Saturday, March 22, 2008

What's the second draft?

Part III of the post

Slay asked me question - "if the word "community" is the first draft, what's the second?"

He wanted me to amplify my response in comments section where I said "I think we have a lot to gain if we think of "community" as the first draft, and move upto a second draft. I think the words are the part of problem." in response to Travis...

Hmmm, the second draft...well I have no doubt (or at least I would hope) that each theatre company and/or theatre artist would have a different second draft, different from each other. I'm not sure if this answer is going to satisfy others out there, but I have to crawl before I sprint here. Deep breathe.

Don suggested to me that "No one changes the world by putting on a play. Those who see the play and are moved by it, affected by it - they go out and change the world."

So, I think the second draft, the amplification of the first draft which is a generalized statement about your work benefiting the community, the second draft could be something about how you want those who see your play, to go out and change the world after the curtain falls. Idealized? Yes.

Examples -

Revalue Theatreworks (RTW) is planning a production of "Bent" or "Laramie Project" to address an increase in local hate crimes in our community

RTW is producing "As Is" or "Normal Heart" and using the proceeds to help AIDS awareness in the lower income urban areas of our city.

RTW is producing an adaptation of 1984 in the hopes of continuing a dialogue regarding telecommunication pardoning of privacy violations.

RTW is producing a season of local female playwrights highlighting issues that single mothers in our city have to face.

If "community" is your angle, if "community" is your first draft, then how about these sort of examples as a second draft. Maybe it doesn't work? If so, please enlighten me. Tell me why.

I admit these may be imperfect, but they amplify "community benefit" they are my attempt at the second draft.


nick@ said...

Good neighbor, bad neighbor. The good, the bad, the ugly. It takes all kinds to make a community. One of the things that can make theatre so boring is its presumption of the role of good neighbor. So it becomes a kind of parody of itself. Ned Flanders in the Simpsons cartoon.

“I've done everything the Bible says - even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff!”

That’s Ned Flanders Theatre performing its civic responsibility and documenting its work to satisfy the grant it received.

Community, like family, is messy business full of contradictions and “fighting words.” My experience has been that most theatre “talks a good fuck,” but for the real down and dirty of community work, it lacks the heart for the fight.

Your list doesn’t work for me. More like Ned Flanders Theatre than Revalue Theatreworks.

We need to judge the value of a play about a vaccine against the vaccine itself.

Or, how would the Simpsons family go about producing theatre? I think that would be the right clusterfuck for the second draft on community. Theatre needs to get off its high horse and become its real imperfect family self again.

Devilvet said...

Whereas, I agree that it would be liberating to shed the necessity of the "good neighbor' many are dedicated to it. If they are going to walk that path, then they might have a better chance of it at the very least communicating intent if they get more specific.

Or if they get more specific and that fails then where was all that damn 'community' in the first place?

I'm not satisfied with the list either (I have twice called it imperfect).

This sort of "civic engagement" might negate the type of creative expression that we think of as the voice of dissent....i.e. it theatre were a band could THE DOORS even pretend to have community benefit at the heart of their expression.

No doubt, it can't all be "flowers and sausages"...but at the very least those folks who decide to wear the white hat in this little western we call American Theatre can declare more specific targets for the bullets in their arsenals.

But, inspire a question in me now, which is does all this high mindedness enable the enitre pantheon of American Theatre?

Where does "the fool" fit into this notion of "community" and "civic engagement"?

And for those us who might find the list of missions statements for RTW a touch boring or on the nose...are you content to play the freak for the freaks only?

Or is 'community' the queen in three card monty we play with the public?

Devilvet said...

What did Beckett say about Fail and then try again and fail better?

Devilvet said...

Nick says "We need to judge the value of a play about a vaccine against the vaccine itself."

There can be no doubt that giving someone a bowl of soup is better than writing a play about a bowl of soup. But, then again I dont think we are going to stop "telling the lie that tells the truth."

Who said "There will always be poor among you"?

So, the only way to justify 'community benefit' other than handing someone a bowl of soup is to inspire 3 others to hand someone a bowl of soup.

I don't know if it ever works that way. But, if it doesn't than we are smack dab face to face with paradox of 'community benefit' in the first place, aren't we?

Tony said...

Why does benefiting the community automatically have to equal Ned Flanders? Provoking discourse (not possible through sugar coating)is also an important aspect.

I'm thinking of The Albany Park Theatre Project. They do a phenomenal job of community engagement. Better than any arts group in the city.

How would you rate their mission statement (not trying to be combatative. But am sincerely interested in your thoughts):

Albany Park Theater Project is a multiethnic, ensemble-based theater company of teens and young adults. We create original performance works based on the real-life stories of immigrant and working-class Americans. Through the theater we create, APTP artists:

share stories from the margins of American life, stories that might otherwise go unheard on America's stages; provide a forum for exploring issues important to communities like ours; enhance the vitality of our neighborhood and of Chicago's cultural landscape; create a place where youth recognize and pursue their ability to lead ambitious, engaged lives; showcase the ways in which young people and artists can change the world

Devilvet said...


"Why does benefiting the community automatically have to equal Ned Flanders?"

I don't know that I would totally agree with Nick hopefully he'll respond to your question.

Personally, I think Albany Park Theatre Project has a very specific mission statement. As you lay it is specific about it's intent, it's content, it's goals...It does mention community, but amplifies the notion with a minimum of rhetoric.

For a group going down the 'community' path...this is the kind of thing I'm talking about.

reading this tells me, they probably aren't doing a production of Christmas Carol this year, or the latest Gilman, Ruhl, Rapp piece. It tells me not to expect a production of "Into the Woods"...they don't just tell me that they will serve the community, they specify who within the community they are serving and how. Personally, I would strike the "provide a forum for exploring issues important to communities like ours" becuase I think it is a generatization of the specificity they achieve in the rest of the mission, but I wont complain about belt and suspenders if it keeps the right pair of pants on the body.

nick@ said...

Society locks up the oddballs as mentally ill. Much like pulling the mutant adaptations out of a gene pool, society becomes like a species of animal not allowed to evolve. Most cultures had their sacred fools. Theatre too would play the fool if it had the courage to be mocked instead of respected. In fascist times (now) the holy clown’s aberrant behavior (theatre) is subject to arrest.

Bob’s New Orleans’ play has a sandwich board character in it. But theatre is the actual sandwich board guy. Or more precisely, as Artaud would have it, theatre is the sandwich board guy’s double.

The madman on the sidewalk may need a bowl of soup, but we need his monologue to become the community’s dialogue even more.

The characters in the New Orleans play can only become theatre if actors decide to produce them in reality, not locked up safely on some stage seeking a pull quote from a critic to increase box office draw.

So somewhere there is an insane ensemble of musician actors on the road to New Orleans to rebuild the culture that no longer exists. They need a bowl of soup maybe, but not much more. They certainly don’t need to market themselves and find some audience. The audience is fellow travelers. More will naturally join as the spectacle of the journey passes by. It’s the pilgrimage itself rebuilding our community, not the eventual arrival in New Orleans.

And we don’t need no stinkin’ badges to know that our metaphysics are in order on all this.

nick@ said...


My point is that GoodieTwoShoes Theatre is always bringing an apple in for the teacher, but has almost contempt for fellow classmates. Meanwhile Little Johnny Rotten throwing spitballs is the hero of class.

To each his own, but theatre works best for me as disrupter of the status quo, not its servant. However, the theatre you cite claims to be such a disrupter of the normal narrative, presenting stories normally “unheard on America's stages”

Devilvet said...

So...Nick...I want to figure this out...

Are you saying that much of theatre is a voice that is dissonant to the community and society whether it be out of the voice's necessity or out of the tradition of the holy closen/fool?

That such voices of dissonance can not be commodities, and that when they do they in essence lose their teeth, their purpose...?

And further that such voices aren't meant for the mission statement tied to intentional benefit?

That the act of even the first draft shows those voices to have been castrated by their 'community' rather than the voice actually influencing the spectators to act?

More please? Your metaphors intrigue but I'm still not sure I am intrepeted them in the manner you intend...Perhaps that too is ok...but lets keep the ball in the air por favor...

Nick, more please...

nick@ said...

Many of us have chosen a life in art that in its demands and needs frustrates our ambitions toward a career in art. Theatre can function as poetry does, as fringe or minority art within the broader culture. In fact, the theatre documented and discussed in journals generally never finds the fame and fortune or broad popular appeal that Broadway entertainment does. The theatre that will enter into dialogue with the "History of Great Ideas" is often something almost antithetical to that which could provide a career for its artists.

Poetry has the artist and his day job as chief patron to the art form. It would be a strange to attempt to find a box office for a poem. Maybe even more strange would be an attempt to show how a poem benefits or heals the community.

Belief enters here.

The sandpainting is meant as healing ceremony. Artaud would understand how the painting absorbs the illness of the patient who sits within it. The painting becomes toxic from absorbing this illness and needs to be disposed of afterwards. No More Masterpieces. All those deadly toothless paintings given over to the interior designer to be hung in their proper place on the walls of Kultur.

We imagine a theatre that reestablishes the goal of the sorcerer. The rehearsal process changes not just the structure of the fiction we will present on stage, but through the manipulation of living symbols our action also changes reality itself.

Tony said...

Hmm,good points, but the role of the artist as an outsider only works if there is a community/neighborhood/audience to be outside of.

I remember reading, maybe in A Thief's Journal--it has been a while. Among his travels Genet is in and out of jail, relishing his role of theif, bandit and outcast. He finds himself in nazi Germany, where everyone he sees is a thief and morally corrupt. He is no different than anyone around him and has no identity. He can't stand it and instead returns to France where there is still a structure of moral decency he can live outside of.

If theatre is the sand painting, it cannot absorb the illness if no one's there. The image of the lone artist or lone sorcerer fails here. A lone writer can create great poetry.

An artist of the theatre alone doesn't even have a medium of expression. So while GoodieTwoShoes Theatre panders (and often bores) Little Johnny Rotten is useless and ineffectual on his own, without a community to provoke.

So rather than having been castrated by their 'community' not having the voice actually influence the spectators to act, is it possible that GoodieTwoShoes Theatre never had a voice to begin with? Or are too cowardly to speak?

Is it different to not have a voice, than to have no one there to hear?

Devilvet said...

To clarify (even if onyl for myself)

I dont might the goodee2shoes theatre...but I just want them to pay the check they sign. If I demand more of the goodee2shoe it is only because they either with sincerity or duplicity claim a higher goal.

Besides, demanding anything of johnny rotten is an exercise in futility, is it not? Johnny does what ever he wants regardless of my assumptions.

nick@ said...


I am with most of what you are saying.

Havel was a dissident playwright until the totalitarian reign in Czechoslovakia and the wall came down. Then he became President. During his time as dissident his plays were smuggled to Joe Papp for production The Public to great attention and acclaim. Yet the recent Havel festival produced in New York was almost completely ignored by the mainstream press. Havel collected the two Obie Awards (Village Voice established and administered) but none of his 16 plays in the festival were reviewed.

But shaman, and theatre that would touch part of that realm, is another matter. The elements are the first audience there. Reality itself is the audience. This is part of belief system that may or may be part of one’s theatre, poetry, or art. Similar to how some Christians actually believe in the transubstantiation, the doctrine that the bread and wine of Communion, become in substance but not appearance, the body and blood of Jesus Christ at consecration. Or how members of the Navajo community believe in the healing powers in sandpainting.

The shaman does a rain dance. It rains. No need for an audience of such an event.