Theatre that Inspires Me

24 Feb

I had a great week this week, thanks, in large part, to a couple of outstanding theatrical events. The first was The Foundry Theatre’s production of Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Person of Szechwan at La MaMa e.t.c. The second was the opening night of Jason Williamson’s Greater Angels by the inimitable Exit, Pursued by a Bear (EPBB).

The Good Person was a real treat. If you follow theatre in New York, I don’t have to describe too much about the production, for you’ve undoubtedly heard about it. The run, which ends today, has had overwhelming success, and has received positive reviews from many sources. The production is imaginative, thoughtful, joyous, passionate, and fun. The play’s exploration of human goodness is quite timely, and every element of this particular production (cast, music, direction, set, costumes, lighting, sound) come together to create a distinct, memorable theatrical experience. Because I am interested in the business side of theatre as well as the creative, I was particularly impressed by the fact that the production budget (which came to $203,815) was published in the program. I believe that this gesture shows a level of openness and transparency that makes the producers the sorts of people I would love to support (and work with!).

Greater Angels is part of EPBB’s LAB series. Set during the Civil War, the play examines the complexity of human motivation. I don’t want to reveal too much about the plot or characters, for part of what makes the play satisfying is the discovery of who each character is, and the unveiling of how each is connected to or will impact the other characters. Suffice it to say that I thought the play expresses brilliantly the idea that neither the challenges that we face as human beings, nor the solutions to those challenges, can be found by thinking within the confines of a binary system (good / evil, black / white, Democrat / Republican, and so on).

Of course, the play is only one component that made my experience (and every experience) at EPBB distinct. The moment you enter into the company’s physical space (a space whose location, by the way, is not revealed to audience members until the day of the performance), you leave the outside world behind. Artistic Director Ed Sylvanus Iskandar, a rare artist and remarkable individual, redefines the notion of hosting. He and the company cook and serve dinner for the audience each night, and they invite guests to reciprocate this act of generosity by bringing their favorite drinks and / or sweets to share. Where intermissions at other shows last 10 to 15 minutes, at EPBB they last at least 45, and involve eating, drinking, socializing, and general merriment. It must also be mentioned that there is no admission fee to any EPBB show. At the end of the evening, if you are so inclined, you may leave a donation to offset the costs of the evening. (No one involved in EPBB takes payment for their work. Everyone participates for the sake of exercising, expressing, and sharing their art.)

Alas, the run of Greater Angels has just begun but is already sold out. However, if you follow the company on Facebook, you may be able to get same-day tickets or to learn about plans for the expected extension.

In my experience, theatre “experts” and practitioners have a tendency to obsess about what must be done to ensure that theatre continue to be relevant in the 21st century. In my opinion, as long as artists such as those associated with these two productions continue to work, we have nothing to fear.

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4 Responses to “Theatre that Inspires Me”

  1. Lisa Wields Words February 25, 2013 at 11:48 AM #

    I so wish I could have made it into the city for EPBB’s production. I experienced a show their last year which reinvigorated my love of the theatre. Add to that that I’m friends with the playwright, and I can imagine GREATER ANGELS was an event not to miss. Thanks for sharing your experience, it makes me (almost) feel like I was there.

    • lucybklyn February 25, 2013 at 12:10 PM #

      That’s great, Lisa! Thank you for your comment. Hope you can make it to New York for some theatre adventures soon.

  2. drfrances July 3, 2013 at 9:41 AM #

    Thanks Lucy! Would love your comment/reaction to my latest episode: The arts are extra-curricular and disposable. See for yourself

    http://firstonlinewithfran.com/2013/06/12/first-online-with-fran-episode-2-brooklyn-theatre-arts-high-school-students-speak-out/#comments

    • lucybklyn July 3, 2013 at 2:04 PM #

      I saw the video this morning via Twitter and I retweeted it from my personal and company accounts. It’s beautifully done. I think it’s one of the most compelling pieces I’ve ever seen to preserve the arts in schools!

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