PRODUCE: Reality TV and Lauren’s Goals for the Series…
















Or is it Produce?








Either way, it's happening tomorrow night, and for the following three Fridays in July. You've been hearing a lot from me about Produce. About what it is and why you should come.

So, instead of repeating myself with shameless, desperate plugs to fill seats at the Fasseas Whitebox, this is about why I am doing it.

Reality TV is amazing. Where else can you lump together frat boys, dancers, trophy wives, fat people, hoarders and obnoxious brides-to-be in the same category?! In both of my current projects, part of my efforts have been focused on evaluating, understanding, and ultimately discarding reality TV from my life. I really want to figure out why this stuff is so compelling, and conversely why I sometimes judge my own success based on these contrived "real people" we see on TV. I frequently carry on about how it's so difficult to get butts in seats at the theatre, and yet, I admittedly watched about three back-to-back episodes of Teen Mom yesterday during my day off…. That's not that I necessarily consider Teen Mom to be comparable competition to, say, Produce.

Dr. Jim Taylor writes in the Huffington Post that today's fascination with reality TV is akin to public executions, or a traffic jam caused by gaper's delay. You just have to look. It gives us a sneak peak into the ridiculous lives of "real" people and all their foibles and vices. It allows us to feel good about ourselves, because, hey, at least I'm not like THAT guy….. Even a show like So You Think You Can Dance, a seemingly wholesome endeavor to spread a love for dance around the world, capitalizes on weird audition footage, the quirky personalities of the dancers, and screaming judges making out with one other. It's become less and less about the dance, because, what we really care about is the people, and who's going to get voted off this week.

Truthfully, sometimes I'd rather stay at home and watch reality TV instead of going to a dance concert, for the same reason I sometimes want to play the Sims. Why would I chose to piddle away hours, living vicariously through another person–real, fictional, or otherwise? Simple: it's entertaining.

Going to dance concerts is sometimes entertaining, and sometimes it's not. Sometimes I understand them, and sometimes, no matter how hard I try, I don't. But because dance is my field, I can usually draw something useful out of that experience. For me, I think that's why I don't often see many patrons from outside the dance community at modern dance concerts. It's not inherently entertaining. You can't tune it out with a piece of pie, you've got to work at it. But that doesn't mean it can't be fun, and extremely rewarding. Can contemporary dance reach the masses in the way that commercial dance and reality TV has? If it can, does it want to? That's what I'd like to find out.

Author: Lauren Warnecke

Lauren Warnecke is a reporter for NPR affiliate station WGLT and freelance arts and culture critic, primarily reviewing dance for the Chicago Tribune. Lauren enjoys cooking, cycling and attempting to grow things in her backyard. She lives in central Illinois.