Oct 29, 2015

Combining Artistic Oil and Water

Brad McEntire at "tech" for DINOSAUR AND ROBOT STOP A TRAIN

This post was written by Audacity Theatre Lab Artistic Director and Sundown guest collaborator Brad McEntire. He is the writer and director of the current show DINOSAUR AND ROBOT STOP A TRAIN.

I am usually a one-man operation. I have made it a goal of mine for years to gain the skill sets needed to not just write plays, but act in them, direct them, produce them, design them, market them and so on.  Why? Because I want to make theatre as an artistic expression. Theatre that uncompromisingly delivers my ideas and aesthetics to audiences as directly as possible. In short, I don’t want to do covers.

If you think about it, most theatre artists perform/ direct/design/ produce (and, yes, I think producing is a kind of art) works already written from the extensive canon of history or from the recent smattering of contemporary theatre du jour. Most theatre artists make theatre for the sake of it because they enjoy the act of simply “making it.” It doesn’t have a larger agenda. The act of it, if you’ll pardon the pun, is more important than the message it is delivering. To draw a parallel from the domain of music, it is similar to dad bands made up of musicians who get together to play covers of their favorite songs. The joy is in the getting together to jam.

And, to be clear, there is nothing wrong with this approach.

After all, outside of the playwright and devised theatre ( …of which Sundown has done its fair share of in the past) theatre is, predominantly, an interpretive art form. It is for the most part, also, a collaborative art form.

I am interested in an alternative to covers and committees. It is these two factors - originality over interpretation and authorship over collaboration - that I have been questioning and experimenting with for the last two decades. And experimentation is the key. After all, my company is called Audacity Theatre Lab. From these two factors I have begun to question every idea I’ve had about the theatre: its cultural impact, how it is marketed and funded, how casting and rehearsals happen, how it operates as a nonprofit or commercial activity and so on. I have tried, over time, to eliminate the ineffectual and focus on the essence of what I was trying to create.

Like my great mentor Peter Brook, I have, in my own way, in my own surroundings, made my art a laboratory to search out what is really essential and what can be trimmed away.

That search has led me to disparate fields of study: clowning, puppetry, solo performance, improv, actor-managers, profit share systems of Elizabethean theatres and on and on. It has led me outside the domain of theatre altogether to study small publishing houses, new media studios and art galleries.

All this is to give context, because the very next question is: BRAD, WHY THE HELL ARE YOU COLLABORATING WITH SUNDOWN?

On the outside it is not a good fit. My approach of the independent, self-reliant auteur theatre artist is diametrically different than the ensemble, group-think approach of Sundown. It is in their name: Sundown Collaborative Theatre.

So here’s the why (“Why” is very big in my world)…

1.) It gets lonely on the fringes. Sometimes, as in this instance, I wanna play in someone else’s sandbox. I didn’t always seek to do the one-man band thing. I started out as everyone, doing traditional theatre with ensembles – both temporary and more permanent. Working on D&R has been a delightful, and informative return to those days. It is just plain nice to play with others once in a while.

2.) They are supportive of me. This is my third interaction with Sundown, and the most immersive, to date. In 2013, Sundown commissioned and produced my play CARTER STUBBS TAKES FLIGHT. Then they included my short piece LIZARD BOY EATS A DORITO in last year’s Short Works series. Now they have brought me to the table to write and direct a piece with them. Maybe this is because they also believe in new works for the stage or because they, like me, believe in small, progressive, independent theatre. Whatever the reason, that they dig my stuff is flattering. That they want to produce it is supportive. It is good to go where I am wanted.

3.) Maybe I’m wrong. You know all those theories and pronouncements I made above? Yeah, those don’t mean crap if they are not continually questioned and brought up for debate. As I have observed and worked alongside the actors, administrators and designers here at Sundown, I have been continually called to question things that I have, over many years, come to take for granted. Whether I continue to employ these hard-won methods or not, the testing of them is really important. That’s how progress is made.

I hope the readers of this post will make their way out to see DINOSAUR AND ROBOT STOP A TRAIN. It is the magic result of combining artistic oil and water and, just maybe, coming out with something greater than the sum of its parts.

Details on dates/times/tickets and such…HERE

Original post from the Sundown Tumblr

No comments:

Post a Comment