Common Room has entered the internet era! Due to popular demand, Roommates can now pre-purchase tickets online for our upcoming shows. There's an additional $0.50 fee to cover the cost of credit card processing, but knowing your spot is secured? Priceless!
We love the Common Room. And we really love theater. One thing that lets us know this experiment is working is when people buy tickets to our guests' shows after seeing a sneak peek in the Common Room. That's why this comment from our October 1st show made us so happy:
Are your Common Room memories a haze of ecstatic joy? Check out programs for our past shows on our new Program page to remind you what you saw and how you can learn more about those shows and buy tickets.
We're promoting it with our new CUSTOM NAPKINS. Come to the Common Room on November 5th to get one for yourself!
It's not theater if no one shows up. We're launching our new People pages now, where we highlight audience members and performers who make the Common Room possible. To get a page of your own, come to show, leave us your email and snap a picture with our banner! Already did those things? Email us and we'll get on it. Let us know what you think!
Tomorrow Night's Show is a barn-burner! Bring $5 or a person who hasn't seen a play in 6 months and get warmly caressed by:
- A Scene from The Seagull
Every play in Chicago right now
Thanks so much to everyone who came out to our second pilot performance last night! Also huge thanks to Sadie Rogers from Sadie and the Stark and Brianna Baker who performed excerpts of her hilarious and moving solo piece Phyllis.
We're back in the drawing room for the next few weeks before coming back full-force on the first wednesdays of the month from now to the end of the year. We want your feedback, so please fill out our form here or send us an email!
To join our mailing list for future updates check out our contact page.
Anthony Neilson nailed it in this article from 7 years ago. Are we doing better today than we were then?
So what are we doing wrong?
The most depressing response I encounter when I'm chatting someone up and I ask them if they ever go to the theatre is this: "I should go but I don't." That emphatic "should" tells you all you need to know. Imagine it in other contexts: "I should play Grand Theft Auto"; "I should watch Strictly Come Dancing." That "should" tells you that people see theatre-going not as entertainment but as self-improvement, and the critical/ academic establishment have to take some blame for that.
Many critics still believe theatre has a quasi-educational/political role; that a play posits an argument that the playwright then proves or disproves. It is in a critic's interest to propagate this idea because it makes criticism easier; one can agree or disagree with what they perceive to be the author's conclusion. It is not that a play cannot be quasi-educational, or even overtly political - just that debate should organically arise out of narrative. But this reductive notion persists and has infected playwriting root and branch.
Because the Common Room is so focused on making theater speak to audiences better, when we thought about creating our website one of the first things we wanted to do was have a page on the site dedicated not to the people onstage, but to the people in the audience. Since we haven't officially launched yet, we haven't been able to start building such a page, but with our pilot productions happening this Wednesday (7/30 @ 7:30) and next (8/6 @ 7:30), we're finally gearing up for it. We're going to be snapping pictures in front of this sweet banner and posting them to our site. If you want to be pictured with us just come on by!
Just started setting up the Common Room Facebook page and had a hard time picking the right category. It isn't Facebook's fault that Theater isn't listed under Entertainment or Artist or even Local Business. That's theater's fault.
Conversations like this are pretty common for a theater actor:
Me: Yeah, I haven't been working as much lately. I'm rehearsing a Shakespeare play.
Colleague: Oh, what play?
Colleague: Oh. I did that in high school. I was the villain guy.
To the average American, that is what theater is. That is what flashes through their minds immediately when you say that word. It is something they maybe did in their primary or secondary education, and that is about the last experience they had with it. Other than a vague notion of 'Broadway', or perhaps if they live in a big enough city, seeing images like this at their coffee shop or on their office bulletin board, it doesn't enter their mind anymore. This is what we, as theater artists in America, are up against.
Perhaps in no other art form does the amateur pervade its own image more than in theater. Think about it - every single image and advertisement we see for film/tv has no expense spared and is crafted by professionals. Imagine if the only paintings anyone had seen were the paintings their classmates made in middle school art class. Even 'professional' theater so often has the most static, inane, embarrassing images associated with it. (When is the last time you saw a dynamic press photo; or a cover of American Theater Magazine that didn't look like a student newspaper?) This is not to say that academic and community theater doesn't have it's place in our society, simply that that is not all it is.
We all know that theater has a small audience. But how can we ever hope to increase it if we so poorly represent it to the public? Never mind the issue of producing work that interests a contemporary audience (that is a whole different can of worms) we will not get people through the doors until we can effectively let them know that theater looks less like this and more like this.
Here are a few attempts below. Whatever the opposite of a graphic designer is, is what I am, but we're trying. If you want to design a logo, add it as a comment or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll post it here.
Please help us.
Without reservation we support the actions of John Lacy at the last performance of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. After being heckled by an audience member throughout the first act, when the audience member returned after intermission only to shout homophobic slurs at the actors on stage, Lacy "physically confronted" the audience member, until he left the venue. The show then continued until it was finished to a standing ovation.
We've got three problems here as I see it:
- Homophobia. Obviously this needs to end. Donate to Howard Brown here.
- Shitty theater management. Shocking that they didn't address the issue, forcing an actor to take action. Shocking that they would fire an actor for this.
- We've so neutered our audiences at the theater that they would literally rather let some drunk asshole ruin the show for everyone than be seen as "disturbing" the show themselves.
The answer to the third of these is to activate the equality of performers and audience members. We are all collaborators in the theatrical event and all equally responsible for ensuring its success. Can we please now replace every pathetic, pedantic "turn off your phones" announcement with a humiliatingly essential "escort all disruptive homophobes/sexists/racists/shitheads from the theater" announcement?
Is it still a reading room if there's no one in it reading?
"Because no one goes to the theater to hear a plot enacted."
- Mac Wellman