Arts In the round

News and notes from the San Antonio theater scene

In 2000, frustrated by the unreliability of the Express-News’ published audition notices, the San Antonio Theatre Coalition began compiling its own listing of upcoming auditions and sending free weekly electronic updates to all interested parties.

E-Audition has been one of SATCO’s most popular programs and, as of this year, it’s no longer free. Anyone can still access the continually updated version at SATCO’s website,, but receiving a personal weekly email copy is now a privilege of membership, which starts at the $25-per-year “Individual” level.

It’s not about the money. SATCO, as the voice of live theatre in the area, is looking for ways to bolster the credibility of the medium. The city and much of the local media have consistently dismissed theater’s contributions to our economy and cultural scene, limiting access to grants and to vital audience-building publicity.

Despite SATCO’s efforts to build an impressive membership roster as a visible symbol of interest in and support for the art form, the naysayers may have a point. An ongoing source of frustration and confusion for local producers is the fact that, in a city this size, most struggle to fill seats in houses that hold between 50 and 300 people, even though touring productions frequently sell out the 2,311 seats at the Majestic.

Are local productions of significantly lower quality than the touring musicals? I’ve seen a lot of both, and in my opinion the answer is no. Is theater itself simply not relevant to today’s culture, not interesting to those steeped in movie extravaganzas and video gaming, as cultural observers across the country claim? Does San Antonio’s population — more conservative and less well-educated than the population of Austin, for example, where the theater scene is much more vibrant — just not consider live theater to be a compelling entertainment option? Is it too liberal? Not political enough? Elitist? Sub-standard? Too safe? Too edgy? Too expensive? Boring?

Money has been spent. Marketing research has been conducted. Results remain inconclusive. Still, the producers (and some of us who cover theater) wonder what keeps so many of you out of the box office. So, if you don’t attend live theater performances, e-mail me ([email protected]) and tell me why you don’t. If you’re not into theater, some of us are doing a lot of speculating about you; here’s your opportunity to speak for yourself. Let’s talk about this. Many ears are listening and I’ll discuss your responses in upcoming issues of this column.

Laurie Dietrich