A group of theater and science fiction enthusiasts gathered in the Hyatt Embassy AB Friday at 8:30PM to talk about the intersection of those particular genres. They might not seem like a natural fit, but as more genre shows start finding their way to mainstream stages, it does seem that they are becoming better companions. The assembled panelists are or were all involved in theater at some level, either as a side hustle, a hobby, or as part of their career.
Right from the start, the point that “genre” theater has been around for a long time was made when the panelists were asked what their favorite genre show was, and the immediate answer was The Tempest. It has magic and monsters, what more could you want? Some other answers included Lizzie, which is a rock musical about Lizzie Borden, and specifically, the ’82 touring production of Sweeney Todd.
Genre and sci-fi theater still has to be character driven, especially because you are asking your audience to take an extra leap in suspending disbelief. It’s important not to do it half-way. The audience is a critical part of the creative process, and so much of the best theater requires the audience to be actively involved. The feedback energy of an audience can make or break a show and indicate where things are working, and where things are definitely not.
Part of the problem of getting more genre stories up on stages is that the Broadway machine is designed to be safe for turning a profit. The innovation in this area is happening in the smaller theater houses and in the community theaters that are working on a shoestring budget. However, the cultural hurdle of getting an audience to buy into nerd stuff is largely gone, since there is so much geek content out there.
What can we, as theater goers and theater lovers do to help? The panelists all agreed that the best way is to go see the weirdest things you can. If your reaction to something is “that sounds insane. How much is a ticket?” then that’s the thing you want to go see.