Over the four week run, audiences will vote off a play each week. AND, if you want to see more of the play, you have to come back each week to keep it going. And here's why...
The first week, they'll put up the first 10-minutes of five one-acts. After an audience vote, only four plays will advance to week two where they'll get their first 20 minutes performed. Again, the audience votes, and one gets the chop.
By week three, you'll have three one-acts, and each will play for 30 minutes... and then you vote.
The top two plays will make it to the finals (week 4), where they finally get to play out in their entirety (40 min) and last audience vote will determine the ultimate one-act play of "Divide & Conquer." Should this experiment go well, I expect this to become a new MadLab tradition.
I am simultaneously fascinated and disturbed that reality competition is making headway into theater --- wondering if this will a) pick-up steam beyond MadLab, and b) inspire writers to be more engaging from the top of the piece all the way through, as they can't rely on those last fantastic 10 minutes to sell the show.
To be fair, when sending out submissions to any competition, literary agent, etc., you're basically experiencing this very phenomenon behind-the-scenes, where the readers have hundreds of scripts and if your first 10-page block doesn't hook them, why keep reading? So, yeah, this is kind of that, but on a large scale, with actors, and audience.
This is what I'm wondering and asking... should we be excited? Should we applaud the merging of these worlds? Would more events like this help expose more writers (rather than two writers getting a full run of an evening of one-acts, five writers get their name out there, albeit briefly for some)?
Does embracing reality TV style competition into theatre acknowledge the changing wants of our audience -- specifically the next generation who are being raised on entertainment where they have a voice? Or does it devalue theatre as an art form by pandering to that audience? Art is often done to express something by the artist, to make us think, and to be more than entertainment. More than what the audience craves. So what do you think?
Would love to get your thoughts on this. From my end, I'm still torn. It's a slippery slope... I wouldn't want all theatre to evolve to this -- however, the competitor in me thinks it would be fun to play, and I know that as someone who wants to write for television as much as the stage, you only get that first impression to keep your audience from changing the channel. And don't forget, to anyone who cries foul of this (and I welcome you to do so; I love discussion on emerging theatre), a producer's job is to put people in the seats, so while the art is important, so are ticket sales and something like this, mixed into a season line-up, might just get some new blood into the house.
Should MadLab hold another 'Divide & Conquer' next year, I'll be submitting. Would you?
You can read more about MadLab's show (which opens this week), at http://madlab.net/MadLab/divideconquer.html