Thursday, December 29, 2005

In my comments box, MattJ responded to the following quotation from my post on ensemvle: "if we really value the idea of an ensemble, and we also value the security of a liveable and consistent salary, then perhaps we need to break away from the industrial approach to the creation of theatre as a product and become more creative about how we generate income."

MattJ wrote:

Definitely. How can we do that without compromising our art form or assimilating with the capitalist consumerism we are rebelling against?

I'm also interested in the idea of the ensemble artistically. Yes, it would be great to have more rehearsal time, the creation process really does need to get more emphasis. One way to combat it is the ensemble idea. Back in the day Commedia Troupes could whip out plays at will in a combination if improv and acquired skill. But they had also trained with each other and knew how to work together. Anne Bogart does this stuff with the SITI company and Viewpoints, and I'm sure there's others as well. But I think it's an area of theatre that needs some more emphasis.

MattJ does a good thing here: he tries to come up with a solution, even a partial one, to the challenge. He identifies very clear perameters for the exploration ("How can we do that without compromising our art form or assimilating with the capitalist consumerism we are rebelling against?"), and he offers a solution: improv.

This leads me to ask for the combined brainpower of the theatre blogosphere to brainstorm: how might we create the possibility for an ensemble within the current theatre atmosphere?

I can think of a couple possibilities, and I hope others might contribute more. Here are a couple:

1. Pool resources and share expenses. I'm not talking about the traditional commune idea, which has gotten a deservedly bad rap from its 1960s weirdness. But nevertheless, would there be a way for a company to share its resources. For instance, buy a house together to house the company (or better yet, get an arts patron to contribute a house rent-free for a year), or on a smaller scale cook communal meals. The general idea is to reduce as much as possible the amount of money it takes to live, so as to allow more time to create. (The old saw is that time is money, but the reverse is also true: money is time.)

2. Rehearse and/or perform in non-traditional spaces. One of the big costs for a company is paying to rent space. Would it be possible to rehearse in a basement, a community center, a garage? Could performances occur in a church, a hotel ballroom, a garage, an attic?

Other ideas?


Freeman said...

I think it's interesting to note that MattJ here assumes we are all "rebelling against capitalist consumerism."

I'm not so sure about that. I have no problem with some aspects of capitalism. I just don't think that the only value that something should be assigned is "how much it costs."

There is lots that theater has actively failed to assimilate from capitalism, for fear of transforming into our worst possible selves ("Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" anyone?)

That being said, there's plenty to capitalism that doesn't include selling garbage to imbeciles.

Short version: are we cutting off our noses to spite someone else's face?

MattJ said...

yeah, it's definitely an assuption. Or, put better, an opinion from my perspective. But Scott's post led me there, because his idea of ensemble is in direct opposition to those things that we can identify as products of an economic squeeze on the theatre. For example, very little rehearsal time and lack of ensemble work and joint training.

To me, this "squeeze" is a direct result of capitalist consumerism (which I think I hate more than Freeman does), and as it thrusts our ideologies into the margins, we have to think of a new way to go about it all. And there we have the artistic ensemble.

MattJ said...

As far as Scott's question, I'll add one idea. How about a focus on training groups of people to work together kinesthetically. Training with a focus towards collaboration and interdisciplinary skill. So that the boundaries between playwright/director/designer/actor get blurrier. Blurrier is not necessarily a bad thing in this case.

P'tit Boo said...

Empty parking lots !
In seattle there is so much development that for months on end there are spaces that are in "waiting". Parking lots a lot of the time but no one is allowed ro park in them. Some of them are in really urban areas and I always walk past them in the summer and think "wow , someone should do a play here !". Maybe I should if I am the one saying this...
Anyway , just a thought.