Summer’s Stock

Get Happy

American progress: what took Stanislavski two and a half years, can now be done in two and a half weeks!

This is the summer stock theatre season in America, with all of its “hey guys, let’s put on a show” optimism and guarantees that audiences will be delighted, not disturbed.

Traditionally, throughout New England towns and a few spots farther afield from New York, actors, directors, and designers leave the city for a summer spent in the countryside. The “stock” refers to the reuse of sets and costumes: amazing how the same wall can be part of Neil Simon’s Odd Couple and Ibsen’s Ghosts.

Barns become theatres, audiences become relaxed, and Chekhov gets produced after a couple of weeks’ rehearsal.

The bad news is that this is the kind of theatre where directors make the quickest choices, actors use the easiest ideas, and everyone skims along the surface of every play: the fast food of American theatre.

The good news is that summer stock helps exercise the directors’ and actors’ tools and craft: you have to make decisions; you have to listen on stage (after such a short rehearsal time, you never know who is going to forget their lines or what they are supposed to do); and, you have a training ground for young apprentices. Almost all the summer stock theatres provide opportunities for high school and/or college students to work alongside professionals, onstage and off.

If Hollywood’s summer blockbusters give us the junk food of movie making, then summer stock also has a place for giving us fast food.

Even the noblest amongst us deserve the occasional break of eating without nutrients, watching without thinking, and creating without depth.

Summer stock is a source of American ingenuity and pride.

- Bill Reichblum

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