You know who's cool? Nasty Canasta. She was almost in "Day 2" but can't do it.
She must have the most awesome wig collection on the planet.
What Theater Theatresource?
(I'll update this if I've gotten any of the facts incorrect.)
So those who remember Jim Lawson's Writer's Forum from a couple years ago will see now a "new" writer's forum at Theatresource. I'm the only one calling it "new" but I think most everyone would agree it's a kind of "reboot" of the Writer's Forum as it was.
A couple things happened in the intervening time betwixt its original formation and now. One is that there is now a production committee which oversees the process of determining which works are produced. The system is more complicated than that, but ostensibly workable, and has a pre-existing model in the way the Estrogenious Festival plays are produced by majority vote among a few.
The present theory is that
- writers are in effect "vetted" by the membership committee to become members and
- the members vote on which plays to produce, which then gets filtered by the production committee in a way I don't quite understand or that hasn't been formally agreed to (I don't know which)
That being said, having a clear and transparent process regarding becoming a member and getting one's play produced through the Forum does have some advantages over having one person (like an Artistic Director) make the decisions or (like it was in the old days) some maneuvering by a Director to get Theatresource to produce his play.
But here's the thing: one odd thing about Theatresource is that traditionally we've been able to be both very open and inclusive while being incredibly elitist. Maybe we just had really good friends. But two of our best works: Mac Rogers' Universal Robots and Mozz Mendez' Thoroughly Stupid Things were written by incredibly hard-working volunteers who put in tremendous hours at Theatresource. I don't know whether that's been a coincidence (after all, one of our finest actors, Ben Thomas, was a volunteer for a year before he was even asked to audition for anything, but there he was, and he's amazing) or whether there's some sort of iteration between how reliable and tireless you are as a volunteer and what kind of work you do.
And now we're kind of starting a club wherein you gain "membership". (Well, honestly, this process has been building up for a while but certainly at the very beginning anybody could be part of the Writer's Forum although Jim pretty much decided which plays would be read on a given week.)
And I could see that going one of four ways.
1. It could be cool and groovy, or
2. it could get moribund and clique-y. Or
3. it could become like the "official" salon and someone opens a Writer's Forum of those who couldn't get into the Writer's Forum (which I would take great delight in.) Or
4. it might actually remove the aspect of openness and inclusiveness which has been a real mark of Theatresource over the years.
The one title I have which I've taken great delight in not meaning anything is that I am a "Founding Member" of Theatresource. It shouldn't mean anything and, in fact, it doesn't. The only advantage to being a founding member is that I might possibly remember why we don't kick the radiator pipe in the theater (it causes a torrential flood and you must abandon the building) or why we don't attach an electric heater to the overhead gate over the front door (if it doesn't get turned off one night and comes down to touch the floor it will start a fire which will not burn down the entire residential building if the firefighters get there right away because the upstairs neighbor called them as he saw it when he came in). So yeah, before doing any stuff like that you might want to check in with a founder to see if they remember anything so we're not making the same mistake twice.
But other than that, if you're a recent volunteer, or maybe have only been there for a year or two, you have as much right as anyone else to shape and push and pull Theatresource as a whole or whatever project you want to do at Theatresource as anyone else. But you won't with this particular thing: the Writer's Forum. For that you need to be "elected" or "selected" or vetted by a process (which might be as simple as a majority voting you in) which might not exist just yet.
And that's... unusual.
Theatresource has traditionally behaved as a collective with a set of "principles"
- Practice Generosity of Spirit
- Share Your Information
- Principles Before Personalities
- Clean Up After Yourself**
But we've never had a "company". Not a company of actors, not an artistic company. Having a company was indeed discussed early on in Theatresource's life. Andrew Frank, the originator of Theatresource, I recall being the most adamant against a company. He felt (if I recall correctly) that producers and directors should have the freedom to cast whomever they wanted. I think he felt even stronger about this than he did about not wanting to have a resident theater cat.* I think Mitchell Riggs, who had just come off of two years of really successful producing pointed out that it's a bad idea to just cast your friends because you'll make bad theater that way, and it's a bad idea to try to match the theater you do to who you have in your "company". I might have added that last bit what with my experience with the Wooster Group.
So we've never had a company before. And although we've had festivals and the like, the process of being a volunteer and becoming a producer and such was fairly straightforward.
But now we do/will have a company -- a company of writers who control a festival and the hiring of producers and directors and the makers of a bunch of decisions which, if you're not a member of the company, you don't get to.
This is sort of decision and power structure is fairly typical in Theater in general. But it's relatively new to Theatresource. I'm kinda on the fence about it, it could go either way. Ultimately I suspect the direction it goes in will have a lot to do with what the members of the Writer's Forum think about them principles above.
*You know that damn cat would find its way on stage every night and turn each show into a comedy. But it sure would solve the rodent problem.
**Over the years two more principles were informally added:
- Take Your Meds
- Do Not Put Juice On the Roof
***Well, that might not be true. I doubt anybody really knows but it probably goes something like:
Board of Directors
With the majority of the committees reporting to the ED. But that's just my guess and really I doubt anyone as formalized this structure.