Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Acting in 3-D- Beware of flying chairs!

Theater lovers should be amused by an article in The NY Times today about the headaches Hollywood faces with its 3-D agenda: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/12/business/media/12film.html?ref=technology

Here's the deal; movies are dying because everyone wants to stay at home. Hollywood is making this big bet on 3-D to offer a big enough spectacle to inspire people to get off the sofa.
Sound familiar? It's an old story. Theater began losing audiences to movies, then TV. So Broadway pumped up the spectacle ... the chandeleirs, helicopters, ocean liners. Now when some actor at The Looking Glass convinces Aunt Martha to come see her show, Aunt Martha wonders, "Where's the boat?" Off and Off Off Broadway still have to compete with this expectation of some sort of spectacle ... a helicopter or a movie star.

Now Hollywood is FINALLY facing the same sort of threat. We're all turning into those tubs of lard in Wall-E. People don't want to get off the sofa.

Plus, of course, we're dealing with this weird thing called "culture." Be honest; back when it was only the so-called "high arts" that had to worry about apathy, weren't you kind of thinking, "Well, you know, I have to admit I'd rather see Raiders of The Lost Ark than an opera"? But now, shock of shocks, watching a narrative sequence acted by human beings is "culture," it's old fashioned, and increasingly requires specialized education about what you're supposed to think and feel ... in the same way that you have to "develop a taste" for opera or theater. Researchers are finding that if you ask a tween "would you rather watch a movie or do stuff on the internet?" the latter wins hands down.

But think about Hollywood's solution: expensive, high tech 3-D. Meanwhile, what is theater? Isn't a live play the ultimate 3-D movie? You know, think of the hours of design and programing it takes to make someone feel as though an object is zooming right at her. Hey, an actor can just pick up a book or chair and lob it right out there.

Maybe someone should develop a play, maybe just an abbreviated Shakespeare show, as "The Ultimate 3D movie" ... work out the whole thing as though it really is the end result of years of production at PIXAR just to "create the illusion" of human beings on a stage, you know, "acting."

Happy 2009!
Hope to see you at "The Glass" this year...

1 comment:

  1. Good point about the theater's competitive advantage vis-a-vis film. To leverage that advantage, I think, theaterowners and producers need to stage plays that both have a real sense of emotional immediacy - drawing viewers right upstage, as it were, making them feel part of the action - and also make good use of the theater's inherently and obvious artificial character. Your play "Cardboard Moon" did a great job of this, with the "play" part doing the first part, and the song sequences the second.