Creating the American Theatrical Renaissance

With this pen, I thee entice.

 

With our bodies and voices we restore theater’s power in society. Theater can befriend. Theater can teach. Theater can express. Theater can stop. Theater can be. Theater can destroy. Theater can move.  Theater can do all this and more, and it has been too long relegated to diversionary status. For too long theater artists have had to check the “Entertainment” box when asked for careers on official forms. Theater artists are often entertainers, but that is too simple a label for us. We are intellectuals. We are aestheticians. We are community-makers. It is our duty to reify the power of art and artists that has been historically present.

 

It’s time for an American Theatrical Renaissance.

 

We are not pursuing this goal alone. Many theater companies and individual artists make work in ways that signal a dedication to art as a powerful societal force. Though I haven’t toured the world, this seems especially true in cities like Philadelphia, where collaborative creation is the norm rather than the exception. In Philadelphia, theater and community go hand in hand. The examples are numerous. Shakespeare in Clark Park brings together audiences from all walks of life to experience fresh versions of the classics. The SoLow Festival fills the city with experimental solo performance at no cost to artists and guarantees no audience member gets turned away. The Wilma and the Wyncote Foundation’s new WynTix program attempts to solve the accessibility problems of the regional theater model. Even the FringeArts Festival (which is not without problems – [redacted] is subverting it with its upcoming production Juniper Street, more on that later) brings in artists from around the world to envelop the city with theater. Philadelphia is our Florence, the epicenter for the nationwide earthquake.

 

Swarthmore College, then, is the Humanist Academy for [redacted]’s members. We are mostly Swarthmore students or graduates, with a few artists folded in from elsewhere met through training programs and other endeavors. When I first discovered I wanted to study theater in my freshman year, I almost transferred to NYU. I found it idiotic that I would continue pursuing my dream at an institution that offered little formalized training. There aren’t even any voice classes at Swarthmore. Yet, my professors and peers always pushed me to go deeper into the work, to take nothing for granted, to experiment and examine the greater contexts our art exists in. I discovered that there was no greater place to study and practice theater. The artists I’ve worked with at Swarthmore, professors and students, are my biggest inspirations. Knowing there are numerous other schools in the area turning out dedicated artists gives me great confidence in the future.

 

Swarthmore’s Theater Department turns out an exceptional number of talented directors. In forming [redacted], I knew this was an advantage. Many of the best theater companies in the world have a single director. In our neck of the woods, look at New Paradise Laboratories, Swim Pony Performing Arts (helmed by a Swarthmore grad), and Pig Iron Theatre Company (who also came out of Swarthmore) as three such examples. These groups create some truly remarkable, truly unique pieces of theater. We, however, have several directors in our company, and we will each take the helm of productions as we continue to work. [redacted] Theater Company approaches each piece as a blank slate. One piece may center around proscenium physical theater, while the next is experienced entirely online. We are united by a focus on collaboration and the mission of creating powerful experiences, compromised by nothing. The American Theatrical Renaissance has no style. We want to be in dialogue with other artists as well as ourselves.

 

In the short-term, we’re cooking up two pieces to give to Philadelphia as housewarming gifts. The first, Earnestness #2, will be premiering in the SoLow Festival. Conceived, created, and performed by me. The second, Juniper Street, launches at the end of August in what we’re calling the FringeFRINGE Movement. More on both of these endeavors later.

 

da Vinci said it best: “Blinding ignorance does mislead us. O! Wretched mortals, open your eyes!” On the count of three.

 

One. Two.

 

Three.

 

Much love and art,

~josh

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