There is theatre, and then there are cliches and assumptions about theatre.
Certianly the single biggest achievement of Smash’s first season (and perhaps the thing we should applaud it for) has been cataloguing an astonishingly thorough collection of the latter.
As a New Yorker and a theatre artist, I thought it might be fun to debunk a few of the bigger myths Smash throws our way about theatre and it’s business:
MYTH #1: Actresses don’t like each other (although they occasionally pretend to like each other).
Truth Factor: 10%
This might actually be an interesting myth to explore if it was addressed in any sort of nuanced way: say, looking at how difficult it can be when young women are directly pitted against each other for big opportunities, and the insecurity and issues that ensue.
But scarcely a nod is made toward the intelligent, multi-talented and collaborative women that actually populate the New York theatre scene, despite unlimited opportunities to show it off. Actresses other than Ivy, Karen and the appallingly one-dimensional Rebecca appear as one-line, one-dimensional characters, who always, for some strange reason, seem to be cuddling with gay men and/or stretching.
In related news: : shockingly, not every actress in New York would scratch eyes out to play Marilyn Monroe.
MYTH #2: All theatre happening anywhere other than Broadway is exactly like Rent.
Truth factor: 1%
I have seen hundreds of off-off Broadway or “downtown” shows since I moved to New York. I have written them, been in them, produced them, and supported others in doing all of the same. I can safely say that the percentage of these shows that resembles Rent is one in a hundred, if that.
Smash wastes every opportunity to examine or even make a nod toward the innovative people and work going on outside the Broadway scope. The lesson of Smash is that theatre in New York about being the star of the show and getting famous, not making interesting work.
There is a plethora of companies making amazing work that is collaborative and imaginative in nature. And not about film stars. Surprise!
Truth Factor: .01%
This is a real eye-roller. Yes, yes, yes. People in theatre do engage in that bastardization of a word which is hateful to even say: the “showmance.” Sometimes they are married. So – it’s just like real life! Office romance! Most women in theatre, though, especially those that have been working for any time period longer than six months, know how to have at least some professional relationships with the men around them.
In Smash-world, the handsome, narcissistic actors and directors of the theatre world prove an irresistible temptation to the women who work with them – and when these affairs and intrigues start to go south, the women suffer from hysterical emotional outbursts which sabotage their careers and marriages.
I don’t even feel the need to debunk this. It’s sexist and ridiculous and debunks itself.
MYTH #4: Assistants are crazy, fame-hungry lunatics.
Truth factor: 5%
Tom’s creepy assistant/former-assistant, Ellis, who I think is the strangest character on the show by a long mile, is like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. From a passing comment, he leaps to assume that he is a creative force and then proceeds to implausibly stuff himself into corners and appear in crannies like an evil wizard from Harry Potter. Really? Come on.
Here’s a little insight into the world of assistants and what they want: a career. That’s right! I know it sounds crazy, but most assistants actually want to have careers! Not only that, they want to work with successful, creative people, not sabotage them! So they actually, when not prevented by some sort of inherent sociopathic tendency, work hard, learn a lot, and often are rewarded for working hard, and end up succeeding.
Three bonus myths to be on the look out for!
#5: People in the theatre like to throw drinks in other theatre people’s faces in real life, because it’s just so dramatically fulfilling.
#6: Everyone that lives outside of New York is a caricature, preferably sourced from a Norman Rockwell painting or a Hannah Montana movie.
#7: People from the theatre love to use lines that sound like they could come from plays. Ex. “Don’t walk away.” or “I can’t do this anymore.”
I can only think there must be a drinking game in there somewhere.