With the holidays coming up, I feel the need to put my two cents into the universe about where your hard-earned money should be spent should you decide that purchasing theatre tickets for your loved ones is a worthwhile endeavor. It totally is, by the by, and if you’re not considering this course of action, maybe you will now.
For those long-term readers, you may recall my rage-inducing trip to the
Harvard Revels last year. Now that we’ve come full circle (as I write this, I’m sitting in the Houghton Library reading room at Harvard and can see that they’ve once again decorated the square with vibrant twinkling lights), I find myself revisiting this rage every moment I so much as think of the experience, the institution, or the fact that hundreds of people will (once again) flood to this theatrical venue.
So let’s get one thing straight: the Harvard Revels, while it may have started out as a benign force of the community, is currently the most deplorable form of theatrical spectacle. The travesty that I had the misfortune to witness (and pay WAY too much for) last year should never have been allowed to be birthed into the realm of theatre. The acting was atrocious, the costuming was spotty at best (there were people wearing PAINTER’S PANTS and SNEAKERS onstage in a PERIOD PIECE), and the institution builds into its traditions a forced standing ovation for every show. I have never in my life witnessed something more manipulative, more upsetting, and more betraying to its hard-working loyal audience.
And here’s the worst part: because this is a Christmas Tradition for some people, this institution will (once again) have an audience. Despite putting on a product that I would describe as “an aborted attempt at holiday cheer”, they will once more play to a PACKED HOUSE. Audiences are so intoxicated by the rosey-hued glasses of Christmas tradition that it will not matter if the Revels had an off year, people will pay anyway.
Because of this, the Revels has no impetus to change. They will be a commercial success no matter what show they put on. And that, my friends, is where theatre goes to die.
Okay, I take it back, maybe this is the worst part: this show is the only show that I would venture most of those hundreds of audience members will see in a given year. That means that their theatre budget is allocated specifically for a show that does not care about them. This show will be flat, stale, uninspired, and continually produced Christmas schlock until someone does something about it.
Theatre is only interesting and vibrant when it is fighting for its life. The
Revels have not, as far as I can tell, had to do this for decades. Give them a year scrounging on Community Theatre budget and they will get creative or die. And from that will be birthed something real, genuine, and amazing to see.
So I beg you. I implore you. Do not support this abuse of the name of “theatre”. If you would like to take your loved ones to see a show, consider one of the many other productions going on in Boston at this time. Here are just a few…
The ART is producing Pippin (which, I’ve heard, is spectacular and I will be going to see).
A certain Shakespeare company is producing Two Gentleman of Verona and, while I have no particular love for this company, I do love this show. Support struggling Boston Shakespeare!
The Nora Theatre Company and Underground Railway Theater is producing Arabian Nights which I’ve heard great things about.
The Improv Asylum is doing a Holiday Show if you want something a little more traditional. They always have great programming (and classes!).
Theatre is a struggling art form. Your ticket-buying is the life-blood of the struggling company. Please consider that, while the Revels loom large and ugly, the money spent on their over-priced Holiday travesty could save a small company and create a better theatre community here in Boston.