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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Sondheim on Workshops

I'm reading Stephen Sondheim's Finishing the Hat, a collection of lyrics with, as the subtitle puts it, "Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines[,] and Anecdotes." In it, Sondheim writes of the phenomenon of workshopping and/or doing readings of new theater pieces, how it grew, why it was valuable, and how it changed and lost much of its original purpose and value:

"Before long, every gestating musical held readings, which unfortunately burgeoned into 'workshops,' rapidly progressing from the simplicity of actors sitting around a table with scripts they had barely had time to read and a composer singing solo at a piano to elaborately staged and choreographed semi-productions....What had begun as a learning experience for the authors became transmogrified into a thinly disguised backers' audition. Workshops today have turned into events..., not so that the authors can discover the weaknesses and strengths of their work but so that the producers can raise production money and start the highly desired (and overrated) anticipation known as 'buzz.' In truth, the workshop notion is most valuable only when it is used for the creators' education. Workshops with carefully chosen full-sized casts, staged to entertain deep-pocketed strangers, are virtually worthless...." 

 

Posted by Paul Horwitz on January 26, 2021 at 12:35 PM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink

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