Monthly Archives: June 2011

splendor on the grass

“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.”

"What'd you call this? A 'play'? I like it."

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.


we are a lemonade factory

“The acceptance of poverty in theatre, stripped of all that is not essential to it, revealed to us not only the backbone of the medium, but also the deep riches which lie in the very nature of the art-form.” -Jerzy Grotowski, Towards a Poor Theatre

Let us begin by disassociating Theatrical Value from Monetary Value.

Look, honestly, at the available resources and embrace them.  Hold your poverty up to the light and call it ‘spectacle’.  This is the alchemy of theatre.

We have all, as children or more recently, created myth and melodrama from found objects.  Pieces of sticks and attic artifacts have played their roles in spontaneous outbursts of storytelling.  Why ask for more?  Yes, it would be nice to have a real live helicopter. You can’t have it.  Make it with what you have.

Is theatre about stories or about people coming together to tell stories?  We maintain a preference for the latter.

In its very marrow, theatre is a communion.  What is more theatrical than the sacrament of  communion?  The actor holds bread in the air and calls it “body.”  Wine, “blood.”  All present agree.  The communicants find catharsis for all of their failings and faults through the sacrifice of a character they have never seen.

What budget can surpass that?


This is what we’re talking about

 

Radical Hospitality @ Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis, MN

What is Radical Hospitality?

Radical Hospitality provides no-cost access to all mainstage productions for all audience members beginning with the 2011–12 season. An expansion of Mixed Blood’s egalitarian mission, Radical Hospitalityerases economic barriers in pursuit of building a truly inclusive, global audience. Whether a patron is a long-time Mixed Blood attendee, a new immigrant living in Mixed Blood’s Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, a person with low income or disabilities, a college student, or someone who has never been to theater, he or she will be welcomed, free of charge—with radical hospitality.

Why is Mixed Blood doing it?

Revolutionizing access is a core part of Mixed Blood’s vision. In pursuit of that goal, Radical Hospitality aims to: 1) Build relationships with those who have been traditionally underserved by the arts; 2) Eliminate real or perceived barriers to participation; and 3) Increase the number of Minnesotans participating in the arts.

Why is it called Radical Hospitality?
Father Daniel Homan and Lonni Gollins Pratt coined the term “radical hospitality” in their 2002 book “Radical Hospitality: Benedict’s Way of Love.” They write: When we speak of hospitality we are always addressing issues of inclusion and exclusion. Each of us makes choices about who will and who will not be included in our lives…. Hospitality has an inescapable moral dimension to it…. All of our talk about hospitable openness doesn’t mean anything as long as some people continue to be tossed aside…Hospitality is the answer to modern alienation and injustice.

For Mixed Blood, radical hospitality has not only social, but also political and economic implications; Radical Hospitality exercises our commitment to justice.

Will anything change for audiences?
Audience members can expect no change in the high quality, provocative and predictably unpredictable theater that Mixed Blood has offered for 35 years. What current and new audiences can expect is maximum value: high quality at no cost.

How does it work?
There will be two ways to see a performance:
1) First come, first served admission: Audience members register in advance of a performance (recommended 30 minutes) for no-cost admission. A significant percentage of seats will be held every performance for first come, first served; OR
2) Guaranteed admission: Audience members who want to guarantee entry can do so for a fee paid in advance online, either for a single performance or a season pass. We understand that there are some who prefer to assure their attendance for a variety of reasons, whether it be time or travel considerations, childcare arrangements or other matters. Theater seating remains open (no assigned seats).

How will Mixed Blood sustain this?
By revolutionizing access, Mixed Blood believes audiences will grow to be truly inclusive and reflective of the entire community. With that growth, Mixed Blood believes that audiences and supporters will embrace the egalitarian core value of the company, providing support in return. Simply put, instead of charging for tickets, audiences will be asked, subsequent to attendance, to voluntarily become supporters of a vision that ensures access for all. Funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund will support the launch of Radical Hospitality in 2011-12, with individual, corporate and philanthropic sponsorships sustaining no-cost admission beyond next season.


where’s that confounded bridge?

not a good time

We stand on a precipice.  Millennia of theatrical traditions pave the winding road behind us, but the tools we have inherited seem inadequate, rusted and abused.  How do we begin to cross the expanse of apathy and neglect yawning before us?  How can live performance compete with television, film, and the internet?  In an environment where it is a challenge to ask for more than 7.3 seconds of someone’s time, how can theatre ask for 7,000?

It can’t.  Theatre cannot compete, and it should not ask for anything because it is simply not a commodity.  Theatre is rooted deep in the race, a fundamental urge for communion that spans continents, centuries and cultures.  Why is it viewed as a widget to be bought and sold?  Why do many if not most theatres spend as much if not more time and energy worrying about ticket prices and subscriber bases than creating vital works of art or astonishing acts of entertainment and wonder?  More and more seasons are planned in fear of offending or alienating the dwindling numbers that still shuffle into the mausoleums that line the streets of our fairer cities.  They are triangulated and anemic acts of timidity that permeate and stifle every aspect of the work.

And they can have it.

Let them have their 60 dollar tickets and middle class lives dedicated to the perpetuation of the middle class lie.  Let them feed themselves to the beast.

We will cross the chasm by making a bridge of ourselves.  It’s all we have, which is more than can be said of some.


rome fell

We remember the demise of ancient Greek culture as one of absorption; of a moderately prosperous collection of city-states gradually coalescing and being anticlimactically appropriated by Rome.

Persia was repulsed.

Rome infected and consumed.

Rome fell.  It was not conquered.  The Gauls put it out of its misery, but by the time Rome was sacked there was not much of human value to claim.  The ideals of the Republic, such as they were, had been supplanted by mindless imperial growth.  Why fight so long for Britain?  Why cling to Jerusalem?  What was important to them?  Why this insatiable thirst for land?

(the metaphor is mixed ironically)

All Hail the Conquering Hero. Or else.

There is little doubt that Rome produced great art-in the style of the Greeks-but what remains?  Exquisite busts of dead fascists.  Arches dedicated to violence and conquest.  In the waning years, temples to a god that would inspire wars for at least a millennium.

(plenty of time remains)

What subversive Roman art remains?  Where are the questions?  Where is the self-examination, both private and public?

If it existed, it was ground into dust and blown into the winds of time and memory.

This is Rome’s true fall:  That for its wealth, megalomaniacal square footage, strength and violence, it gave us nothing but sturdy foundations for ignorance, gluttony and belligerence.

Thank you, Rome, for institutionalized violence so popular a word had to be invented to describe the hallways that were so clogged with humanity they seemed to be vomiting people.

Thank you for the word decimate, as well.

Thank you for satire, without which we could not survive your steady reflection in our history books.

We miss this lesson at our peril.  We can no longer suffer under the mass of our apathy.  We must look honestly at ourselves.

Plato tells us that Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living.  An unexamined culture is not worth saving.

Rome fell.