Amusement or Art, That is the Question.
Why do we do this? Why does a small group of people give their time, energy, and some money to “put on plays?” There must be something to it. In our local area alone, you find a lot of people engaged in this activity. But again, why? I suppose individually there are those of us who long for those moments on stage: The silence of the drama when you know that every eye in the house is on you as you expose your character’s thoughts. Or, maybe it’s the comedy, when you simply “make ‘em laugh.” For some, it’s the music. Personally, singing terrorizes me, but a lot of people like to sing for others, and on the receiving end it both soothes and stimulates the soul.
The question, however, can (and should) also be asked on a larger “organizational” level. Why do we (collectively) do this? Recently I have had this discussion with a few fellow Players: “Art or Amusement?” That is to say, is our club engaged in “making art” or more in “amusement of members?” Each of these alone is a great goal, but each serves a different constituency. The history of Village Players is that it was founded and has existed for much of the past 91 years for the amusement of the membership. That was the point during the “closed show” era. Shows were produced strictly for members who enjoyed the close camaraderie, social networking, friendships, and successes of the club. Although I was not around during this era, I am sure every effort was put forth to make the shows the best they could be. At the same time, since it was “all in the family,” so to speak, there was no pressure to succeed in the marketplace. The performances were mostly about “amusement” not “art.”
Once the club opened the doors to the public, like it or not, we moved across the dividing line into the “art” sector. If we sell tickets to the public, we owe it to our audience to put on a show that strives to meet higher artistic standards. What does this mean for our organization? How do you “make art” in a volunteer organization? What should the Players leadership do to continue to move the club in this direction? We might start by being a bit more honestly critical of our efforts? We should not “settle” because we don’t have the time, the energy, the money, or the expertise to do better. At what point do we start making harder decisions about who should direct or produce, and how we can we improve all of the technical aspects of our productions? If we can push ourselves along these pathways, I am sure both the acting talent and the audiences will respond in the most positive manner… and help us “make art!”