Creativity #50 - The State of the Art

Times are changing, and like everything else, theatre is changing along with it. Where theatre is going, I am not sure, but I do know the stories that I need to tell, and I will tell these tales no matter what the STATE OF THE ART is.

But I might format them differently.

What am I talking about?
Because of TV, and the digital revolution, the attention span of the human being is changing.  It seems harder for many people to stay focused for over 90 minutes  (sometimes it is 60 minutes.) This change is evident for we now live our lives with our SMART phones and they are a constant distraction which has become THE NORM. It is what we do. We go out into life and then, 9, 10, 20 times an hour, we step out of the real world and journey into a screen filled world with information, images, text and digital stories (written word or acted out on video or film.)  And man, is it great. Crazy fun to connect with "friends," super cool to view silly YouTube videos, and emails can now be returned from almost anywhere. And then we pop back into the REAL WORLD.

So the popping out and the popping back in, has become the normal, commonplace way our brains and emotions respond to the universe. So what happens to someone who does this all day long for years, and then goes into the theater and has to sit, without a screen, without information and digital CRACK for two hours? It becomes really really difficult.

We, as humans, have programmed ourselves to change focus constantly, and it is a very hard NEW behavior to change or even modify. (Even at Rock Concerts, the screens are part of the event as people take videos, and pictures of the event.)

So what has to happen to a play in order for a play to survive the ADD Smart phone addiction?

1. Make your story crazy compelling. Make the stakes big and novel.  Unique somehow. But UP THE ANTE and write a powerful plot with compelling characters.

2. Limit your play to 90 minutes or less.  (Yes, even for your Epic Tale of Love and Eternal Damnation.)  Make it 90 minutes  (with a compelling story) and leave it at that. Cut ruthlessly if it goes over 90. 90 minutes is the longest a play should ever be in this NEW A.D.D. MILLENNIUM.

3. (This one is wild and not mandatory but it really works. I see it all the time at Manhattan Rep.) Let your characters use their smart phones and IPADS in your play.  Add Text messages and other social media items to the PLOT of your play. For some crazy reason, seeing SCREEN behavior on stage actually creates focus for this A.D.D. generation. Crazy huh? But in my experience it is true!

4. Write RAW. Be crazy honest and open in your work. Writing RAW is scary to the playwright, but done correctly it is compelling to an audience. Even an A.D.D. audience. Dare to write about that issue which is scary, dangerous or downright nutty.  

Theatre is intrinsic to our nature.  Don't ever stop writing plays! Human interaction without screens is paramount to our culture, heritage, and as I have mentioned on other occasions, to our survival as loving, compassionate citizens of Planet Earth.  

Don't give up on theatre. Adapt to the times and tell some amazing stories!

Ken Wolf