On Stage

KMUW commentator Sanda Moore Coleman looks behind the curtain to give listeners (and play goers) a bit of history and perspective.

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Visitor 7 / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

This commentary originally aired on November 9, 2015.

Diminishing audiences have been an increasing problem for theatre, for Broadway and regional stages alike.

In large part, the issue can be traced to cost. For a Broadway production, tickets to the hottest show can reach such stratospheric proportions, one has to wonder who, exactly, is attending at all, and what happened to theatre for the people. Even Shakespeare, after all, had a place for the Groundlings.

Nobody in musical theatre has pushed boundaries the way Stephen Sondheim has—whether it's a modern farce inspired by the farces of a Roman playwright, as in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum; an intricate weaving of plot-lines that follow disparate fairy tale characters, as in Into the Woods; or the demon barber of Fleet Street, Sweeney Todd-- Sondheim has a darkly comic song for all.

William Shakespeare has been inspiring artists through the ages and around the globe. You'll find Shakespeare not just in theatre, but in film, on canvas, in pointe shoes, and in just about any other art form you can think of.

Every person who has ever lived in Kansas knows “The Wizard of Oz.” Every person who has ever lived in Kansas and traveled anywhere else in the world knows that the first thing other people say to you when they learn you've lived in Kansas is a joke that references “The Wizard of Oz.” In the olden days, when I was growing up, the film version of “The Wizard of Oz” was broadcast on television every year, and it was an important family event.

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September is within our grasp and the rich harvest that is local theatre offers a variety of delicacies to please the most discerning palate. Choose a bowl of laughter with the tender coming-of-age comedy Moon Over the Brewery, onstage at the Kechi Playhouse from September 2nd through the 25th.  In this Bruce Graham play, a single mother waits tables by day, paints at night, and copes with her gifted teenage daughter, all while searching for love.

Whatever your opinions might be on the subject of the jukebox musical, there is no question that Mamma Mia took the creative form to a level of success not previously enjoyed by many of its predecessors, and not replicated by many of those that came after.

Just about everyone in the post-modern world is familiar with the term “meta.” It is a Greek word, meaning “after” or “beyond.” With regard to the stage, meta-theatre describes theatre that is self-referential—theatre that refers to and comments upon itself. This includes plays and musicals that are not simply about plays and musicals, but go beyond that to also acknowledge the presence of the audience, the actors as actors, the artifice inherent in stage productions, and the literal experience of theatre itself.                             

DZ Productions brings the coming-of-age song cycle Edges to the Crown Uptown Theatre from July 21st to the 23rd. A song cycle is a unit of songs meant to be presented together, and in a particular sequence, in order to advance a story line, a theme, a mood—a unifying coherence from the combination of musical pieces.

If it's farce that you want—and come on, who doesn't?—then consider a trip to the Kechi Playhouse, where long-time audience favorite Charley's Aunt is playing throughout the month of July. The show, written by Brandon Thomas, had an original run in London of a record-breaking 1,466 performances, beginning onstage at the Royalty Theatre in December of 1892, then moving to the larger Globe Theatre in January of 1893 to accommodate the show's popularity.

You know it is well and truly summer when lighthearted musicals fill stages across the country. In this season of theatrical plenty, you have enough choices to fill your plate and more.

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