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In the age of hyperbole, make theater heard

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It’s official. The age of hype, exaggeration, spin and scam is here. Everything is now the best, the biggest and the most tremendous. We local theater people struggle to put on our shows and get an audience, but we’re often overwhelmed by overstatement and overkill.

We’re now in the midst of award season, kicked off by the Golden Globes, voted on by about 90 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. It might make a good TV show if you can get through the commercials, but how valid the choices are is another question.

The women look good in their gowns, winners are grateful, and money is to be made at the box offices. But does it really make any sense?

The Academy Awards may have more merit and certainly generate more publicity. But is one actor really better than another? More likely it’s the role and the writing, the directing and the editing, and all the other facets of movie-making. Perhaps a politically correct statement needs to be made, or recognition is due to some overlooked person or group.

Okay, so I’ve been kind of grumpy — something to do with the outcome of a day last November. Alternate facts rule, and the truth is hard to come by. The narrator in “The Glass Menagerie” says he is the opposite of a stage magician: “He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth; I give you truth in the gentle disguise of illusion.”

While I’m at it, what’s with all the standing ovations? You can’t go to the theater these days without the audience rising to its feet at the curtain call. Is everything all that good? Or maybe it’s simply justifying what you paid for your ticket.

This being my first column in 2017 — I’ve been at this for just about 10 years — let me offer my wishes and hopes for our growing theater community. First, take some chances with contemporary plays. Don’t keep doing the same old stuff. Challenge your audience. I see that the Douglaston Community Theatre, our longevity champ, is on the right track with its upcoming production of “Other Desert Cities”, by Jon Robin Baitz, a recent Broadway hit.

Then look to do some diverse casting. Queens is known for its multi-ethnic population. Let’s see some of those people on stage. And let’s get organized — an umbrella organization to coordinate scheduling, publicity and sharing of resources would be a blessing.

Finally, get after our political and community leaders to find us some real theater venues. The churches and synagogues give us a home, but they don’t have the facilities that a state-of-the-art theater could offer.

Appreciation to Gregg Sullivan, an advocate for Bayside, who has secured an empty storefront on Bell Boulevard and turned it into a performance space. That’s a step in the right direction.

Reach Ron Hellman at RBHOFC@gmail.com.

Posted 12:00 am, February 7, 2017
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