“It is forbidden to walk on the grass. It is not forbidden to fly over the grass.” – Augusto Boal
Jon Jory co-founded The Long Wharf in an abandoned warehouse.
Trinity Rep takes its name from the church whose basement first sheltered it.
Mr. Joseph Papp, arguably the most influential theatrical producer in american history, used as his starting place the notion of FREE THEATRE FOR ALL.
These are not success stories. They are cautionary tales.
Papp’s 1956 production of The Taming of the Shrew caught the attention of Brooks Atkinson, who (con)descended into the lower east side and Yea, it was Good. One of the actors, Colleen Dewhurst, later recalled, “With Brooks Atkinson’s blessing, our world changed overnight. Suddenly in our audience of neighbors in T-shirts and jeans appeared men in white shirts, jackets and ties, and ladies in summer dresses. Suddenly we were ‘the play to see,’ and everything changed. We were in a hit that would have a positive effect on my career, as well as Joe’s, but I missed the shouting. I missed the feeling of not knowing what might happen next or how that play would that night move an audience unafraid of talking back.”
Men in white shirts, jackets and ties deserve theatre, too, but never at the expense of our neighbors in T-shirts and jeans.
These theatres are known now not for what they are, but for what they were. Whatever their current operating budget (and their beautiful endless line of zeros), they began where we are now: pushing in the dark against an immovable object.
In the rearview mirror of time you can see the pioneers of american theatre. You stand shoulder to shoulder with them. Push on, far above the grass.