Homes and Home Brew for Playwrights

9 Jan

Just came across this post from Gus Schulenberg of Flux Theatre. Gus also works for the TCG so has a good sense of both the ground and the top floor of the theater scene nationally. There is definitely a groundswell around re-thinking the relationship of playwright to theatre. It’s worth reading all of Gus’ post, but in brief: he’s proposing this:

“The Homing Project is a creative stimulus package that imagines a critical mass of the 4,000+ producing theatre organizations each producing 3 plays from a unique playwright over 3-5 years time.” Gus goes on to suggest a matchmaking/ mapping that can make the links between artists and producers. I think this is a great idea!

Theatres seem to love culinary metaphor in their promotions (tasters, menu, smorgasbord, etc.). I wonder if the culinary parallel here (with Gus’ suggestion of matching playwrights to theatre) might be the Slow Food movement, or its cousin the Local Foods movement? The regional theatre’s been heading towards a kind of theatrical….let’s say Panera or The Olive Garden rather than MacDonalds. You know: you can get a nice reliable pasta fagioli and generic crusty bread. A nice reliable WIT or DIRTY BLOND or RABBIT HOLE or A CHRISTMAS CAROL. But it all tastes pretty much the same, and the only local thing about it is the parking.

Slow Food or Local Food theatre might be ratty sometimes; might be surprising and unusual. There might not even be pasta. But we’d have the pleasure of knowing it grew in the back garden, and wasn’t trucked in by our industrial betters. We could even see it being made and have a beer with the writer at the local brewhouse as she tore chunks of her hair out over that pesky second act.

David Higgins and Amanda Weir, two local Providence playwrights, recently curated a festival of Bar Plays, set in a range of Providence’s best drinking establishments. Local writers wrote short pieces to be performed in the bars, and the thing was promoted online and through word of mouth. No budget. Now, it’s no secret that audiences are shrinking. But these plays were PACKED OUT every night and everyone had a ripping good time too.

There are many problems to the romantically appealing but no longer simple idea of “home” as a panacea. This is where the “food” metaphor gets sticky, like congealing oatmeal…I don’t think geography can be the defining term for “home”. As a friend says, poor neighborhoods may be the only actual neighborhoods left—in the sense that their inhabitants are physically tied to those 2 blocks. The rest of the population moves for work, for study, for opportunities. So “Affinity” might be a better way of defining theatrical homes, and perhaps affinities discovered (as Gus suggests) through matchmaking between playwrights and theatres might work against the enormous centripetal force of New York and help connect artists, through affinity, to places.

2 Responses to “Homes and Home Brew for Playwrights”

  1. claudia weill February 18, 2011 at 2:32 am #

    love this christine, enough w/pasta and fagioli anyways!

    • xtine3 February 20, 2011 at 4:45 am #

      Thanks Claudia! How are things with you?

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