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Where is our…Us?

This is a follow-up to my last post because I feared if I tried to combine the two my head would explode. Again, at Ilana’s suggestion, I read Sherri Kronfeld’s article, “Where is our Tiki Barber?” on HowlRound. (It’s getting less scary with helpful suggestions!) We discussed in class what the article is about, and I’ll let you read it if you want a summary…but that article in conversation with Dominic Taylor’s article (see: my last post or…HowlRound) really has me thinking. I think the new waves of theater criticism and theater MAKING are actually one in the same. I think as theater artists we need to be like farmers who harvest the same land… we want to plant intelligently, plan for the next season with intention, (no pun intended…seriously) and understand that if the crop doesn’t come out right, we all suffer the next winter without food.

I am not suggesting that we do away with ambition or individualism, but there’s something great about being comfortable playing a part in the whole. In Tina Fey’s book “Bossypants,” she talks about how during her time at Second City in Chicago, the higher-ups were worried about putting more than two women on a team at a time for fear of there not being enough parts for the two ladies, though there were four gentlemen on each team. This, of course, boggled her mind because they were in fact MAKING UP the material they were performing so…wouldn’t there be enough parts out of necessity? Or at least logic? Fey goes on to talk about the myth of “not enough.” There’s not enough work for actors. There’s not enough work for women. If there’s one woman on stage, the woman spot is taken. No, she says, do not operate under that assumption. Operate under the assumption that if you’re working hard and doing your best, and someone else is too, that can only better the field you’re playing on and improve the quality of the game.

In other words, not everything is a competition. So, allowing artists in the field to be critics of the field means a loving and understanding look, not a harsh outsider’s perspective. We shouldn’t assume that because we all work in the same field, we have our teeth and claws out and ready to tear everything we see that isn’t ours apart. If we’re really, truly passionate about the work we do and the world we live in, only good can come of us participating fully in the growth and development of the theater world. As Kronfeld says, “I want to read the theater maker’s passion, expertise, and experienced point of view. I want the writer or director to tell me in the first paragraph that they’ve always been envious of the amazing things that this artist or company pulls off. I want the designer to share the tricks of the trade they were impressed by when the room seemed to swiftly morph from one location to another.”

I think we can be our Tiki Barber… don’t you?

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