Wednesday, March 25, 2009

T-minus Two Days to World Theatre Day

It's amazing to me, the body's capacity to shut down at precisely the wrong time. Arguably, given all I've been asking mine to do in the last several months (existing without sleep, proper nutrition, and - for the last month or so - without coffee), I don't suppose I should be surprised by its sudden and absolute refusal to keep on keepin' on. However, I will express a bit of mild disappointment that it has chosen the week of World Theatre Day to crash and burn.

However - the sun rises, the hours & minutes pass, and World Theatre Day is now just two measly days away! If you haven't already, please check out our international blog for thoughts on the simple and painless ways you can participate. It's not about the size of your statement - it's about the fact of it.

You can show the world what you're doing by contributing to our Tumblr feed. This link will open up the e-mail to which you can send your video, pictures, text and the world will be watching. Please remember to include this info in your post:

Your media link
Your city / country
Your theatre's name
a link to your website.

And if you're in Chicago, I hope you're making plans to join us at the All-City After Party at the Chopin. If you'd like to be one of the crew that helps us make it happen (i.e. volunteering for all or just a part of the evening) please let me know at jessica@newleaftheatre.org.

Hope to see you soon!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

When the Mayor Proclaims...

With just over two weeks to go until World Theatre Day, Chicago's Mayor Richard M. Daley has issued a proclamation for the occasion! You can see it in its official outfit here, or just read the text below!

WHEREAS, a program of UNESCO, World Theatre Day promotes international exchange in the areas of drama, dance and musical theatre; and

WHEREAS, World Theatre Day offers participants a special opportunity to encourage peace and solidarity, increase creative cooperation between theatre professionals, and deepen knowledge of and appreciation for other cultures; and

WHEREAS, Chicago has a long and rich tradition of performing arts; and

WHEREAS, known for a thriving theatre community that has received wide acclaim and international recognition, Chicago continues to foster outstanding producions and talented professionals; and

WHEREAS, on March 27, 2009, Chicago will participate in World Theatre Day for the first time:

NOW, THEREFORE, I RICHARD M. DALEY, MAYOR OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, do hereby proclaim March 27, 2009 to be WORLD THEATRE DAY IN CHICAGO and encourage all citizens to be aware of the contributions that the theatre arts make to our lives.
And don't forget about the city-wide afterparty happening at the Chopin Theatre, beginning at 9 PM on March 27. Hope to see you there!

ALSO! If you're wondering what else you can do to be part of World Theatre Day, check out the League's great list of suggestions here. There's also a fantastic page from TCG that includes an interactive map. You heard me. Interactive. Map. Check it out here.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Purpose Statements

A post from Don Hall today has, as per usual, got me a-thinkin'. In that post, and the ensuing comments section, there's some discussion of some noble theatrical endeavors (this is a continuation of a discussion that's been going on for awhile). That word is a little slippery to me when it comes to using it as an adjective for creative expression. It almost feels a little removed. I agree that firefighters and teachers are noble - are artists, too? As vital as I feel we are to society, are we in the same category as doctors? I don't know about that, but another way of getting at what I see to be the point is asking of theatre "To What Purpose?"


I've been feeling like a dog with a bone when it comes to this question - with my own work, and the work of my peers. Yeah, that play's kinda cool - but to what purpose? Of course that company can afford to replicate the whole of ancient Mesopotamia on stage, and I guess it's neat to look at, but to what purpose? Yes, that sex scene is at least mildly amusing and maybe a teeny bit arousing and in other circumstances I would have no problem with that actor removing his shirt, but to what purpose? And so on. I'm not a huge fan of the Because We Can School of Theatre, and I'm wondering if these lean economic times might teach us all a lesson in realigning our priorities and interrogating our ideas. Am I the poster child for always having the world's most clear and unassailable purpose for my work? Not yet. Do I have work in my future that will likely have a less than crystalized raison d'etre? You betcha. Doesn't make me want that clarity any less.

The work that Don's post refers to, as well as the "This American Life" Hamlet mentioned in the comments section, answer the question "to what purpose?" with precision. I would love to see more work like this, find more ways in which the work we do can directly impact and improve the lives of those around us - the marginalized, those without dominant voices, the young, the elderly - bring those programs on, I'd like to be involved. But we can also take the work we're doing now and clarify our intentions, our goals, our purpose in creating that art.


And I'm not saying that everything we produce has to be full of Message Writ Large. Sometimes the purpose of a piece is to entertain, to provide escape, to show us what fools these mortals be (oh come on, I get one - especially since I just read the article about the new Shakespeare portrait), but own that purpose. Revel in it. Declaring that your show is simply an entertainment doesn't make it worth any less; I would argue that that step makes it worth even more.

On 848, something the dueling critics said when talking about Chicago theatre in the current and forthcoming economies really struck me. The theatres that don't find their niches, the ones that can't succinctly articulate their missions - those are the ones that won't be with us on the other side. That seems to me a lot like having an answer to this question. My hope is that this crisis - gone unwasted - will help us clarify, prioritize, find our purposes in the new world into which we're being thrust.