The Questions of Slings and Arrows: Season 1, Episode 1

HAMLET: To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? (The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Act I, Sc. i)

ONE OF MANY PEOPLE: You’ve seen Slings and Arrows, right Dan?
ME: Nope.
ONE OF MANY PEOPLE [with horror and dismay]: You’ve got to!

So goes the refrain. Their reasoning is different depending on who they are, how they know me, and where they work. Curiously, no one used the “Rachel McAdams is in it” angle, which would have won me over instantly. The most common argument comes from people who work in nonprofit theater who think it behooves every nonprofit theater practitioner to watch Slings and Arrows, a show about a nonprofit theater. Or, whatever Canadians call nonprofit theater. It may very well be called nonprofit theater. And my understanding is that it’s a similar system to regional theater in the States, but they receive a more generous amount of governmental support. (At least they did; conservatives were looking to cut arts funding a couple years ago and [for shame] I never followed up on the results of that effort.) Anyway. It has been on my list. And because it was recently added to Netflix Instant, it is now in my queue.

I watched the first episode last night, and it’s more serious than I thought it would be given all I heard about how funny it was. It asks some pretty important questions we nonprofit theater practitioners (and aspiring nonprofit theater practitioners) should be asking ourselves and our colleagues. So, here we go:

  • What’s better: well-attended theater with high production values but that’s otherwise unremarkable, or passionate performances in no-budget theaters that no one attends?
  • Is it worth having three incomparably mind-blowing nights of theater magic if you’ll never experience anything as breathtaking again? How do we ensure that we are continually outdoing ourselves?
  • Does the best theater happen when only the thinnest of strings is keeping it from complete disaster?
  • Where should the line between theater-as-art and theater-as-business be drawn?

More questions to come.

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