Dumbing down….or making accessible….


February 27, 2012 by readlisaread

The Arts.  Imagine a scenario where “This one time at band camp….” has no context, because Band programs have been done away with.  We hear of artists suffering for their craft, but we often give little though to the medium itself. Parents will joyfully sit through Christmas Concert after Christmas Concert, but a vested interest in seeing your kid in a camel suit does not a patron make.

This past weekend, I had occasion to consider the arts on a couple of levels.  First, there was The Opera.  Speaking of a vested interest, I went to see Pacific Opera Victoria’s production of Carmen.  because my beautiful, talented and hardworking niece was in the chorus. I had never been to an opera before, and so off I went, after some tense moments deciding what to wear.  My bigger concern was really whether or not I would enjoy the experience, considering I was dropping $100 on my ticket.  And so begins the struggle we average people have supporting the Arts.  Once I was over the sticker shock, and had decided on an outfit, my next battle was between my ear and my intellect.  Would I understand what was going on? Would I actually really enjoy “that” kind of music? What if everyone around me was Thurston Howell and Ivana Trump and other fictional characters? What if I got bored and fell asleep and accidentally bought an armoire?  (Oh no wait….that’s at the Auction….)

As it happened, the crowd was as diverse as any you will find on the West Coast. And everyone was having a great time.  And I did not need to be an Operatic genius to understand what was going on, I need only read the translations.  Yes, high above the actors on the proscenium arch was a rectangular screen that gave very non-poetic but apt translations of what was being sung or spoken on stage. The translations were brief, both in words and in repition–for example, the translation of the chorus was only shown once. I think this is one of the smartest moves that I bet the theatre community hated making.

I was imagining Thurston and Lovie Howell complaining that the translations allowed for laziness–that classical education was no longer necessary if you didn’t have to understand operatic style and know the histories of both the stories and the composer. But in this process of “dumbing down” the content and making it accessible to the unwashed masses, there is hope that maybe more people would more often attend productions, allowing for more opportunity for more variety and reminding us all that the Arts are a necessary– and beautiful– facet of our lives.

Currently, teachers are hovering on the brink of another strike because of endless government cutbacks and restraint.  Music, art, drama are always in peril of being cut, because they seem “Frivolous” and are an easy justification when the argument of “Just teach the basics” comes up.

How do I know that that is false economy? No one pays $100 a seat to watch a math lecture.


Part 2: Amateurs on Parade (coming soon)


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