I have a love-hate relationship with “best of the year” lists. I think Americans (and probably many other people) are obsessed to the point of disease over making comparisons.
The added problem with a “best of the year” theatre list is that, unlike with a list of books or movies, you usually can not go and experience the “best” shows for yourself. Not those exact productions anyway. So it’s not as if people can consult the list when they seek recommendations.
Also, a problem with one person making a “best theatre of the year” list is that it is physically impossible for one person to have seen every live theatre show produced in the Indianapolis area in 2010. There were just too many of them.
On the other hand, one person’s list of favorites at the end of a year can be an enjoyable reminder for other people of shared past pleasures and/or a gentle creative prompt for doing their own remembering.
It can be a way of noticing and appreciating, of thanking God for the color purple or whatever.
In any case, I just enjoy making and reading lists in general.
So…I have created a new list: “Hope’s Top Three – Plus Three – Live, Indianapolis-Area Theatre Shows of 2010.”
(I’ll work on the title, maybe, for 2011.)
The top three shows on my list are shows that made me say “WOW!” when I saw them and which still jump out in my mind as core-shakers without my having to look over my directory of what I saw in 2010. They are the three that continue to resonate with me most strongly, both artistically and personally, here at the end of the year. If I had a time machine and could only see three shows in 2010, these are the three I would pick.
But thank goodness I was not limited to just three shows in 2010! I am grateful to have seen many enjoyable shows this year. In fact, I was fortunate enough to see a total of 119 (no, wait, I saw one more last night) 120 shows at more than 35 theatres in Indiana in 2010. I missed a lot of shows, unfortunately, especially community theatre shows, but still…120 is 120.
(I also saw two excellent shows at two different professional theatres in Washington, D.C. but I am not considering them for my “best of Indy” list.)
So…I would also like to recognize three more shows that jumped out at me as especially satisfying artistically when I looked over my 2010 directory this morning.
My top three shows from 2010, in the order I saw them, are:
This story about a woman figuring out what it means to be loyal to herself and to her loved ones was hilarious and touching. I saw it three times and wished I could have seen every single performance. Constance Macy was brilliant as the title character, but the whole cast gave delightfully nuanced performances under James Still’s gentle, empowering direction.
“How I Learned to Drive” by Paula Vogel – Carmel Community Players
I saw this while I was on sabbatical, so I didn’t write about it at the time, but it was a powerful, powerful show about a dysfunctional family. Angela Steele Bowers and Dan Scharbrough gave complex and heart-breaking performances as a damaged woman looking back on her childhood experiences with the truly loving uncle that sexually abused her. The supporting cast and the design team were equally strong under the passionate direction of Brian G. Hartz.
Lovingly composed, directed, and choreographed by Ben Asaykwee, and performed by him and a handful of other talented performance artists, this musical literary anthology theatre piece was deeply respectful of the stories and poems of Edgar Allen Poe while bringing them to life with fresh creativity. Dark, sexy, funny, beautiful…this show put this relatively new company on the Indy theatre map for me.
My three “artistic honorable mentions” are, in random order:
This jewel was an exquisite example of the multi-faceted possibilities unique to live theatre art. From the clever staging to the excellent ensemble acting to the costumes to the musicianship and more, Director Randy White and his team of designers and performers brought this “dusty” American classic to life in a rich, vivid way.
R. Brian Noffke directed an all-volunteer cast in this award-winning script about toxic family dynamics and human yearning. The actors’ performances were so extraordinary that I truly forgot that I was at the theatre. (That almost never happens to me, especially at an all-volunteer community theatre piece.) Coming out of this show was like waking from a dream.
“A Christmas Carol Unscripted,” by Ed Trout and Michael Davis – ComedySportz
I went to this late-night, for-adults-only, improvisational comedy, music, and storytelling show on a whim one weekend just for fun, so I only tweeted about it at the time. However, as I look back over my show directory for 2010, I remember that the CZ comics at this particular performance were “in the zone” in an exceptionally fearless and admirable way. The man who played Scrooge (I think his name was Jeff Clawson) was especially adroit at both managing the energy of the sex-starved, blood-thirsty crowd and coming up with truly funny, in-the-moment responses, but everyone in the cast was in mojo mode that night.
So there’s my list. Three top shows and three honorable mentions. I recommend that you create your own list, especially if you disagree with mine.
By the way, I have never made a year’s end “best of theatre” list before, but I did participate in a rich thread on IndianaAuditions.com back in December of 2007 on “the state of Indianapolis theatre.” Here is a direct link to the beginning of that thread. What I wrote comes in towards the end, on page 7, I think, but the whole thread is worth reading. Make yourself a fresh cup of tea and settle in for a good read, and leave a comment there yourself if you want. Whether you write something or not, if you are at all involved with the Indianapolis theatre community, I bet that thread will trigger some thoughts about where we are now, just three years later.
Also by the way, and while I am in comparison-making mode, I would like to award the following five gold stars:
- Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre offers me the most consistently comfortable, enjoyable theatre.
- Broadway Across America offers me the most consistently dazzling theatre.
- The Indianapolis Civic Theatre offers me the most consistently high-quality design elements (sets, costumes, lighting, sound, etc.)
- The Phoenix Theatre offers me the most consistently thought-provoking and enjoyably cathartic theatre.
- Storytelling Arts of Indiana offers me the most variety in terms of emotionally satisfying, professional, performance/oral tradition storytelling.
These five organizations also happen to be the five that make life easiest and fun for me as a part-time, volunteer theatre writer, so I hope their CEOs will also give gold stars to each of their media relations people as well.
To everyone: please accept my sincere and very best wishes for 2011. Thank you very much for reading Indy Theatre Habit in 2010. ‘See you here and at the theatres in 2011!
Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com
(P.S. – The photo above is called “Green Heart (And the Green Grass Grows All Around, All Around.” It was taken by David Goehring and shared in the Creative Commons area of Flickr.com.)