The Future Of Theatre

The below video put me over the edge. It started when I was taking an applied theater course at NYU. Learning about the work of Rhodessa Jones and Cornerstone Theater Company, I saw theater in context of true community. Being raised in the commercial theater context, I believed that participating in theater and community meant going to watch a play and sit in a dark theater, and then leave afterward with very little interaction with the other people there.

Soon after I signed up to attend Sojourn Theatre Summer Institute, I read the below quote from artistic director Michael Rohd, “One thing that gets said a lot about theatre is that a bunch of people come into a room and they laugh and they cry together in the dark, and that builds community. But I’m starting to think that’s bullshit: People crave something that involves more than sitting and watching.” I will be participating in a six day workshop June 21-26th, in Portland. This will be a time where I will determine if my artistic journey will take on a new path. To quote Cameron, one “not out of economic necessity, but out of deep, organic conviction that the work [I am] called to do can not be accomplished in the traditional hermetic arts environment.” To dive deep into becoming the professional hybrid artist that I feel I am already becoming. To become the person I already am.

My goal is to blog daily about the experience with my work at Sojourn, even though my days will be packed with ensemble work during the day and observing rehearsals in the evenings. Here is a little about the show Sojourn is creating, from their website. “On the Table is a theatre production involving inter-city travel, public dialogue, video and participation within the performance itself. Sojourn Theatre, in partnership with Molallas Arts Commission, The City of Portland and numerous local and statewide organizations, is creating this original world premiere theatrical event as an opportunity to start conversations that bridge urban/rural Oregon and wrestle with issues of identity, resources, values, and governance. Exploring the histories and connectedness of community partner sites Portland and Molalla, it goes beyond metaphorical bridge-building to physically move audiences across urban/rural boundaries.

Act I occurs simultaneously in Portland and Molalla, with a cast of actors performing for a fifty person audience in Portland, and a separate cast of actors performing for a fifty person audience in Mollala. Act 1 tells the stories of two families, one in each community, in the year 1975. Act 2 puts both audiences on buses with the actors driving towards each other. Act 2 brings the stories of these two fictional families from 1975 up to the present, so that when the buses arrive at a location halfway between Portland and Molalla, the story has reached the current moment of 2010. Act 3 brings all 100 audience members together, seated at tables of ten; each table consists of five Portlanders seated next to five Molallans. The play concludes, strangers meet and share a meal during this final act, and the buses then take everyone home.”

Some of my favorite quotes from the video:
We are engaged in a fundamental reformation.

Move from a time of audience numbers plummeting, but the number of art participants, people who write poetry, who sing songs, who perform in church choirs is exploding beyond our wildest imaginations. These people are being called PRO-AMs: Amateur artists doing work at a professional level.

We live in a world not defined by consumption, but by participation.

We have tended to polarize the amateur and the professional, the single most exciting development in the last five to ten years has been the rise of the professional hybrid artist. The professional artist who does not work mainly in the concert halls but around women’s rights or human rights around global warming issues or AIDS relief or more.

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    4 thoughts on “The Future Of Theatre

    1. Scott Walters

      Dennis — I am looking forward to this series, and I hope that Rohd is inspirational. The idea that the arts might actually have a purpose in the world beyond mere entertainment is exciting.

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