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Theater Tour Ideas

Kudos to the Tofu Chitlin' Circuit for putting together yet another excellent forum for discussion at The A la Carte: Candied Yams Edition.  A number of folks were pretty passionate about their position, but the tone was respectful and the learning opportunity was cool.  (Okay, the candied yams, roasted chicken, battered tofu and sweet potato chips with bleu cheese & roasted pecan dip were all so very tasty!)  I have a lot to learn about theater, so I always try to take advantage of post-performance discussions as they tend to make the theater experience so much more enriching.  Believe me - there have been a number of times that I've left a performance a little lost; unsure of what the message was supposed to be.  Sometimes discussions with a friend or a well-written review provide a little clarity that may have been more helpful before the performance than afterwards.  And, sometimes after a performance, I find myself listing to bits of conversations or searching the faces of others leaving the performance, wondering what they're thinking. 


I've always been a little perplexed about the lack of cultural diversity at many of the culturally-themed performances that I attend.  I wonder whether it's due to the neighborhood (typically northside), perceived haughtiness, or a simple failure to get the word out.  Why is it that Tyler Perry can draw thousands, but Black Theater companies are struggling?  Is traditional theater "superior" to "urban" theater? These are some of the issues that we have discussed at A la Carte and these issues have led me to contemplate the idea of a Theater Tour.


My thought so far is to select a wide range of theater performances at various venues.  We'd have an educational session or discussion forum in advance of the performance, which would be open to the public.  Then, on a selected date, we'd attend the performance as a group, followed by some discussion and socializing.  Since I'd like for you to participate, I'd also like your ideas!  What type of format would you be interested in?  Would you be interested in pre-performance events?  Would you prefer to just keep it uncomplicated and enjoy a good laugh?  Do you have recommendations for performances?  Are you open to attending a play for a couple of hours and spending an hour or two afterwards talking and hanging out?


I'd really appreciate your feedback!

Reader Comments (11)

A theatre tour is a brilliant idea. I'd even contemplated a theatre festival here in the city. Post show discussions, both formal and informal are great. Getting people to talk about what they've seen and experienced stimulates thought and develops the appetite for more. It's imperative that the tour offers a diverse experience. Exposure to the "traditional" theatre productions as well as the "Urban" theatre productions provides a cognitive balance. Dramas, comedies, musicals and dance should be offered on the tour. Stories in the above mentioned genres from both the black and white American experiences should be offered.

February 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJames

Hey Soleil!!

I am loving the many dimensions of your To-Do's. You are always adding additional layers : ) coming up with new avenues.


March 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAbstract475

I completely agree, some events I've been to should have included required reading especially for dramas or abstract performances. I would love to attend more theater with pre and post discussions, maybe with pre-theater libations and post-theater dining options.

March 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterClara

Thank you Abstract! I'm hoping to create an avenue that will encourage attendance, understanding/appreciation, while at the same time giving Sophisticates an opportunity to meet one another. Do you attend theater often, not at all or occasionally?

March 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSoleil!

Thanks for your response, James! I know now (though I haven't always) that you're a bit of a heavy-hitter when it comes to theater. In fact, I just found out that you're a student of Chekhov and speak fluent Russian! So, I'm not surprised that you like the idea and you've definitely hit on the key elements. Do you think that the performances should be selected on some sort of continuum, or would a random approach suffice? Do you have friends who don't attend theater often and, if so, do you know what the barriers might be?

March 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSoleil!

I've certainly been left a little dazed and confused after a performance and then amazed to find out (through a post-performance discussion) all the subtle things that I missed! Regarding the pre and post discussions, I thought that breaking it into two sessions would be an easier approach than having a 5-hour theater marathon. So my thought was to devote a couple of hours to a discussion and/or lecture about the subject of the performance, or the background of the type of theater or something along those lines. This could be done over formal dinner (i.e., restaurant) or informally as we've done with the Tofu Chitlin Circuit.

Then following the actual performance, we go to a nearby restaurant or lounge (walking distance from theater) for more leisurely conversation and libations. This might work better for a matinee performance since most evening performances don't end until 10pm or so.

March 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSoleil!

I received a couple of other comments by e-mail that I'd like to share:

"Hi Stephanie

I do not know if Sydney told you that I got a call from Court Theater the night after we went to VGt asking for the Bronzeville Theater Group and asking for our support as 'cultural institutions' in the community. Well, when Matta introduced the Bronzeville Theater Group, I thought, hmmmm, that is interesting. I would be intereted in participating but I do not want to get overwhlmed with it. My thought had been that if we could develop this concept, and perhaps only quarterly or at maximum every two months outings it would be good. I would like us to have a reception and audience talk after the prformance when possible. We could get together at Tofu , here, or wherever, later to further digest the play with those who would be interested. .I like tofu's format and that will work for a lto of people, especially those who are theater buffs or want to be, and younger people. I think something happening right at the theater would appeal more to older group. I could be so wrong about that."

Fay - I agree that having the post-discussion at the theater wouldn't be optimal. I'd prefer a location without time constraints - but within walking distance of the performance. We might even, on occasion, be able to offer a package that includes the performance and dinner (or cocktails and appetizers). Depending on how the work is spread around, I'd like to see it happen every month or two, depending on what productions are taking place.

Do you see this as something where participants should commit to an entire series, or drop in as they're interested?

March 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSoleil!


I'd definitely be interested. Please keep me posted on how you would like to facilitate these discussions and what you would like my role to be in this. I have to admit that I am not a big theatre tourist right now. Since I haven't been exposed to this arena enough to offer suggestions or feedback on how the "format" for the discussions should go, I can and will most surely adapt. Please keep me posted.

March 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTyra


If you had tuned in to Emily and Friends on WVON last Saturday, with guests/co-hosts Abena Joan Brown of ETA and Jackie Taylor of Black Ensemble Theatre Company, you would have heard my phone-in comment regarding local Black theatre companies and their lack of attractiveness to the younger masses -- particularly during Black History Month.

My argument is one that transcends BHM observances. It's one that I voice year-in and year-out. You mentioned Tyler Perry and his magnetism. Well, that genre of "Chittlin' Circuit-like productions usually grabs the attention a certain segment of the black populace. Jackie Taylor's work is performance theatre -- not drama. ETA does drama, bhut it generally doesn't rise to the level that those who are drama "purists" prefer.

I said on the air that the youths of today are not drawn to Black theater because it is not relevant to their being. I pointed out that "Here we are in Black History Month, but none of the Black theatre companies have staged any historical Black plays." I named several: "Amen Corner," "Day of Absence," "No Place to Be Somebody," "What The Wine Seller Buys," "A Soldier's Play,"etc.

There is a void to be filled by classic Black theatre. However,as a start, any approach toward inducing individuals to more vigorously patronize the arts is a positive step. Count me in..


March 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFred Dunham

Thanks so much for your comments, Fred and I will definitely count you in! I'm sorry I missed the program. If we could pull the younger set in and get them interested in theater, that would be great. In fact, if they attend theater (and have an understanding of it) and decide that it's not relevant, I'd be more comfortable with that than if they never attended it at all. But, Fred, it seems that even the mature adult is absent from Chicago theater. Granted, when I attend a performance, I have a snapshot of one audience; but, the one audience is all too frequently lacking in diversity. What has your experience with audience diversity been? Do you have any thoughts on any of the "format" ideas that have been tossed?

March 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSoleil!

Hi, Tyra - thanks for joining in! I think your insight is particularly important given your relative lack of experience. Have there been specific obstacles or issues that have kept you from attending theater?

March 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSoleil!

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