Through a Caffeine Haze: Live Art as Consumption

I’ve started writing a blog or two on the website for the theatre company I’m Artistic Director of, Theatre Unleashed. The link is here, but I’ll be posting them here as well.

Friday, September 26, 2008…

Anifty graphic for a show that's no longer...

A nifty graphic for a show that's no longer...

There’s an excitement that builds when a film is coming out that you really want to see. Weeks in advance you find yourself not being able to wait for that opening night. Personally I avoid trailers, especially tv advertisements as crucial plot points and action scenes are thrown at you before you realize what’s happening. I want to experience those films the way a director or writer wanted me to, for the first time. But when you see the film, unless it was a masterpiece, the excitement goes away – the experience is ultimately fleeting. You may talk about it for a day or two, but suddenly the next big film is on your radar and you’ve forgotten the name of the movie you just saw as as you try to tell your friend how great it was.

That’s what being a consumer is all about. On to the next new thing full speed ahead! It’s enjoyable, on occasion even life changing, but you always have to move on to consume what will hopefully be the next life altering moment…when normally it turns out being My Super Ex-Girlfriend.

Now allow me to confess to you how much more gratifying it is to be the one to help create that next piece of art or entertainment. It’s a little scary, because you never know if it’s going to be life changing for the audience. You can only hope that the thing you set out to do will somehow make their life a little better for a short period of time. It becomes all about sharing an experience, rather than consuming an experience (which by definition is more selfish).

It was incredibly gratifying when I watched the actors of Through a Caffeine Haze mingle with the audience, that had been sitting no more than 4 feet away, after they performed in a coffee shop this last Tuesday, and the many performances before. To create something with a group of people for the enjoyment of another group of people in a space that wasn’t separated by a curtain, or a 7 foot drop off, or blinding lights and seats in the dark…it truly inspired me to continue doing things of this nature in the fuure. Enjoying the aftermath of this shared experience, not trumped up by explosions or special effects, but by simple human emotions happening so close to the audience that they could see the nuances of every performance, hear the strum of every chord on the guitar, not amplified for their listening pleasure, and experience art as if it were actually happening in front of them.

It doesn’t matter how much money was made, or who does or doesn’t come to the next show, but that while they were there — they loved it. And the actors were so close they could feel that energy coming back. It was intimate, it was honest, it was refreshing.

I don’t care who you are. The most certain way for art to stay with you as a person isn’t to go to the movies or watch a television show, but to create it an experience that can be shared. It’s an experience that I will take with me, and it’s an experience that I hope our company can recreate for the public time and time again.

There’s no point only putting up shows in a theatre space and waiting for people to pay $20 to come see you. Take it to them. This is something I’ll continue to explore as an idea — art is free, entertainment costs. This was a success for Theatre Unleashed, and while only a minor success for the theatre and film scene in LA, it might get some heads turning and some brains rolling. Let’s hope.

Phillip Kelly, Artistic Director

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