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Arts & Culture

Five reasons San Pedro Playhouse should keep its hands off 'My Fair Lady'

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Those who haven't been following my Wicked Stage blog missed a real hullaballoo when I suggested that the San Pedro Playhouse — striving for ever more family friendly (and profitable) theater — was wrong to cancel Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire in favor of My Fair Lady. In a prepared statement released to the Express-News last month, SPP Artistic Director Frank Latson said the decision was made "in the interest of continued economic growth" and in favor of "family friendly programming." It was one of many "tough choices" being made so that the Playhouse may "enter our second century with a strong and steady foundation," he wrote.

I suggested that if the Playhouse was having trouble filling seats, it certainly wasn't because they'd veered from the path of "family friendly" programming; I further offered that its upcoming one-two punch of Oklahoma! and My Fair Lady was unlikely to set many hearts a-flutter, particularly in the breasts of younger theater-goers. If the Cameo and Woodlawn theatres could get younger patrons into their houses with hipper or more innovative programming — as with this past fall's Avenue Q — then the SPP could likewise grow its audience by reconsidering its commitment to "family friendly" mid-century musicals.

Reaction was swift and vociferous, particularly concerning my suggestions for improvements in marketing, production, and capital renovation. Yet virtually no one commented on what I thought was the thrust of my blog post: that My Fair Lady is an uninspired choice for a spring slot and unlikely to attract new audiences to the Playhouse. There may be no business like show business, but it is a business, and I'm certain that other artistic directors are all too eager to siphon off audiences from the Playhouse — including Mark Richter with his newly announced "Off-Broadway Series" at the Josephine. So perhaps the SPP — or another enterprising producer — could bring me one of the following productions in the new year, any of which would be fairer than My Fair Lady.

August: Osage County. Tracy Letts' saga of three generations in a troubled Oklahoma family is juicy, gripping, funny, and a marvelous vehicle for actors; San Antonio's actresses, in particular, would eat it up. So would audiences: I've seen three different productions, and it's as close a thing to a sure-fire hit as a theater can get. Plus, the Playhouse is one of the few spaces in town that could accommodate the demands of its large (and necessary) multi-tiered set.

Spring Awakening. The absence of this musical from San Antonio's stages is almost unconscionable; in the pursuit of "family friendliness" we've neglected what I consider to be the most important "family" musical of this century. In a city with an alarming teen pregnancy rate, this beautiful work — which concerns the devastating events of sexual ignorance on adolescent health — should be required viewing for all San Antonio parents and their teenaged kids.

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