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Marketing Make Believe in Times of Terrible Reality

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – Buffalo's ever-robust theatre season opened this month. But for the second year in a row, it opened in the shadow of terrorism. This year the shadow was cast from a few mere blocks away.

Theatre people delight in their ability to transcend reality. But even the best staging and acting have their limits. Joyce Stilson from the Alleyway Theatre was marketing chair for this year's Curtain Up! event. Stilson says the local theatre community has struggled through some pretty hard times to keep theatre alive in Buffalo. This year is likely to be the hardest yet.

Stilson says convincing people to lose themselves in a make believe world is a bit difficult when terrorism becomes a surreal stage play in their own neighborhood.

"It's like having a pink elephant in the room, and we have to be aware of what's happening around us, certainly," said Stilson. "Because people have this dose of reality, this dose of what the rest of the world has been dealing with for so long. And to have it literally within miles is almost something that is absurd for us here in this country."

The hits have been continuous on local theatres since 9/11. First, a dramatic fall off in ticket sales, followed by state budget cuts. Then, last year, the city pulled all of its arts funding. Now, the world is camped out at the theatre district's door to watch the fate of the Lackawanna six.

Stilson says she knows that's bound to sap even more government resources. But she says Buffalo should also worry about protecting the frail soul of the community.

"There still needs to be a sort of due diligence to the fabric of our community, and part of that fabric is what makes this community special, certainly the arts are that," said Stilson. "We can't lose ground to what we've already accomplished here."

Stilson says she's hopeful. At this year's Curtain Up, Mayor Masiello pledged that terrorism will not make him neglect or forget one of our most precious freedom's -- the freedom of expression through the arts.