The Subjectivity of the Theater Experience

Last week I was super fortunate, thanks to a thoughtful and fellow theater-loving friend, to attend an evening with André Bishop discussing his many years as the Artistic Director for Lincoln Center. His jurisdiction is over those three theaters adjacent to The Metropolitan Opera House and behind that super cool black water reflecting pool. My date and I loved the vibe of this man. Grounded. Quick-witted. Thoughtful. Relaxed. And we loved what he had to say.

Flying Over SunsetThe crux of the conversation was to do with how he chooses what goes on his stages. His simple answer to this complicated question? “I produce shows I would like to see.” We loved this answer. His instincts on what people want to see are laser-like on point. We have him to thank for Sunday in the Park with George, Light in The Piazza, The King and I and My Fair Lady among others. A future thank you will be in order for bringing us this spring, Flying Over Sunset (on sale on our GYGG site now) and the super intriguing new opera, Intimate Apparel with a libretto authored by Lynn Nottage (the guest speaker at our Grand Horizons event – this theater world gets smaller and smaller). Obviously, I am researching group sales for this one! Exciting.

What also got us thinking as we sat all wide-eyed and nodding in our seats was when he broached the topic of subjectivity. He referenced the classic and oft-repeated situation of the person to his left LOVING a show and the person to his right HATING a show. That these wildly skewed world views had no specific pattern – not an age thing, not a gender thing, and not a race thing. Purely a brain thing (my words not his). He also reminded us that as the audience we are not jurors – we are there for the experience of the show not as arbiters of the content. Speaking my language André!

His words completely reinforced why I will continue to – generally – only share reviews when I like and/or love a show. I believe that if I like a show there will be a high – though not exact – correlation of affinity within the group for said show. If our views diverge that is okay by me. I didn’t write, produce, or direct the show, I just liked it and possibly loved it.

In general, there is no way am I going to steer you away from a show that you might possibly like or love by sharing my completely subjective thoughts on why I might not like a show. I abandoned this rule earlier this week with some negative words regarding West Side Story in my newsletter. I felt that families and people who like to veer away from unnecessary doses of dark should know in advance about this particular interpretation of this classic and beloved musical. It is only in extreme cases like this one that I will do that. In conversation however? Happy to judiciously share my honest thoughts. I will do so not to discourage you from seeing something, but so you can go see something with your eyes wide open. We like what we like. 

I look forward to seeing more of what André Bishop likes to see on stage come to life for us. His dream show to bring to the stage at Lincoln Center? The Sound of Music. You bet we will be grabbing a big old batch of tickets to see this. Some day. Some day soon, I hope. See you at Lincoln Center.

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