Defending Theory and Practice

Every now and then, I’ll get a nasty little message implying that discussions around musical theatre practice, debates around musical theatre terminology and so on are petty and worthless. Let me go on record saying that I do not think such discussions are petty at all. It is obviously of interest to those of use who discuss it and who do so regularly. Sometimes, it astounds me how quickly some people write off topics that deal with abstraction and theory and this is perhaps what is petty, more than the discussions themselves are.

The semantics that surround the field of musical theatre scholarship are important, increasingly so as musical theatre criticism emerges as a reputable field of literary criticism that continues to grow as an area in which research and analysis can be explored in post-graduate studies of the genre. The debate around terminology, for example, is a particularly interesting one because terms have been so loosely applied in the relatively short and constantly evolving history of what we call musical theatre and the process of defining a common lexicon for the field is still very much in motion.

Now, I would never expect that such discussions, on whatever level of discourse they may occur, to interest everyone. If the topic does not interest you, then you really don’t need to post a response on my blog passing judgment on the discussion and by implication upon the people who have participated in it. You don’t even need to read my blog at all. Move on to the things that interest you instead.

This entry was posted in Musicals, Theatremaking, Theory and Practice and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Defending Theory and Practice

  1. Hans Anders Elgvang says:

    I agree.

  2. There are much more important issues to concern ourselves with. It always kills me when folks get so wrapped up in terminology concerning something like (and I know I’m going to get crucified for saying this) musical theatre. Go ahead, flame away. I stand by my statement.

  3. David Fick says:

    I do kind of understand what you’re saying and certainly there are more important issues in the world. But then where does one draw the line? Taking it to an extreme example, does it mean that until all war is resolved, we should hold off all discussions on musicals altogether? It’s easy to lose perspective moving in the opposite direction too.

    The way I see it, terminology is important in any field: it gives us a common language for discussion. At a time when musical theatre is still very much an emerging field when it comes to writing about the form and when much of the terminology coined is sometimes vaguely or inconsistently applied, discussion around musical theatre terminology is relevant: it is interesting to me to see various perspectives on the matter and I’m certain that others find it interesting too, or topics like these would never be discussed at all.

    I’m not saying it has to be as interesting to you personally: obviously everybody has their own priorities and I’m not trying to convince you to shift yours. However, I don’t see the point in throwing out the baby with the bathwater either. I hope you don’t interpret this as a “flame”. I’m not trying to be argumentative and am only offering my perspective on the value of discussing such things.

  4. Understood. I guess my point really was that this sort of topic I find a trifle tedious. In the same vein that I find conversation between folks that debate different genres of say horror films or heavy metal. I’d rather discuss the quality of material than how it’s labled and/or defined as that can be very subjective and very difficult to nail down.

  5. Enrique says:

    @ David:

    I love you.

  6. janet shell says:

    In any worthwhile venture, surely finding common terminology is helpful for a cohesive approach? That may require rather dull conversations around definition (I wouldn’t find them dull but I appreciate some will) and creating clear structures. Sadly it can all get bogged down or indeed inflammatory when it comes to personal preferences on things – so a recognised standard is useful.

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