Wednesday, June 26, 2013

In which I face some hard truths...

Sometimes (read "really often") I have trouble keeping up with this blog. It's not just that I'm busy and juggling a bunch of different projects. That's part of it, sure. But I have a confession to make ... most of the time I don't feel inspired to write. I don't feel like I have anything worthwhile to contribute to the conversation. I don't have anything to say that feels worth sharing.

2013 has been a pretty tough year all around -- work, school, the company, personally, you name it. A lot of things have got me down. But I'm starting to feel (at least a little bit) back in control, and I also finally feel like I've gathered my thoughts into a somewhat coherent ball. At least I'm ready to start going through the tangle.

This year I've done a lot of really hard thinking about ADK Shakes and my role here. The work I'm doing. Why I'm doing it. And honestly, if I even want to continue doing it. I feel like I've gotten swept away by it all. So much time and energy goes into these productions, and I haven't felt rewarded by what I'm doing in a good little while. I've felt sucked utterly dry. I need a reset button.

So I'm resetting.

I'm going back to basics. Why did I want to start producing in the first place? Why wasn't I satisfied with being an actor working for someone else? I must have felt that I had something different and worthwhile to contribute. Otherwise I wouldn't have agreed to embark on this adventure we call Shakespeare IN THE RAW. What was it all for?

After some time spent considering all of this, I've begun working on a "Manifesto for Working IN THE RAW." It addresses some of the fundamental questions that we've wrestled with since that May afternoon on the hilltop in the Brandywine Valley when the whole rigmarole began.

Brandywine Creek State Park Amphitheater, Wilmington, DE
where it all began...

  • Why Word Perfect?
  • Why So Minimalist?
  • Why Not Rehearse More?
  • Why Not Block?
And I think the most important question of all:
  • What Kind of Attitude and Energy Does it Take to Work IN THE RAW?

THE RAW is a strange beast, I'll admit. But we choose to do it because we think it creates an energy of its own, a different energy than I've felt created by any other production I've seen or acted in. It's just different. Differences are grand.

Okay, but what do I mean by saying it's "raw"? I see this term bandied about constantly. And it's losing its punch for me. (Just like "accessibility" which is a whole other blog post. Back to "raw"...) What does it actually mean when we say it? Here's what I mean.

When I think about "raw," the first thing that comes to mind is food. Raw sugar, raw diet, raw meat. Raw sugar has been rather gentrified in the Starbucks age. We want something closer to its natural state than refined white sugar. The taste has more flavor, more boldness. The crystals have a larger shape, with more edges. It's less processed, less produced. Frankly I don't know much about a raw diet, except that it allows for no processed foods. The idea (at least as I understand it) is to consume foods in the most natural state possible, not to break down the vitamins and nutrients. On the other end of the food spectrum: raw meat -- bloody, slippery, dangerous. Of course we can't eat raw meat. It needs to be cooked, but beware of overcooking too. You can dry out the meat and kill the taste, make it rubbery, and completely unsatisfying.

This is how I think about our product, our RAW performances: More flavor. More boldness. Rough around the edges. Less processed. Filled with nutrients. But also bloody. Slippery. A little dangerous.

I know not everyone likes their theatre served RAW. And that's ok! It takes all kinds for this world. I want there always to be big budget musicals for people to enjoy. I want there always to be huge venues filled to bursting with people to see concerts, to see films, to see new media shows. I want there to be tiny black boxes playing brand new works. I want there to be cabarets, to be parking lots, to be parks performing children's theater, performing Shakespeare, performing modern classics, performing anything. And everything!

But this ... the RAW ... this is my kind of theatre, and I won't apologize for it.

Stay tuned for the Manifesto itself in future posts as it's still under construction!
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