I was going to write a post about "themed seasons" in theatre, but then I realized I'd already written it in an email to my friend Jon. So I just copied and pasted it below. I did add a couple of sentences, but whatever, it's essentially the same.
I think my dislike of "themed" seasons stems from the way I like to watch theatre. If possible, I prefer to go into a show knowing nothing about it. If I don't know the actors or production team, even better. It allows for a greater level of "suspension of disbelief." It's something that's hard to come by now and harder the more people I get to know in this industry, but it's led to some of the best experiences I've had as an audience member. The Pillowman in London springs to mind. Or Cymbeline at the RSC. Or The Clean House at Woolly.
Being told, "this is what the entire season about" gives me a lens through which to view a show for the first time. It shifts how I focus on the play. Maybe towards what the playwright wants me to focus on, but it denies me the opportunity to discover that theme for myself. It makes it feel more like a class and less like art. It's the same reason I hate being guided in a talkback.
But, I realize that this is how I like to experience art. My mother, is the total opposite. She likes to read the script beforehand, learn as much as she can about what to expect, and then watch the show. This creates INFINITE tension when she comes to see a show of mine. Especially afterwards when she asks me what each choice "means." Because I want audiences to come to those conclusions on their own. To bring their own experiences to the show and have spontaneous emotional reactions rather than carefully thought out intellectual responses. I hate "validating" a reaction as the "correct" one.
For me, the joy in a season is finding the plays that I am currently excited by. Independent of each other. Then, as each one develops into a full production, discovering how they talk to each other. Because I find that frequently it takes me a while to discover exactly what I love about a play. I need to spend time with it and then I have that moment of realization - "Oh! Of course. This play is about this other issue that I'm wrestling with in my life outside of the theatre." I don't like planning out the conversation beforehand. I think it cuts off the process of play and discovery and limits the imaginations of those involved.
But again. That's MY preference. It's not everyone's. And it probably doesn't make marketing a season easier.