KC Public Theatre Opening Night, Hollywood making musicals with people who can’t sing, and American Theatre

What do Hollywood, the Kitty Cat Club*, and KC Public Theatre all have to do with one another? Well, they’re all getting mixed together in this insane hodgepodge of a post. Buckle up, kids!!

I had this epiphany- The Mary Sue wrote an article about why Hollywood doesn’t make movie musicals with musical theatre talent, but actors who can’t sing. Actors who can sing well should be cast in movie musicals, and not just big name talent who can barely carry a tune in a bucket. If your exposure is only to Emma Watson, Russell Crowe, Emma Stone, and Ryan Gosling, you are missing out on what a solid vocal performance entails. Audra McDonald, Keala Settle, Anne Hathaway, and Hugh Jackman provide better examples of those that can successfully act while singing. Hollywood is casting actors who cannot sing simply because audiences will not complain. They do not realise the talent chosen is just due to their fame, and not for their talent, and the audience doesn’t recognize this due to their limited theatre experience. Limited theatre exposure leads to Hollywood’s ability to be lazy and the greater movie audience is unaffected.

Limited audience exposure is discussed in The Kansas City Podcast with guest Derek Trautwein and host Cole Lindbergh during which they discuss, among other things, the aim of KC Public theatre- to present free theatre to Kansas City audiences. Very few people enjoy live theatre, as many people find it boring, inaccessible, expensive. Which, in many cases, the general public isn’t wrong. Those of us who live and breathe theatre all the time can end up creating a cycle of making our works insular.

KC Public Theatre has a mission to create theatre that is in the public space in order to reach a new audience. Most recently, as part of KC FRINGE 2018, they performed Medea: An American Tragedy in Brush Creek Ampitheater, outside. This was advantageous and new. Additionally, this past season, they’ve had various opportunities for the SoapBox, a chance for anyone to get up and have their say.

Bringing theatre to the masses is timely. In 1996, NEA conducted a study on American participation in Theatre. Though the numbers are surely different, the current trend is similar. Americans see very few plays, and those that see the most plays and musicals are the very richest Americans. The author, in 1996, had a fascinating prediction for American Theatre:

Will the trend toward more performances of fewer productions continue? Much depends on the resources made available to theaters, playwrights, and performers to develop new work [….] How­ever, it is the developmental component of theater–free of commercial ex­pectations–that ultimately creates renewal. Audiences will continue to change and grow if new works (and old works infused with new relevancy) bring the lives of more Americans closer to the theater.

That description, that last line, seems infused with what KC Public is bringing. A smarter audience that is familiar with theatre and performance will not be satisfied with works that simply present the same talent, the same sequels, the same retelling. We love to watch stories, but the more we are exposed to differences and new works, and different perspectives, the greater our compassion and understanding. This also leads to better talent for the roles, and, ultimately, better and richer art, all the way to Hollywood. A smarter audience demands better work out of everyone. But, smarter audiences won’t happen without accessible theatre. Such as what KC Public is working to create.

With those goals in mind, I hope you’ll join in supporting American Theatre at the KC Public Opening season fundraising August 24th 2018 . They are the next generation of theatre.

*Coming Fringe 2019. Ask Cole and Derek. It’s a musical/absurdist/vampire tale. You can hear version 1 here : https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-kansas-city-podcast/id1268334858?mt=2&i=1000417716053

[Edit 8/18/18 for clarity on non singers in movie musicals]

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