I’m not sure if it qualifies as ironic or just funny that an acquaintance from the Atlantic Coast recently told me he was planning a move to Tulsa next year, based on the number of theater opportunities here.
First, just think about the statement on its own. A performer opting to leave the Coast for the Midwest and choosing Tulsa over other possibilities? That’s quite something in the era of instant celebrity via YouTube and the plague that is reality TV.
Where the irony comes in is that just a week earlier, while discussing the general theme of this blog, a local figure in the arts had mentioned that the vibrancy of the arts here is a bit of a secret and that word getting out had both potential positive and negative impact.
Well, it would seem the word has gotten out about the scene here in some circles at least. Asking this acquaintance his thought process and reasoning was pretty revealing and interesting to me since this blog is about my own relocation here and exploration of visual and performing arts in Oklahoma.
The acquaintance – we’ll call him Bob – changed careers a few years ago for one of those reasons unrelated to a bad economy. He gave up a steady day job to pursue acting in theater. He’s had a couple of decent roles, but it has been a struggle. Higher property values and thus overhead, greater competition from the largest theaters and the pressure for financial success have diminished smaller theaters and troupes, my friend tells me. The result is fewer opportunities for enthusiasts, who might very well be talented but might not have the chance to demonstrate it in the huge city-states of the East Coast.
So, Bob did some research and discovered a little city in northeast Oklahoma with an excellent live theater scene, with venues large and small and with a population seemingly supportive of both traditional and experimental theater. He said he went to the effort to make a few calls, including to a woman who wrote and had produced a play of her own here in town when she was still a teen years ago. He mentioned a few other people and venues, with which, I am ashamed to say, I am not very familiar. Bob’s conclusion – for someone interested in theater and having been willing to give up a day job to pursue acting (and eventually writing and directing), Tulsa offered what he believes to be the best opportunity for success – success however he defines it. He made a plan and is already asking me about neighborhoods, etc. (I’m assuming he is also asking people who might know about such things!)
Most importantly, from this blog’s perspective, is that this conversation has reinvigorated my own interest in small, mid-size and cutting edge theater in Oklahoma. So far, I’ve concentrated on the visual arts and they remain a great passion of mine. But so too is original theater and I’d like to explore more of it.
That’s where you, dear readers, can help. What is your favorite small or mid-size live theater venue? Where did you see the most original theatrical production? Which theater or theaters do you think are beneath the radar but which deserve greater attention? With your help, I’m sure we can help enthusiasts around the state learn a little at the same time I do. You can respond to this blog posting or email me direct with your suggestions, and I promise each will be explored.
And along the way, we might just help Bob well ahead of his arrival in Green Country.
-Michael W. Sasser is Oklahoma Magazine’s senior editor and an award-winning journalist. For comments or suggestions, reach him at [email protected].