The Creativity Dilemma

Animated purple curtain with the words: "The creativity dilemma. Exploring the divide between higher and lower budget productions."

Please note this article mentions suicide.

Last summer I booked a trip to New York City as I hadn’t visited since I was very young. I was extremely excited as I really wanted to see a Broadway musical for the first time. As I hopped online looking for shows to see, I remember thinking, “Back to the Future the Musical… Why?” I have no hate for the idea—it could be an amazing musical—I was just surprised at the idea of a Back To The Future musical and it having a spot on Broadway. I continued searching and found that around half of the musicals on Broadway at the time were either remakes of hit movies or revivals of older shows. At first, I was surprised but after further thought, it made sense. I recently looked at’s list of current best-selling Broadway shows and saw that four out of the top ten shows on Broadway right now are direct adaptations of former hit movies, while five out of ten of the shows are connected to an already existing popular product or a revival of an old show. 

Wicked is connected to The Wizard of OZ, Harry Potter and The Cursed Child is connected to Harry Potter, and so on and so forth. Even though these are creative adaptations expanding on already existing commercially successful projects, they are not entirely original and use the former project to gain initial success. The success of prior works is a reality that is in the minds of investors when funding shows, as they ask themselves the question: Why risk a new idea for a production when it is widely known that most Broadway shows of this kind lose money? 

I personally have a soft spot for Broadway shows. Due to their high budget, they are spectacles which can do things that other productions will only dream of. From beautiful sets to the best of the best performers, they are generally fantastic viewings. With that being said, I do find there to be a lack of creativity. During my search, I remember reflecting on this job, which at the time I had very recently begun, and thought, “Hopefully there is more inventiveness in what I get to see.”

At the time of this article, I have been writing on the blog for just under 11 months and have seen a multitude of immensely creative live performance pieces. I came into this job with little knowledge of Kingston’s theatre scene and had only seen more high-budget traditional performances. That being said, I was excited to see what Kingston had to offer. And throughout the past 11 months of seeing shows, it has delivered. The creativity and freshness that I believe were, and are, lacking in high-budget productions, I’ve found in the Kingston theatre scene. 

My excitement peaked when it came to festivals—this is where I found many shows that gave artists the freedom to be creative and risky as many performed in non-traditional ways. A perfect example of this is Scored In Silence. It was one of the first shows I had the pleasure of reviewing and was part of the Festival of Live Digital Arts (FOLDA). In this show, Deaf performer Chisato Minamimura uses animations, vibration devices, sign language, visual vernacular, voiceovers, and documentary footage to beautifully tell the tragic story of the atomic bomb’s effect on Hiroshima’s Deaf community. This extremely accessible show is so different from anything I have ever seen, which I adored.

Another example would be One Night Only which was a part of Kingston’s 2023 TK Fringe Festival and the 2023 Kick & Push Festival. The show stars Nicholas Eddie, a solo performer, as he tries to make it through the night without killing himself. This dark comedy explores vast topics of suicide, mental health, addiction, technology, modern love, and the concept of not having enough time. These important topics are each addressed in different imaginative segments of the show. His writing is unique and uncharacteristic as the show felt extremely disjointed but found linearity in the end. This show could be seen as a risky project, but one that paid off because I loved every minute of it.

These types of unique shows are able to garner an audience due to, I believe, small communities’ support of seasonal festivals and inventive works. From what I have seen, local theatre has a core group of consumers who often attend shows in the area and just adore theatre. Plus, these types of shows tend to be inexpensive and sometimes even free. This aspect can bring a whole new set of folks to shows and the local theatre community continues to expand. 

Big cities might be less inclined to support these inventive shows, knowing what can make them money, and that some folks might not want to risk seeing a show that could be a flop. But with smaller cities such as Kingston, there’s less risk to putting on these inventive productions because there’s no expectation of producing a Broadway-level spectacle. Kingston specifically looks towards these innovative projects more, hosting FOLDA and the Kick & Push Festival. 

Throughout the past 11 months, I have seen a variety of shows. Ranging from locally crafted musicals to two-hour-long one-person shows, to a show about pho (yes, the food). I won’t come here and say all 30+ shows I have seen have been fantastic, but for the handful that I loved—they have all had a special inkling in them that could not be seen in big production shows. I realize the risk in funding new creative pieces, but if this medium wants to grow and attract new audiences it needs to take risks. Risks that are being seen and paying off in local theatre productions not just in Kingston, but around the world.


  • Stefan D'Ippolito

    Stefan is a dynamic writer for the theatre critic blog, balancing a Major in Computer Science and a minor in Film and Media Studies. He is passionate about the arts and technology and how one can use both mediums to display creative narratives that captivate audiences. He has joined the blog this summer and is excited to see what Kingston performing arts has to offer.

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