.
"Fair is foul, and foul is fair"
I have been informed that many of Clark's long-time season ticket holders are not happy with the direction that Gene Biby has taken the college's theater department and that some have even walked out. I have also heard that he thinks this will turn around as he presents plays that will attract more of the student population (rather than the gray haired supporters). Probably not.
While this is hearsay [anonymous sources], I daresay that Vancouver theater goers are, perhaps, more conservative than Biby thinks they are. Those of the liberal ilk in this neck of the woods just aren't the theater going kind. Personally, I'd like to see Biby go away, but since he's up for tenure this September it likely won't happen. I hate to see him tear down what Dan Anderson took so long to build from nothing. You can't make us swallow what we think smells bad.
Furthermore, Tony Broom and the board of Serendipity have also regularly chosen material that offends and they, too, have had walk outs. Some of their productions have not been well attended (and they only have forty seats) and they wonder why. It certainly isn't for lack of quality or talent!
I Tell You Why
If a theater company wants to sell tickets they must, at least to some degree, sell out on their agenda. All profitable theater companies know that if you want to keep your doors open you offer what the public wants three times out of four. The fourth show you can produce "for the sake of your art" (or your agenda) if you're willing to take the hit at the box office.
Finally, we all know that musicals are expensive to produce. But we also know that people love them (I do). Why? I think that we love to come away from the theater with a song in our heart and joy in our soul. We want to feel good and musicals supply that. We go to escape the grit and grim we must endure around us.
Theater companies do tend to come and go here (regardless of their offering) and I believe we are going to see a few more disappear before long. I know this is partly because the City and public at large aren't that big on the performing arts. Which is all the more reason to make sure we are appealing to those that do.
By Gregory E. Zschomler