Opening the door

19 May

I’ve been thinking for a while of how to find and walk through the other door. The door to doing the creative work on my own terms, actively finding collaborators, writing what comes and what excites me rather than starting with “product” and “market” and the hope that my work will be “picked up”. I don’t see my plays taking off in the American regional theatre, in all honesty, and it’s not because I can’t write. It’s because I don’t want to write what many of those theatres seem to program– simple protagonist-driven dramas with American themes and redemption at the end. There’s a view of the world embedded in that structure which I don’t share.

So, what to do? I think it involves re-defining the context of the work’s creation and reception–for oneself and for one’s audiences.

Different artists approach this different ways– Lisa D’Amour, as well as writing plays for theatres, builds work with Katie Pearl and makes site-specific pieces too. Barbara Campbell created an internet-based story-telling performance project which ran for 1001 days, where people wrote stories in 24 hours based on a prompt from that day’s paper or event, and each night she filmed her mouth reading these stories. Tiny Ninja MacBeth is a portable tray-top puppet shakespeare performance for 10 people at a time, using plastic Ninjas for all characters except the MacBeths, who are Mr. Smiley figures.

Notes to myself:
1. find and work with the people whose art excites me
2. think across media: since most art forms are more progressive than theatre, work with visual artists, musicians, designers…
3. build in process right from the start: when I begin writing now I set loose deadlines for myself and times to share the work in a room with others.
4. build a context for the work… this is so important… so audiences (and who they are is another question to be addressed each time) know it’s an X experience, not a Y “just add water” play (for example). So the performance is one event nested in a longer process, and the process itself engages people.
5. don’t pre-judge the form. For instance the “thing” I’m starting on now might be a libretto, or a dance piece, or a sound sculpture for voices
6. find spaces and make work for them and their audiences (eg. build a performance in a gallery, railway station, etc.)
7. find people who are creating their own path as writers/ artists/ performers and take strength and inspiration from that, rather than focusing on the numbing “submission” route only.
8. do what gives me joy and terrifies me
9. think and work internationally

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2 Responses to “Opening the door”

  1. Marisela May 21, 2009 at 11:09 pm #

    Hi Christine,
    even though it’s only been about 4 years now that I’ve been doing theatre, I too see the trend you mention: that is, the kinds of plays that American regional theatres are interested in. Maybe it’s just me, but I want a play to make me view the world in a different way, not just entertain me. I want it transport me in some way. And it seems what’s wanted these days are comedies. I, as you know, write tragedies (though they tend to have humor someone’s bound to die before it’s over). I do think that with the passage of time it’s those plays that speak to some universal truth that continue to resonate. I take solace in that. xoxo-M

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