Making a Spectacle of Theatre

I’m finding myself thinking about theatrical spectacle of late.  Most of the theatre that have been doing lately, could be described as “small scale”: A few actors, on a mostly bare stage with just the suggestion of a set.  And while that kind of theatre can often be engaging and entertaining, I want to do something…bigger.  I want to create theatre that has both substance, and a visual appeal, something that sticks in the memory of the people seeing it.  I’m not talking just about great costumes, but I’m talking about large cast, with live music, and perhaps dance. Something multi-disciplinary.  I have ideas that I’m working on, scripts that I’m editing that will fit the bill. Sadly, the only thing that stands in the way is finances.  The ideas I have are expensive.

Perhaps one day.

What do you think of spectacle in theatre?  Do you find it missing of late (outside of the big budget broadway-style musicals)?  Do you enjoy it?  Or does it annoy you (or worse)?


  1. I actually find spectacle to be exactly what ails most American theater… but I suspect we may be defining the term differently.

    It’s critical, to my mind, for theater to be visually appealing. It’s also critical for playwrights to maintain an expansive sense of vision, even against shrinking budgets. Let our ambitions never be limited by our wallets.

    But spectacle, to me, implies a kind of lavishness of visual detail that just isn’t appropriate to the demands of our genre. Film is spectacular; theater needs to differentiate itself. I’m not saying there isn’t room for all kinds of theater, but that the Theater of Spectacle deserves to be the exception, rather than the rule.

    An overemphasis on spectacle makes our audiences passive recipients of our stories. It puts them in an “oh, wow, look at that” place. By contrast, theater that’s stripped down, that shows its strings and seams, requires an audience to participate imaginatively in the creation of the story. It’s the difference between television (spectacle) and classic radio drama (bare bones).

    Still, let me say again: if your impulse is to make big, beautiful, spectacular theater, terrific. We theater practitioners need to hold all possibilities open. But I don’t think spectacle represents the highest calling for our genre, nor do I think it’s the future, either.

  2. I agree!

    I’m looking to create more of an EXPERIENCE when I produce. Les Coquettes do this well by using the full space and by working with their lighting cues, and the recent show Swing in the Night by Lady Luck Productions had a more substantial set. I’d like to combine the two.

    BigHead Murals does AMAZING painted backdrops and she’s affordable and talented. That’s a sure-fire way to get bang for considerably less buck. I used her USS Enterprise for my Babes in Space show.

    Even the SMALLEST thing like a tablecloth can go miles to creating an atmosphere. I think there’s a vast calling for more tablecloths.

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