By Alexi Siegel
Art is always happening. As sure as the beating hearts of every living person on this planet, every second of every day the pulsating life of art keeps on keeping on. If there is a problem with a heart you determine the cause and then take the necessary steps to fix it. With theatre, subjectivity runs rampant and finding ways to improve the craft is a lot more difficult than simply changing your diet to Cheerios in the morning.
The continuation of the craft requires that it is constantly improving and evolving, which can only happen if we know what is wrong. Too often, people leave the theatre, talk briefly about whether they enjoyed the production or not, and then go about their daily life without a second glance back. Conversations are limited to sentences that start by saying “I love” or “I hated” and ending with a generic stamp that states the quality of the production because audiences aren’t taught by the theatre on how to discuss it. These conversations do little to further the art form, since they do not go further than a surface analysis of the play. Worse yet, unless the audience member happens to run into an actor from the show on the street and is able to get up enough courage to speak to them, the actor will never hear their feedback.
This is a common issue with theatre and something I found issue with at KCACTF this year. While KCACTF offers many wonderful opportunities for theatre artists to collaborate and learn with one another, the ball was dropped when it came to discussing the productions themselves. A show might have started a conversation, but then was not allowed to be a part of it and that did no one any good. While KCACTF hosted response sessions for the invited productions, these were the day after the show occurred and the only people that really talked or gave their opinions were KCACTF respondents and the only attendees were the cast and crew.
I think the entire conference would benefit from talkbacks or discussions after each production. Artists from the audience as well as in the production itself could ask questions and discuss in which aspects the show worked or did not. If formatted properly, these sessions would become another learning experience for everyone involved. The audience could learn about the production’s process and the cast could learn about how their choices read to their audience.
Theatre is in the hearts of everyone attending KCACTF this week and its continued success relies on our ability to collaborate and grow with one another.