There are so many ways that a theater production can go bad. A little bad acting, a couple of poor directorial choices, some loose plot threads... Thankfully, when it comes to local theater, Joe and Alice Patron are really forgiving of those kinds of faults.
Joe and Alice buy their season tickets, and after a mundane week, they come to their area theater of choice, feeling pride that they are supporting their community and the arts. They come hoping for an epiphany, a catharsis, a moment of awe. Realistically, however, they know that most productions won’t rise to that level. Still, they will happily settle for a good laugh, a good cry, or a pleasant waste of a couple hours.
You know what Joe and Alice don’t happily settle for? Paying a lot of money to be bombarded for 90 minutes by shouted political posturing masquerading as art. It is a huge bore.
Maybe theater folks are distressed by the world’s lack of “wokeness” and wondering what they can do to elevate the consciousness of the ignorant racists of the world. But Joe and Alice are actually pretty smart, as evidenced by the fact they go to the theater instead of watching TV, staring at their phones, or seeing infantile superhero movies. And, believe it or not, they may not fall into simplistic political dichotomies.
I know this is hard for theater people to hear, but your audience doesn’t actually look to you for political wisdom. So, instead of trying to cure your audience of their obtuse ignorance or trying to flatter them in their placid agreement with you, why not actually challenge yourselves (and them) with a really fine production of the Oresteia or the Henriad or...?
If you’re interested in the ideas of freedom and tyranny, why not explore those ideas?
Your actors would thank you, because, dear God, you would offer them more than one emotional level to inhabit. Your audience would thank you, because you’d be giving them something substantive to undergird their political thinking. And the universe would thank you for reminding the world that theater isn’t simply public masturbation.
Seize the King runs at La Jolla Playhouse through September 16.