Monday, April 12, 2010

Love The One You're With

The nice folks at Studio Chicago asked me to write a blog post for them. I was more than happy to oblige since I got to write about some of my favorite things: New Leaf and our home in the LPCC and the discipline and creativity that our home has given us. I'd love it if you took at look at the piece; you can find it here, and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

So, writing this post and working to help open a show this week, and a couple of other stars aligning theatrically has me thinking about the bigger question of space, in Chicago and beyond. There's been some discussion on the Twitter of late and around the Chicago Storefront Theatre Summit about space and performance in Chicago. With over 200 producing companies in town, is it any wonder?

What this has got me thinking about is the interrogation of what creates a performance space. When the huge houses and dwarfing stages of huge regional theatres were the norm, it was revolutionary for spaces like Kingston Mines and The Body Politic to crop up in blight-buffeted neighborhoods and offer a more intimate option. Since those days, Storefront theatre has become accepted, expected - we even have special city codes for dealing with these spaces (although that was a struggle at first, and was a struggle again a couple years ago when those codes were revisited and revised).

Meanwhile, we have public spaces - many of them historically significant - that are underutilized, sitting fallow and full of potential for those able to see their peculiarities and restrictions as challenges and opportunities. Is it time for another revolution? Is it time to take our contemporary desire to recycle to this scale as a theatrical community? Rather than bemoaning the lack of funds available to build the latest and greatest "state of the art" facility from the ground up, what if we came together as a community to re-purpose our existing spaces, celebrating both what they have been and what they have the potential to be. This work requires fewer financial and greater creative resources, and (to my mind) taps into the real meat of why artists are essential to contemporary life. In a society that has become obsessed with the disposable, it takes creativity to see something as reusable. And what are we artists if not teeming with creativity?

I'd like to get this conversation started in earnest in our community. I'd like to organize a Storefront Summit "breakout session" (is there something more fun/less corporate for us to call those, please?) about the question of space. Who's with me? Who has ideas of spaces we could investigate as a community? Who knows where we can get cheap beer while we talk about these things? Who has an idea for a good day to have this talk?

I've been so impressed by the ideas coming out of our community - both local and global - and am eager to help give those ideas some legs, make them "actionable" (is there a better, less corporate word for me to use, please?). This is a challenge we can and must take into our own hands. The solutions may be simpler than we can see.


3 comments:

  1. Take these ideas and give them life.

    I'm so used to looking for plausible space here in Madison, IN, that I reflexively do that everywhere I go now. We're lucky in that we finally have a regular space much like the New Leaf one, although it's not an ideal space. Doesn't mean I've stopped looking locally.

    Almost any place will do, with enough creativity. We've performed in churches, in basements, in actual narrow storefronts, in abandoned school buildings. Right now, we're in a beautifully restored Masonic Hall up on the third floor. And if there's a landlord willing to offer the space in return for a tax break, all the better.

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  2. Why don't we call them "regroups?" Like a retreat, but without the implication of failure. Also, has an implication of action to be taken when complete, unlike "Meeting" or "Session"

    May 3 - May 5?

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  3. I LOVE regroups, Nick - and I posted on Facebook (on the Summit page) a suggestion of the 2nd or 3rd as a creative space regroup time. http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Chicago-Storefront-Theatre-Summit/197268421759

    All are welcome and encouraged!

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