During a recent Twitter exchange, Washington Post Theatre Critic Peter Marks (@petermarksdrama) commented: "You cannot credibly make claim to being America's no. 2 theater town if most nommed musical comes from dinner theater."
Both points are erroneous but for now, only the latter requires response.
I don’t understand why a journalist of such note and diverse extensive theatre going history would foster an opinion that basically dictates where art grows? How could anyone blindly say that because any theatre’s work occurs in a type of building or environment, that they are not creative and accomplished artists? That assertion forfeits the notion that art — and theatre in particular — is for everyone. For anyone to say that artists should not be recognized because they choose to do their art in a certain environment is elitist.
By now, haven’t we all discovered that great theatre can flourish in large buildings and small church basements? So, why can it not exist where a meal is provided in the same venue — as opposed to somewhere nearby — before the show? This is not a matter of professionalism. This is a matter of geography.
We would defy anyone to say that location, compensation, or affiliation defines art. Art is created in the human spirit, created by human beings to tell stories of the human condition. People will often create art in spite of the circumstances, not because of it. So, to label a class of artists and accordingly deny them acknowledgement for their fine work ghettoizes the theatre and diminishes us all.
By acknowledging and celebrating artistic diversity, we become a stronger creative community. We should all salute the artists that succeed. We should all salute the artists who fall short. We should all salute everyone who comes to the table with an open heart and a desire to create theatre as a transformative art that matters.
That is the sole purpose of the Helen Hayes Awards: to celebrate collective creativity and individual outstanding achievement. We uplift that community, strengthen it, give it more substance, more bounce — and more audiences.
Two million audience members attend Washington theatre annually — and there are two million opinions about the nominations and awards. We welcome them all (but please, my email is already backed up) because the resulting conversations generate an energy that is a critical element in the alchemy of theatre making and theatre going. So why are those who produce in a dinner theatre not creating art and those who attend a dinner theatre not worthy of being transformed?
By the way, Mr. Marks, before making your diminishing remark, did you actually see The Color Purple and have you ever attended any production at Toby’s Dinner Theatre?
Note: Dinner theatre has a long history, in the Washington area and nationally as a professional environment where new talent is developed, where accomplished actors (Eleasha Gamble, Felicia Curry, Bobby Smith, Channez McQuay, Alan Wiggins, and Jake Odmark are but a few who have graced the stage at Toby’s), directors, and designers thrive, and where new theatre audiences are born and grow.Get Theatre News and Information