Monday, Dec. 21, 2009

'20's and '30's Retro Theatre

Idle Thoughts At The End Of The Calendar Year

By Russ Bickerstaff
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Last week before a show at the Alchemist, I ran into Alice Wilson—someone I knew in college who has found interesting theatrical work with local theatre group The M.U.T.E.S.


The silent film-style live comedy group has found itself traveling quite a bit getting gigs at a variety of different venues. Alice likes the arrangement—evidently preferring the road gigs with no permanent home I don’t know—sure it could probably get a bit tedious having a regular gig at a single theatre if you’re not into that sort of thing, but . . . what about creating a venue catered to the performance group? I’m picturing a silent era film-themed bar and grill owned and operated by the group . . . everyone dressing in silent film era outfits, carrying around title cards and such. Music could come courtesy of a live piano player playing compositions by Chaplin. And somewhere in the middle of it all would be the perfect stage for the group complete with movie palace-style proscenium and theatre seats . . .


And thinking about that brought-up thoughts of a similar outfit for Wisconsin Hybrid Theatre. A group that has been around for a little longer than the M.U.T.E.S., WHT has a similar retro-theme to its performances, playing them as live broadcasts from the early days of radio. The golden age of radio would make a rather classy retro-theme to a restaurant that could neighbor an equally classy radio studio-style theatre right next door. And, as long as we’re dreaming here if the studio itself could actually broadcast its show on an AM frequency, it would take WHT’s shtick to a whole new level. If WHT sold advertising to go along with its programming, the group could make money on that as well.

The economy may not be good enough to support either of these ideas, but with the  right kind of tweaking, both WHT and The MUTES could end up being really substantial. They're both really interesting retro theatre groups. It'd be really good to see the oth of them become more established. '20's and '30's retro theatre may not be a really established genre yet, but both WHIT and the M.U,T,E.S. do such a good job of bringing it to the stage that it's not hard to imagine it catching on . . . 

 

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