Monday, June 4, 2012

Introductory Post (Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Not Fuck Up Children's Theatre)

Hey, you person, Welcome to Bitching Backstage. In case the title didn't really explain itself (which it doesn't), here my associates and I plan on unloading our vaguely theatre related thoughts, for your viewing pleasure and for us to sit back and stroke our metaphorical beards on how clever we are.
There, I wrote a fairly civil introduction, we can all move on with our lives now.

Okay, so, recently, the church I attend has been attempting to start a little theatre company. And that's a worthy ambition, I can get behind that. That's not what I'm here to bitch about. (Well, it sort of is, but never mind.) (Never mind isn't one word? Huh, learn new things everyday.) It's a fun idea, And it's a good marketing strategy, too: Encourage the neighborhood people to come over and have their kids act with our kids (not my kids, obviously, the church's kids) and then ideally, the parents will say, "Watching my child skip around in a bunny costume gives me new-found faith in god!" and then stay forever. It's a good system, one that's proven twice as effective as miracles and parables, with half the chance of spontaneous crucifixions. Only half, though, because it does have the tiny little snag of it being children's theatre (here meaning theatre meant to be preformed by kids).
Now, maybe I'm just too sweet and cuddly, but I don't instantly hate children's theatre. I may be a bit distrusting of it, like a dog after his owners done the "pretend to throw the ball but don't" gag a few times, but that doesn't mean I won't still run after the ball once it looks like he throws it, but he didn't throw the ball so now I'm stuck here with my nose in the ground like a damn fool, panting and running and looking and I'm not sure if this is a metaphor anymore but I stand by it.
What was I talking about?
Right, Children's theatre. I don't instantly hate it, but I don't instantly love it either. I think Children's Theatre is a bit like Nicolas Cage.
I was just going to put a normal picture of him, but this picture exists, so here we are.

On one hand, he was in Adaption, which is the most amazing movie I've ever seen, and he did a great job in it, and if you say otherwise I have a bunch of sharp objects in my room so choose your words carefully. On the other hand, The Wicker Man. (I haven't actually seen The Wicker Man, but I suspect most people who make jokes about it haven't. Isn't the Internet great?) Similarly, children's theatre, and children acting in general, can sometimes make you want to pull out your small intestines through your nose and strangle yourself with them, but a good performance makes you feel a bit like you've just puked up a diamond. No, I take that back, that would hurt, I didn't think that through. I'm not sure what visual I was going for there, but it wasn't that one. It makes you feel surprised and excited, is what I meant. My theory with both Cage and actor kids (I guess they call them child actors, whatever) is that they're really about as good as the script they're given.
And that was the problem with the show the church put on. (Ah, forgot about that, didn't you? Yeah, so did I.) The Script was shit.
Okay, maybe I'm being mean. The script wasn't completely shit. I'm a writer myself, so being judgmental of others makes me feel better about my own lacking skills.There were other problems as well. For example, one of the children, who was playing some form of sailor (No, not that kind of sailor, this is children's theatre you Monster), delivered such monotone, lifeless ramblings of monologues that I actually grew rather attached to it: it made it look like the Sailor was drunk off his mind, and the more I watched, the more that seemed like an absolutely brilliant idea.
What can you do with a drunken sailor? Oh, HOURS of fun.
  But even the hilarity of drunken children couldn't make this play any more entertaining. It wasn't complete shit, no, which meant it didn't even have the decency to be enjoyably bad; it just stopped at bad. My mother, who was in the audience, described it as "hell," and at one point, checked her phone and was horrified to learn that she was only fifteen minutes in. The play was two hours long. She probably would have faked a heart attack to get out, had she not been under the slight obligation of being the pastor's wife.
Apparently, it was professionally written, which gives me rather high expectations for it. Apparently, they paid 50 dollars to use it, which is rather stupid because I just found it on Amazon for ten bucks. Apparently, I'm a bad person, because my first thought was, "I'm going to make so much money off of this."
Because I can, with all certainty, write a better children's play then the one they did. I won't, because the church probably wouldn't pay me, but I could. Because I know what they did wrong, And I know how to fix it.

Well, that's all for the first post of Bitching Backstage, thanks for reading. If you liked it, make sure to subscribe, and check back soon for another update!

No, I'm kidding, of course I'm going to tell you. Makes me feel all important and fuzzy.
To write good children's theatre, you have to respect and understand children. You can't talk down to them, but you can't give them overly complicated dialogue or long monologues, either. (But if you're putting a long monologue in a children's play, you're doing something wrong anyway.) If you go into it thinking, "I'm writing something for silly little kids," you're going to fail. It seems a lot of people who write scripts aimed at kids feel the need to prove they're smarter than the kids their talking too.
I respect kids. I don't like them, but I respect them. I'm basically a slightly taller five year old, anyway. And since I never stopped thinking of myself as a kid, I still mentally put myself at the same level as kids. The problem with the people writing the scripts is that they think they're on a higher level. And if you do that, it shows.
To make a successful kids show, pick a child's premise, Say, a porcupine in a bowler hat learns the meaning of sharing, and then write for your equals. The children's book-like story will lend itself to the needed simplicity and innocence, but writing it for your equals instead of people you look down will keep it good. Assuming you can write.
I can write. (Don't let the sprawling, untidy mess of a post that this is fool you.) I could write an at-least-decent kids play.
I'm not going to, though.
Fuck you, I'm no charity.
What do you think this is, a church?

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