Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Second Way to Offend Audiences - Intro

Posted by Bruce Miller
In case you happen upon this post without having read previous articles, I’m writing a series about those onstage activities that reliably prompt negative reactions from certain audience members. Following language, which I’ve commented on previously, sex is the issue that prompts the most concern and/or outrage. Ninety-five percent of the complaints I receive about sexuality center on objections to homosexuality.

I’m going to withhold my thoughts on sex for the time being—I have my reasons—and discuss the issue that comes in third on the list of “most complaints received.” Race.

I respectfully consider and respond to every communication I receive from audience members who are offended by the plays we choose to produce. I encourage and appreciate such communication. I hear from 50 to 75 angry people a year. (These figures include only those who are offended by content, not those who object to the comfort of their seat or the HVAC.) Almost all of the 50 to 75 allege that they’re contacting me on behalf of a large group of like-minded individuals who are equally offended but less inclined to tell me so.

We sell 42,000 tickets a year. Even believing the multiplier claims, which I do, I think 50 to 75 out of 42,000 is pretty good.

To be candid, I sometimes find objectors to be closed-minded and their comments to contain a certain amount of ill will. On occasion, the complaints offend me just as much as the language or action offends the audience member. This is often the case when people complain that I try too hard to be “politically correct.”

In my experience, the term “politically correct” is used mostly by conservatives when they’re mad at moderates and liberals. Make no mistake, conservatives apply considerable political pressure on organizations like Barksdale Theatre to act in accordance with their tastes and wishes. When we select a play that matches their conservative standards, they have no sense that we are catering to their tastes. They think we simply are exercising common sense.

But when we select a play that is more in sync with the standards of our more liberal audience members, the conservatives often complain that we’re caving in to some sort of pressure in an attempt to be “politically correct.”

Let me say this as clearly as possible, the pressure we receive from the right is no different from the pressure we receive from the left, and vice versa. I NEVER try to be “politically correct.” I ALWAYS attempt to find a balance among shows that have conservative appeal and shows that satisfy our more liberal brethren. It’s as simple as that.

My main criteria have nothing to do with politics at all. I choose plays that:
· I personally enjoy, think my parents would have enjoyed, or think my children will enjoy;
· are artistically sound;
· will have a positive impact on the community;
· represent a broad cross section of the world theatre repertoire;
· are likely to sell well, both as individual productions and/or as part of a season; and
· will help us retain our existing, mostly mature audience while adding to it with new, younger audience members.

When it comes to race, I receive complaints from those who object to:
1 racially mixed couples on stage,
2 racial stereotyping,
3 racial slurs, and
4 under-representation of ethnic minorities.

And now, in an effort not to write blogs that are too long, I will pause. Coming soon – a discussion of racially mixed couples on stage.

--Bruce Miller


pnlkotula said...

Well darn, Bruce. It was too short. You didn't even hit your first wind. Can't WAIT for the second half.

Anonymous said...

I hate your short blog. Just when things were starting to get interesting, you stopped. You're caving in to the demands of those with limited attention spans.
Does that make you "politically correct"?

Billy Blogopher said...

What a great teaser Bruce! I'm on board with Lisa! I was set ready to read a long one!

Kudos for nailing the teaser!