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What Do You Want From Your Local Theater? Readers Respond

Category: Art & Culture,Arts

A major wave of new leaders is taking over regional theaters across the United States, and many of them promise changes in programming and personal style. This led us to put the question to New York Times-reading audience members: What do you want your local theater to be? Their edited responses — dotted with praise for theaters they believe are doing things just right — follow.

I want ideas. I want debates, opinions. I want words that move us forward, using phenomenal storytelling, and engaged, committed professionals with a variety of voices. I want it all, and I intend to have it. CHRIS CASSADY, Houston

New Work, New Work, New Work. I don’t want local productions of Broadway or Off Broadway hits. I’ll go to Broadway, or I’ll see the touring company. I want to see new work, fully supported with solid direction and great acting. That’s it. The End. KELLY LAWRENCE, San Francisco

When I go to my local theater, I’m looking for inspiration in three ways: quality, intimacy and creativity. Quality is not about a proscenium arch, clear acoustics or high technology — although those of course are welcome. For me, quality means talent. Local does not equal amateur. Intimacy means that artists don’t want or need to protect themselves from the public. We can see them, hear them, meet them and talk with them. Together we make the theater as important in our community as the schools, hospital, library, ballpark or gym. JACK FRACASSO, Brewster, Mass.

What do I want from my local theater? I am so jazzed by what they are doing that I just want them to continue. Most recently a friend and I attended a performance of Anna Deavere Smith’s “Notes From the Field” at the Zach Theater. Superb. Thought-provoking. Performances were professional and moving. I feel good whenever I walk in the door. Very proud of the community outreach and the many seats that go to deserving groups who otherwise would not attend. M. DIANE DWIGHT, Spicewood, Tex.

I live in Williamstown, Mass., home to the Williamstown Theater Festival, and I’m seeing there what I’m seeing in a lot of theaters: lack of musical theater. There’s not a single musical at the festival this year, and, in my opinion, musicals shouldn’t be treated as a “lesser” form. SAM TUCKER-SMITH, Williamstown, Mass.

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Local theater should bring classics and new works to its audience, and provide a stage for new talent and creative ensembles. Combine traditionalism and innovation in staid and shocking balance. Not serve as a mirror but an anvil. Build community and awareness. Reflect its community in race, gender and sexual orientation. Be afraid of nothing. Celebrate life, and decry tyranny. MARGOT MAILLIARD RAWLINS, Yorkville, Calif.

I want to see productions where race, gender, creed or sexual orientation is not a disadvantage for the central character to overcome. To be even more specific, I want to see stories of people from these groups on hero’s journeys. STACEY RANSOM, San Francisco

What do I want? Pretty much what the Pittsburgh Public Theater provides: classics, moderns, musicals, Shakespeare and one-person shows; a certain intimacy (not too big); an annual Shakespeare monologue contest for middle through high school students; periodic mailings and emails with information on what’s coming, casting notes and behind-the-scenes tidbits; easy, reasonably-priced parking right next door; Sunday night showtimes that get you home just a little earlier than on other nights. And oh how I will miss former artistic director Ted Pappas playing frequent doorman, welcoming patrons! LISA PAWELSKI, Pittsburgh

I want to see theater reassume its place as a community good. The past few seasons of programming at Lake Dillon Theater Company, in Summit County, Colo., have included such plays as “Building the Wall,” “Ugly Lies the Bone,” “Topdog/Underdog” and “The Cake”: works concerning the treatment of immigrants, veterans’ trauma and their reintegration to our society, the manifestations of institutional oppression and the conversation around equal marriage rights for all couples. In the face of outspoken distaste, outrage and even severance of donor relationships, the theater continues to prioritize works that promote conversations our community needs to have. ALEXANDRA POOL, Fort Collins, Colo.

I want a community that puts new work at the forefront. A community that embraces and demands theaters use their spaces to push boundaries and test the limits of the medium. That uses the black box to gather community and dream the culture forward. If you create solid, well-made plays, that is great, but I want a community that lets go of that as the standard. I want messy plays, plays that are too short and too long. Plays that end and you think: Wait, was that a play? I want theater made with an open heart. GEO DECAS O’DONNELL, Philadelphia

Change is good. Bring it on. MARK J. POWERS, San Ramon, Calif.

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