Oct 5, 2009

The Science of Remounts

In discussing the daunting challenges of moving Off-Broadway hits that seem to belong in their intimate birth spaces up into larger houses to cash in on wider demand, Bernard Gersten, writing in the Lincoln Center 50th Anniversary review, offers this beguilingly silly yet somehow persuasive flight of fancy:
We did move [House of Blue Leaves] up. And, of course, the lesson learned was the same lesson that I had learned some years earlier, when we moved A Chous Line, which was perfect in this three-hundred-seat configuration at the Public's Newman Theater. We wondered how it could possibly move to the Shubert Theatre with fifteen hundred seats.

The answer was: when you add a thousand people you add theatrons, which are the unit of theatrical energy. They're like electrons or ions or protons. They are given off by various theatrical things--actors, playwrights. Words give off theatrons. Words delivered add more theatrons. Actors with virtuosity add more theatrons. The room acts as kind of a magnifier--a reflector, like one of those orgone boxes of Wilhelm Reich. You release the theatrons, they bounce against the wall and then bounce back into the work onstage, and the energize it and give it sexual energy. The way orgasms worked for Wilhelm Reich. A theater without a roof is hopeless! All the theatrons escape through the open top!

I think he might have stopped before the Reich business, but hey--it's a metaphor, and it has a ring of truth.

Except, of course, for that roof-less business. Leaving aside the Delacorte and other outdoor venues where I've experienced as much or more theatrical magic as in any indoor space, just consider the actual meaning of theatron: a Greek theatrical arena.

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