Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Message to our cultural organizations: Don't forget the folks on the train - The Theater Loop

Message to our cultural organizations: Don't forget the folks on the train - The Theater Loop: "Back in the first half of the 19th century, London was full of pleasure palaces — massive entertainment emporiums that were an unruly mix of high and low culture. Regular folks could get a drink and a nice meal. Hear some music. Dance to an orchestra. Picnic on the grass. There might be a prizefight. A melodrama. An orange to suck. A ballet. A few ladies of the night. And, in all probability, a bit of Shakespeare. Working people liked Shakespeare.

But in the 1850s a fellow named Samuel Phelps decided that a buck — or rather, a shilling — could be made by creating a more elitist artistic experience. He set out to get rid of the common folk and offer a premium see-and-be-seen experience for those who could afford to pay. One way he did this was by starting his shows at 6:30 p.m. while the factory workers were still on the job. He added a dress code, beefed up the ticket prices and demanded silence in darkness. Other producers jumped on the bandwagon. Before long, all the theaters in London were being built with a separate balcony entrance around the side. The rich folks in velvet seats didn't even need to see the working stiffs sitting at the rear."