Most theatre practitioners (and thus I assume most theatre-goers) like to drink. For most of us it’s a bit of a hobby, so naturally when Mirvish announced that they’re allowing alcohol in their theatres this season I was excited. This combines two of my passions, fine art and fine liquor!
Immediately my thoughts drifted to my favourite theatre in the city, Passe Muraille. Was Mirvish taking a page from this NPO? You see, Theatre Pass Muraille has the perfect set up. A traditional theatre venue downstairs, but upstairs there is bar amidst the balcony seats. One can enjoy the show, or enjoy the show and a good drink. Unlike most theatre concessions the bar also remains open after the show, allowing for patrons to mingle and chat instead of immediately shooing them out into the cold.
Mirvish theatres aren’t taking this approach - instead they’re allowing patrons to take the drinks they buy at the concession into the theatre for the duration of the show. So you can’t order one ticket to The Sound of Music and a pint (you’d need a stronger drink to get through the show anyway). The system is not perfect, but it does have its perks. This means shorter lines at the concession, and a chance to actually enjoy the $9 glass of wine you bought instead of knocking it back like a shot when the end of intermission chimes ring.
Apparently this brings up a few issues for the conservative theatre goers who worry about tradition, cleanliness, and other generally snobby issues… what happens if patrons drink too much? Isn’t it a faux pas to eat or drink in the theatre? Whatever will we do if someone spills a drink?
The press release assures the too-tightly white collared folk that over-drinking has not yet been a problem (who could afford it?!) and that in a crowd of hundreds people get sick for non-alcohol related reasons all the time. Heck, people have died of natural causes in the theatre! But no one’s saying, “don’t let old people in!” While I have taken some liberties in paraphrasing the press release, I do admire their PR’s tenacity.
Besides, alcohol and theatre have a long history together. When the Greeks invented theatre, they were allowed to drink during performances. The Greek god Dionysus is the patron god of theatre… and wine. His followers drunkenly reveled in the early arts scene; why not pay homage to our roots?
Reading further into the press release I discovered that alcohol is only to be allowed during some shows, specifically at the upcoming musicals but at none of the “serious dramas.” I find two things wrong with this statement: a) the discrimination against drinking during other genres and b) the fact that Mirvish productions thinks they have or ever will put on a “serious drama.” (Okay, okay, so they put on 12 Angry Men, but come on!) I wonder why drinking only applies to musical spectacles instead of (excuse my elitism) real theatre… does commercialist theatre really need to get its audience drunk before they dazzle ‘em? What does that say about the quality of the show? Has real theatre posed such a threat that they’ve finally had to up the ante?
Unfortunately I doubt that’s the case. Perhaps this is just a sign of the times. Though last time there was a recession they banned alcohol, and now they’re practically forcing it on us… that can’t be a good sign... Still, raising a glass to theatre (and at the theatre) is always cause to celebrate.