Seeing lots of shows

Life in the Theatre, Plays I've Seen

After a busy month where I didn’t get to see a lot of theatre, last week I started catching up. I saw three shows last week, with another two shows planned for this week. Even then there will be more to see, but at least I’ll feel a little more caught up!

First I saw 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea at Strawdog in Hugen Hall. It was a great, imaginative, immersive piece of storytelling, and I was also so excited for my friend Lee who did a fantastic job in one of the lead roles. Next up was Titus Andronicus at Babes With Blades, with an all-female cast who were all balls-to-the-wall. The show was wholly un-apologetic about the violence and theatricality of the play, and it was fun to see such fierce women attack these roles, especially several of my friends in the show. Last was Endgame at The Hypocrites. The acting from all four performers was stellar, and there was a fascinating ambient design aesthetic in the audience that off-set the strictly-Beckett play on stage. I consistently love The Hypocrites’ work, especially because their gorgeous creative risk-taking is often beyond anything I could ever imagine.

It’s often hard for theatre artists to make it out to see other theatre, when we are so busy with creative projects of our own. But I love getting out into the audience to see other people’s work. Not only is it fun; not only is it important to support other artists; but also it is vital to my own ongoing creative development. It’s always valuable to see a diversity of work and think about what elements I like or dislike, what choices I might make differently (if any), or what wonderful things I could never have come up with on my own.

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Keeping Busy Between Projects

Life in the Theatre, Plays I've Seen

One of the most important things about being a theatre artist, I think, is what you do when you don’t have a show going on. It’s easy to be an active and engaged member of the theatre community when you are going to rehearsal every night. But what about when you are between projects? How do you still feel creative, motivated, connected?

I’ve often struggled in the past with how to remain engaged and feel “productive” when I don’t have a specific project on my plate. It can be tough to get motivated to do any real work when there isn’t a tangible goal (i.e. a production) at the end of that road. The power of inertia can be strong: objects at rest stay at rest, and suddenly weeks or months can go by with nothing to show for it.

The great thing about inertia, of course, is that it works the opposite way, too. Objects in motion stay in motion. So I’ve been trying lately to be more deliberate about accomplishing specific theatre-related goals — seeing shows, reading plays, staying connected with friends and colleagues — and so far this fall, I’m delighted that my inertia is keeping me in motion. It’s helpful, too, that I do have one project on the far horizon, even though it’s not until next summer. But at least it’s a goalpost to look toward when I need to focus up.

In the past week alone I saw two shows and read five new-to-me scripts, which feels pretty good. And as a quick sidebar, since I’ve been reporting lately on all the shows I’m seeing, here’s the skinny on the shows I saw this past week. First was FAIL/SAFE at Strawdog, a Cold War drama that imagines a scenario in which the U.S. mistakenly sends bomber pilots to Moscow, and then must find a way to deal with the consequences. Strawdog’s intimate Hugen Hall space made the drama feel immediate and modern, despite the Cold War setting. The acting was great, and a few of the actors in particular were especially on fire. Second I saw JEKYLL & HYDE at Idle Muse, a perfectly terrifying show in time for Halloween. The acting was strong, and the design — especially the lighting and use of fog effects — added to the chilling affect of the show. I enjoyed them both!

Anyway, back to inertia between projects. Right now I’m happy with how much I’m keeping busy, and I’m trying to set some specific goals to keep me going. I’m curious about what other people do when they are between projects: do you have a plan that you follow? Is there something specific that you wish you did better? What are your strategies for staying active when you are between shows?