Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Illusory Threat of 3D and The Detroit Situation

Ok, a two-for-one post tonight on two topics that have been bothering me but aren't coherent (and I will warn you, as ideas that were noodled around in some 900 miles of driving they are far from coherent) enough for their own posts... Let me know your thoughts.

The Illusory Threat of 3D
I've heard grumbling that 3D poses a serious threat to live theatre. Having recently seen my first 3D feature film* -- Gnomeo and Juliet (otherwise decent, if for no other reason than the number of Shakespeare jokes) -- I can't imagine that any of the grumblers have actually stepped foot into the magic of live theater.

A film in "3D" is still two dimensional -- there is no life, there is no freedom of reception. All that makes live theater compelling is missing. The exchange of energy between actor and audience, that buzz in the air, is dead. I'd much rather spend $110 for that four-dimensional energy than $11 for what is a poor substitute for the third dimension.

Freedom of reception -- the phrase just occurred to me as the receiver's counterpoint to the artist's freedom of expression -- was perhaps what was most conspicuously absent; in live theater one is free to receive the scene as they wish: While naturally in most cases the playwright and director's desire is that you pay attention to the actor speaking you can analyze the reactions of other actors on the stage, the placement of props or whatever else may catch your attention. Such is not the case with film: Everything you see -- or don't see -- is controlled by the director, cinematographer, and editor: You don't have the freedom to see anything beyond what those individuals intend for you to see.

The energy that is in the air, the magical je ne sais quois that accompanies live theater -- is also, of course, absent in the presence of film -- but if you haven't experienced it, it is futile to try to describe it.

The Detroit Situation
Outside of the wonderful bubble of classical music that is Cleveland, you may not be aware that the members of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra have been on strike since October. Unlike the brief work stoppage in Cleveland last year--where I thought both sides presented equally compelling and coherent arguments, I have no connection whatsoever to the DSO or its musicians. I've been watching the Detroit situation with some interest, but from afar -- both physically and emotionally. The more I learn either from seeking out information or from having information pushed my way, the less sympathetic (and competent, and coherent) the DSO's management strikes me as.

Even as a disinterested outsider, The way management's early offers combined shocking pay reductions with drastic work rule modifications can only be described as insulting**. While the musicians present well-written and [generally] fact supported arguments and position pieces on their website, in addition to sponsoring their own concert series, DSO's website is light on real information and management's petulant communiques typically drip (to my eyes, at least) of a parent who thinks that "Because I said so" is a valid response to any question -- and are seemingly treating the musicians as ignorant children throwing a temper tantrum rather than the professionals that they -- by DSO's own admission*** -- are.

* - I've done the IMAX 3D thing a few times many years ago.
**- Which in and of itself is saying a lot given my typical lack of sympathy to organized labor. I honestly think my feelings wold be different if it was just work rule changes or just a reduction in pay but the way the two have been worked together strikes me as punitive.
*** -- Well, it takes a few leaps to get there, it would defy logic for the DSO to label itself a professional orchestra (and "Michigan's premier performing arts institution") without also labeling its musicians as professionals.

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