Monday, January 12, 2009

When Broadway Finally Dies...

I hesitate writing this blog, because in many ways it's deeply depressing for me to finally acknowledge the writing on the wall. Back in October of 2008, I wrote this post about the possible impact that the arts could expect from the current economic downturn. While, I discussed the overall potential for the limitation of an earning wage for art driven organizations and the artists themselves, my overall point of that article was to reflect that an artist big picture goal is to serve a community during the most troubled of times.

While, I still believe that philosophy holds the weight of a tidal wave, it's becoming hard out there for one of the most endangered mediums of American Art... Theater.

Broadway is in many ways an institution. The NYC street is not so much a geographical hub of theatrical innovation, but in many ways, it's a symbol of the potential of what theater can be. It's been a measurement of success for actors, artists, playwrights, producers and directors. It is also one of the few places America has, where we can point and say... "Hey, we're culturally relevant." However, if you read the writing on the wall, Theater is dying in America. Broadway's swan song is imminent.

This month Broadway will close some of it's most successful shows, because they simply cannot go on in their current state. Prices are too high, and patrons with available cash are too few. No city in America felt the collapse of investment banking harder than New York. And if they investment bankers are turning to jobs flipping burgers, there isn't a whole lot of folks out there ready to drop $120 bucks on a pair of nosebleeds to see "Wicked". The show model of "Bigger is not only Better, it's more lucrative" has tanked the Big Time Theater Producers much like the SUV tanked the Auto Industry's Big Three. It's their own fault, but none the less the tragedy of it is unfortunate.

For the last several years, Broadway has been the last big justification for artists and craftsman to pursue a career in Theater. Hey, there's money in being a stage actor. Look at Broadway. However, many of us know that's not really true anymore. Money has been slipping away in earnest for several years now. One can only wonder if the dream of walking the stage on the Big White Way, has finally died and future thesbians will now consider becoming... well... accountants.

I feel that the big theatrical production has completely marred what Theater should be. While it would be sad to think that an icon can and will fade, it's also somewhat comforting that we can stop expecting to see productions like "Shrek: The Musical". Perhaps the death of Broadway is a boon for what "real theater" should be about. I have always contended that theater is about community and about creating a center for enlightenment. The small regional theater is really where some interesting things happen and people actual come to theater for the right reason, to connect with their neighbor.

However, in the end what will really suffer as Broadway falters, are the actual Theaters themselves. These epic buildings, without tenants and revenue, will be sold off to developers and probably turned into Grocery Stores or Public Storage. It's just sad that the history will fade away, and be replaced.

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