Wednesday, January 24, 2007

New year, new resolve...

It's interesting how momentum ebbs and flows, especially around an initiative such as stageNEXT. We conducted our kickoff event in November to much excitement (and press coverage), and it began to feel as if we were reaching a position where our progress would begin to demonstrate some level of critical mass: people would start be drawn to stageNEXT based on the energy and visibility being generated by my efforts. Then came December, with its setbacks, putting me in a rather Scrooge-ish mood for the holidays. However, a hiatus with my family gave me the perspective to realize that my passion for the ideas of stageNEXT has not waned; I believe that what I set out to accomplish remains critically important to this community. And, I believe that there is a sufficient base of individuals within this community that recognize this as well.

Robert Falls is celebrating his 20th year at the helm of the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. Very few people have had such a dramatic impact on American theatre in the last quarter century as Falls, and I consider it a real privlege to have been in Chicago and witnessed his work when he was starting to develop a national profile in the early 90s. His production of Lear last fall was as compelling and thought-provoking as anything I have seen onstage in my lifetime, having based his vision on the simple but rarely-answered questions (my intrepretation): "what kind of man is Lear at the beginning, to set in motion the tragedy that unfolds?" and, "how is the environment of the play and the actions of its inhabitants proscribed by who Lear is?" His viewpoint implicates the brashness of Lear, but not in the context of a single, tragically flawed decision. Rather, Falls wants us to understand that the brashness came from somewhere--from a life of wantoness and amorality. So, while we can hate Regan and Goneril, their sins clearly originate with the parent; and, Lear's struggle against the storm resonates with the transformative power so often lacking from the play.

One of the things that I admire about Falls is his understanding of the importance of rooting a theatre within the context it inhabits. In an interview (USA Today: 13 Dec 2006), Falls states:

"I don't think you can have a major regional theatre in this country without being responsible to the whole community. That's particularly true in Chicago, where there's so much richness from African-American culture and the emerging Latino culture."
I believe the same can easily be said of Charlotte; in order to establish a successful, professional theatre presence in this community, we must commit to engaging the entire community with our work. The underlying dynamics of racial diversity are no different here than Chicago--what distinguishes us is time and scale. As the voice of a community, theatre serves to call out both the wonderful and the difficult, and to embrace that which we can become.

So, I'm still here, and stageNEXT still moves forward. I welcome you to join us in our journey.

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