Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Summer of Theatre in Monterey

I have been feeling really great lately about my local theatre scene. There are three different shows playing in our small city of Monterey, CA. And we are all having record numbers in attendance.
At the small Wharf Theater, located directly on the Monterey Wharf, the historic crowd favorite "The Pirates of Penzance" is seeing a huge bump in attendance. The show is campy, funny, and, as I have written before, the cast is clearly having a blast performing in it. Granted, it isn't a perfect show; but it is enthusiastically performed and has a dynamite Mabel who can hit all of those Gilbert and Sullivan notes perfectly and without her head exploding.
On our local college stage (Monterey Peninsula College, our area's "big dog" theatre), we have "Les Miserables". I haven't had the chance to catch this yet, but the word on the block is that it is MPC Theater Company's finest work. Phenomenal  vocals, very well cast, excellent props and costumes, and professional directing. And it's "Les Miz"....a true crowd pleaser that has packed their newly remodeled space. I have only heard positive feedback and I really look forward to seeing it soon.
And on our own stage, Paper Wing Theatre Company, we are staging a modern version of "Macbeth". Record crowds and standing ovations abound. Bloody stage combat. Punk and Gothic influences. The acting is spot on, and the direction by Jourdain Barton is fresh and youthful and has breathed new life into Shakespeare.
Everyone's success makes me happy. I have been a huge cheerleader for all three of these shows. For some reason, they all go hand in hand. A classic musical, Shakespeare, and a Broadway hit.
It has become commonplace for small local theatres to be extremely competitive. The Monterey peninsula has ten plus theatre companies producing at least one production per year. That's a LOT of shows to foist on would be patrons. I cannot speak for other producers or directors, but that can make me a little nuts sometimes. Worried about sales and creating new patrons. Protective, selfish, and...competitive.
I have been guilty of not supporting my local theatres, afraid their success meant my failure. I have participated in my share of bullsh*t and I am not proud of that fact. And the reality is this: all of that negative and unproductive crap did not promote my theatre over others, boost sales, or positively impact our business. All it did was make me angry, a little paranoid, and a lot frustrated. So I decided to try something new.
I went to see some local shows and instead of looking at it with a directors eye, I chose to watch it as a patron. I noticed the bright spots instead of the flaws. I chose not to be distracted by the pieces and enjoyed the whole. And I had fun. I felt good.
The reality is that each of our theatres give something wonderful to the community. Speaking just of the three in production right now, I know that The Wharf Theater is firmly rooted in classic musical theatre, reminding us of beautiful bygone Americana, leaving patrons feeling good and smiling. Angelo has kept the doors open for many, many years and still runs the Box Office. I love that.
MPC is the launching pad for most of the actors in the area. They have an extremely strong Theatre Department and one of the most driven leaders I have seen in Gary Bolen. They have the budget to bring big, newer musicals to the stage and also create fantasy fairy tales in their smaller space. Watching them power through the displacement during their theater remodel, and still produce such quality, was seriously inspiring.
And Paper Wing Theatre? We bring an eclectic blend to the scene. Edgy and provocative shows, musicals, and performances. Something for everyone. I'm proud of our work.
I am done with feeling like everything is a competitive threat. I no longer see another theatre's success as taking something away from us. This summer of theatre here in Monterey has taught me a huge lesson about being supportive and positive. And I am grateful for that.

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