A Vision for the Theatre
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A Vision for the Theatre

The Company, and a new vision for American theatre, art and the craft itself.

A Vision for the Theatre
The National Theatre

Our American Theatre. What does it need, and what can we do for it? We need a collective, we need a discontented majority to fight the tide of the small minority who have their hands in all mediums of expression, who relentlessly spend their capital, which we provide, to force feed us mediocrity on a massive global scale, which we graciously accept and then come back and beg for more, like doped up pill addicts addicted to corporate grub and drivel. We need a majority to unshackle ourselves from this slavery, we take their product and without blinking an eye we accept that what we hold in our hands was built and packaged by our brothers and sisters who work for pennies. And we turn blind eye to this.

The company I am still attempting to forge in the fires of my own creative passions is a company that I know will assume this mantle, and will lead other companies to join in our efforts. The Old Howard Theatre Company has very simple beginnings, and in many ways we have yet to fully flourish into what we as a company of players envision. Our company, or the company as we refer to it, arose from a collective displeasure and nauseating discontent with the current situation of theatre in The United States and abroad, though more so of the former. Much of the theatre we saw, or heard of from others, involved, in great amounts, showmanship and commercialism to the point where the public discourse concerning this fundamentally necessary medium transitioned from the art for humanity's sake, to art for the sake of turning a profit. Or, for art turning a profit on name brand value of those involved in productions. When people would discuss productions they would consistently revolve around the particular familiar names of those seen in films or otherwise.

We too saw that many of the productions that people went to see where largely musical productions. And of course, The Old Howard Theatre Company does not take an adverse stance to musicals, but we recognize that the intrinsic human value that is taken from a high octane drama is far different than from what is taken from a musical. With musicals, there is a lack of story and human struggle that is evident through many of the great plays throughout history. There is a reason that the dramaturgy of Shakespeare, Shaw, Ibsen, Brecht, O’Neill and Williams has lasted, and is used widely for reference both in and out of the classroom and on and off the screen. And we do understand why certain productions have been on Broadway for over twenty or so years, or in some cases longer and why others have not. Although Broadway is in no way representative of the American Theatre wholly, it is a good representation of the theatre of the inclusive and of the masses. The sheer fact of the matter is, is that the productions that have remained for so long, are there because of there dollar value. People will pay for egregiously overpriced tickets to see a production to simply say, I saw said production. And The Old Howard Theatre Company feels that mentality does two adverse things to the theater. Firstly, it undermines the tradition of the theatre; to tell a story that accurately can capture either the public atmosphere, the tempo of the times, or an innately human condition that is not a slave to time. Secondly, it makes people view the theatre as a luxury, when in fact, it is in our belief that theatre is necessary to be an engine for public discussion, a means of orchestrating the public discourse, highlighting policy, social or cultural issues of the day. The theatre in our belief should be open to the public, the work done in the theatre is public work, a service being provided to the people. And when we say service we wish to clarify that we mean service in the good of humanity sense, not a tangible service that one must go and purchase, rather a service of the mind, one that is felt and reverberates through those in attendance, and spreads unlike anything in any other artistic medium, elevating common human stories that are similar throughout the times to new heights and engaging discussion fueling public action and fervor in whatever a particular production is trying to convey. Broadway is a disproportionate representation of the American theatre scene, however it accurately describes our American theatre culture as it stands now. And it from this belief that The Old Howard Theatre Company came into fruition. It all happened quite rapidly as well, the company members, the founders board as well as other company players found that there work was winding down as the summer approached.

Although we all had other obligations to meet, there was that inner need for the theatre and if no one was providing the good work which we needed, we decided it ought to be us who made that work. To give some idea of how these talks and discussions began, I’ll give you some insight into the class and into our dealings, mainly afterwards. Our classes ran from varying days, either on Wednesdays or Fridays, or Tuesdays and Thursdays. As our production date neared we met for more days, some Mondays, some Tuesdays and always Sundays. Sundays were the longest days. I myself had a class I was taking at a local city college. And it was in the before and after of these classes that I spoke with theatre practitioners, theatre goers and those that generally worked in the theatre and I could sense, and I am certain they could do, because they spoke of it, a displeasure with theatre. We thought much of the work being produced on the mainline of Broadway was without character and grit, it was lacking. And on the other end we shared the thoughts that some weren't lacking character but rather they were flat, the same, and without much thought or attention. It was as if you walked into the theatre and got the sense of, oh, I’ve seen this before. Simply, there was no originality and risk. And we fiercely talked griped about this, the whole lot of us, we discussed the vital nature of the theatre and why theatre cannot be made just to make theatre, it cannot be likened to a knitting troupe that meets on every third Thursdays. You must dedicate yourself to its stature.

Theatre cannot be passive, life itself, or the way we live it it now, is hopelessly passive. And too many people enter the theatre because they believe it is a thing to do after they finish their studies, when they don't know that it is a way of life, a tool, sharper than anything I believe, to shape public discourse. In no such medium can an audience be engaged and emotionally responsive and fully engrossed in a showing of an artist's work in such a present fully alive moment to moment basis. The theatre coalesces many a field to bring what we see on the stage to life, the playwright pens the words and their words can shed light on the current strata of the times in many different ways evoking many different feelings,, the actors interpret the words and their fervor and dedication dictates the audience's attention and engagement, the director lends his own interpretation of the playwright's work for the actors to then follow and collaboratively carry out; if the lighting is flimsy, attention is strewn about the stage and the focus is lost, if sound is flawed then none can be heard or properly understood. If the company of players is not fully dedicated and invested in their work, the production comes tumbling down. It is the most collaborative medium of expression, aside from film I believe. All the smalls cogs and bolts must fit properly and move in unison for the whole to function properly. It is a medium dependent on its part, a medium that cannot just be separate by simply being, it must be well oiled and lubricated. This is an understanding that our company members have, and one that try to bring to our stage. We have a need for the theatre, all passivity must be left at the door, and since the theatre we needed was not there, we set out to make one for the ourselves.

And so it was with this that myself, and my compatriots sat down and began to draft and gather names and pool our resources. We sat down knowing that it would be difficult, and knowing it would require labor, but we all sat down with a shared belief in the theatre, which was enough to propel us forward and keep us thinking forward when others would have slowed or stopped. What we are planning to do here is of great importance, we are here to fundamentally shape art, all company members must understand that we are not here for the capital, or the funds. Our purpose is to make art and have some sort of an impact on the community at large. What we need is a group of artists who are enthralled totally with the art form, in such a deep love with the craft that capital should be the least of one's priorities within the company. The objective we have here, the path ahead of us will be fraught with issues and weaknesses and problems, those that can't handle this stress or this burden may leave now, and turn their backs, but those that wish to stay must understand that we are planning on getting this fully functional by the end of August. I have a vision for this company, something that is first and foremost a theatre for the people, I see that not many people go to the theatre and they see it as a luxury rather than what I feel it is, a societal necessity. Theatre to me, and I am sure to yourself, is a tool for influencing the public discourse and keeping people informed as well as stoking the flames of new ideas and approaches to the circumstances of our day.

I think this is in part due to what most people equate theatre with, and that thing being, Broadway. Which of course, for the average working family, is outrageously expensive in most cases. Perhaps it is presumptuous of me to think this, but I feel that it is entirely possible for theatre to find its place in the common thread of American history. The theatre of Europe, I find, first from reading, and second from speaking to people, is more ingrained in their culture than in our American culture, there was never a time for it to really blossom, save for the twentieth century when some of our greatest playwrights flooded our culture. The theatre is needed in American culture, and our current view of theatre needs a shift so that the air of aristocracy surrounding it dissipates and it becomes the theatre of people, elevating human struggle and pain, and happiness, and love and bringing it back to the people so that they can see life itself move before them in the present; and so that they too can develop a need for the theatre like we at The Old Howard Theatre Company have come to know the feeling all too well. As I said prior, Broadway is gross and disproportionate representation of the American theatre scene, however it accurately describes our American theatre culture, as it stands now. As it stands now. Meaning that, this too shall pass. Meaning that change to the American theatre is coming, and we at The Old Howard Theatre Company would like to spearhead this movement, this great shift in the American theatre and we would like to illicit the help of any that would like to see this struggle fought for and sweated for until it's day, or its bitter end. Life in an of itself is passive, be the person that tosses that to the side and says no, be the one to say - I will live.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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