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We’re Gonna Die

The perfect way to kick start my final week of college, I had the pleasure of seeing Young Jean Lee’s play, We’re Gonna Die.  As a the end of my education approaches and I begin to start my life in the “real world”, thoughts of doubt and concern and confusion and crisis have arose. What is my life going to lead to? Am I on the track I should be on? What if I’m a failure? …you know, typical graduation thoughts.

Oddly enough, I found a lot of comfort in listening to the stories performed by Obehi Janice. Stories that you could connect to about life, and family, and the people you encounter. The hopeful nature of the storytelling provided me with some reassurance that no matter what path I choose, there is only one final destination. Death.

I can understand that this may sound a bit morbid, but it’s true. The fact is we’re gonna die. Our life is simply a trickle in time. Our life really is what we make it. And our death is what we choose to leave behind.

I know what I’m saying isn’t anything new or revolutionary. It’s just a reassurance.

My art is what I want to leave behind. It’s the only way I truly feel like I can communicate my thoughts and opinions in a concise and sincere way.  That’s what theatre is to me. A medium to truly express what my words and actions can’t seem to translate.

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Reevaluating the Director’s Education

http://howlround.com/how-can-we-foster-the-voices-of-early-career-directors

In my last blog post, I touched upon the topic of education as it related to Exit Strategy by Ike Holter in a Village Voice article. In this post, I’m not straying far from the topic of education. Over the past couple semesters I’d been exposed to directing and had taken an interest in directing, not fully comprehending what directing truly was. I took a few classes and tried my hand at the directing opportunities that appeared on my radar. That’s the extent of my training as a director: a few classes and two directing opportunities.

This is precisely what this article in HowlRound centers around: the education of young directors and the challenges they face in finding opportunities to exercise their craft within the theater community. It was written by a recent college graduate who is not too far off from where I am at this point in my life. He provided insight into the challenges of merely finding opportunities to continue directing post graduation and how overwhelmingly few avenues he had to exercise his craft: “No correlation: The two variables being studied have no apparent relationship. For example, the career of an early director and the actions they take to find work.”

As someone who potentially wants to pursue directing at some point, it was an article that was fairly informative. “How do we create an environment where, like with young actors and playwrights, we can still learn our craft, but outside of the educational model?” is one of the questions he asks at the end of the article and it really makes me consider what obligations theaters have in creating spaces that allow young directors to continue their education. This article really brings forth the challenges associated with graduating with a fine arts degree and not having the experience or the resume that would constitute being hired by theaters. The author states “But I think there is value in listening to and nurturing the young directing voices in our field, especially when they probably still identify (or want to identify) as a student, as I know I do.” So where do young directors, ready to pursue their craft find spaces that allow them to fail and learn and grow as artists, because that’s a process that doesn’t materialize as a result of graduation but rather experience? I wonder what responsibility communities have in creating these spaces of employment and learning for young artists that depend on their craft to pay their bills.

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A Postmortem Performance

I’m currently working on a performance that is centered around the Black Lives Matter Movement.  I have a section of my piece where I use the audio clips from recorded police brutality including a video that resulted in a victim’s death.

My question is: Is that okay?

I have a very strong philosophy about watching death for entertainment.  I believe death should be private.  The snuff videos on the internet horrify me.  Death shouldn’t be handled lightly.  Our psyches are too sensitive for us to go through that material without residual effects.

Also, the person isn’t around to say if they are okay with it or not.  There is no more consent.  You could argue that the person is dead, therefore consent is irrelevant, but maybe I’m a strong believer of everlasting life.

My piece is intended to honor these victims.  I want to use their deaths as a tool to prevent more from occurring.  However, are there ramifications to martyring people.?  Am I doing it for them or am I doing it for myself?  Am I pretending that they would approve?  How would I know?

I’m keeping these questions alive as I push forward, however, no clean have come to me yet.

 

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The Next Steps out of University

After closing my Senior thesis production nearly two weeks ago, I’ve already taken my first few steps out of the doors of my undergraduate education. There’s a growing pressure in the final year of college to escape completely, split town, shoot for gold in one of the country’s theater capitals. Despite the glamour of New York or sunny Los Angeles, there’s something safe and reassuring about staying in Boston, my creative home for the past three years.

I don’t believe that safety is the most cultivating creative environment, but the ability to experiment without jeopardizing my livelihood or work overwhelming schedules in order to scrape by is quite appealing.

And a pillar of the education at Boston University is being able to create work with little-to-no budget. This combined with the fact that a number of my fellow graduating classmates are staying in Boston reassures me that I will have collaborators eager to work on developing new, independent projects.

In addition, I’ve been able to further engage and develop relationships with local artists and theaters. The smaller size of Boston’s community has made forming these relationships much more accessible. And with a greater understanding of how to live on less in the city, seeing theater is much easier to do on a budget.

I think Boston is a wonderful location to begin to take my first steps into a career in the theater. When consulting one of my close mentors and advisers before attending university, she told me she felt Boston was a community I would flourish in. I feel so lucky to receive so much inspiration and creative energy from this city and I’m eager to give back and begin contributing to the community.

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Capitol Theatre Needs More Capitol

Flint Michigan is trying to reopen the historic Capitol Theatre, and it is not going well. Why?

Flint is not willing to freeze the property tax on the location for the next 12 years, which financially may not be viable. This $21-million dollar project aims to bring the theatre back to life. By doing this it is believed that the downtown scene in Flint will be revitalized, and become a cultural center.

Now this is frustrating to read for a multitude of reasons. FIRST OFF: One day I want to open a theatre company of my own, and I know property tax is the hurdle that can end my dream very early on. So seeing a historic theatre potentially trip before the finish line because of property taxes is incredibly disheartening.

SECOND: When are we going to give theatre a break? Huh? Seriously? Every time I here about people trying to make a difference and keep the theatre alive, I hear how funding it is almost impossible. Now that I hear that the funding is possible for a theatre, I see that taxes are going to kill the chances of success.

THIRD: ITS A LANDMARK LOCATION!!! WHY NOT GIVE IT A BREAK!!!

BETTER YET! IT IS GOING TO REVITALIZE THE DOWNTOWN SCENE FOR FLINT!!! WHY IS THIS NOT BEING SUPPORTED

It seems to me that the need for theatres in many locations is decreasing by the day. Certain cities have become the select location for theatre to boom, and anywhere else leaves you SOL. That makes life difficult for a boy who doesn’t particularly want to live in a city… especially the primary theatre cities.

So Tax freezes may be too much to ask for, but it still may get a tax abatement transfer if the freeze is rejected. This would potentially give the theatre the break it needs to come back to life.

 

 

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This Is Thesis

So the thesis project I was working on closed a few days ago.

Myself and a good friend both wrote one act plays and directed the other person’s one act play. It was a lot of work… it was asking a lot of the actors playing the multiple roles… and it was a lot of time losing sleep over small details.

To be more specific on this last point… I think I didn’t get a good nights sleep from the first rehearsal until the last performance. How can I be sure? Well I woke up today… after my first night free of the productions and did not feel a haze over my eyes. That seemed like a pretty clear sign of a shift.

You see, both of these plays dealt with trauma without being solely about trauma. The play I wrote was more of an action adventure where a 6 year old girl must fight monsters to save her mother from the ends of the earth while the play I directed was about the lives of two women as they fall in love, realize they are toxic for eachother in the container of a relationship, and go their separate ways, still in love with eachother.

These plays came to be out of need (from both of us writers) to see pieces that did not give glitz and glamour to trauma… because nothing is worse than a play with an over the top suicide.

Most times trauma is subtle. We don’t really see it in the people experiencing it. And for those of us living with trauma it is only a part of our whole. By writing plays where characters are living with trauma, but it is not the focus of the play, we felt we were creating pieces that represented something we were experiencing.

Do I think these were the end all be all of theatre… hell no! They were great, don’t get me wrong, but they are still works in progress. I still have a long list of edits that need to be addressed sometime in the future, but for now I will let that script take a nap. I also will take a nap… after I finish the next project I signed up to be in… Whoops.

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One Guy’s Late Take on Broadway’s Most Financially Successful Show

I have a confession to make: I, an emerging theatre artist, listened to the Hamilton soundtrack for the first time this week.

When it comes to pop culture, I avoid over exposure as much as possible. When new trends begin to take over I run for cover so months later when everyone is “tired” of a popular movie/song/TV show/etc.,  I don’t harbor the same resentment. For example, when Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe” took over the summer of 2012 I avoided listening to it for as long as possible. About four years later that song (in theory) makes me cringe less because of the four months I spared myself. I took the same tactic with Hamilton, until this week when my dramatic literature teacher asked us all to listen to the soundtrack/read the script for class. To no one’s surprise, the music swept me away. It’s catchy, entertaining, heart wrenching, and (I would say) brilliant.

In not listening to the soundtrack for months I did avoid the fad’s potential fatigue, to an extent. But I also avoided engaging in one of the most important performances happening in America right now.My fear of fatigue actually created a resentment towards Hamilton. A subconscious need to be smarter then the general public, a public who fell in love with a Broadway musical. In less then a month I’m graduating college (!!) and hope to join the theatre community/industry/what have you. I cannot act above popular pieces anymore. It’s irresponsible to disengage from ANYTHING being created, regardless of how popular it is.

It’s my job to stay up to date, to stay current with what’s being created. Not just because I’m trying to start my career and am looking for any opportunity to “network”, but because it’s easy to forget that Theatre is a team. If theatre artists don’t support other theatre artists we won’t survive. And for the first time in my entire life, a Broadway musical as taken the world by storm. Can we remind ourselves how amazing that is?

Also, the music is genius. If you haven’t, just listen to it. You’re missing out.

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