Saturday, March 27, 2010

Maintaining ensembles

Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, Brad Burgess.

Yesterday, Judith was talking to John Strasberg in her apartment about the highest artistic aim of maintaining an ensemble. I’m glad I did not write the blog yesterday, even though it was completely unintentional. Sometimes things just workout I guess. It ain’t called The Living Theatre for nothing! haha, Come on down to Clinton Street if you haven’t, this place is out of this world let me tell you. Never know what you are going to find.

Anywho, this blog is gladly stealing from those two technique tycoons and their minds who have been developing ensembles with their legacies for well over 100 years combined. Holy moly is right.

A true ensemble has one essential quality that cannot be taught or come from natural talent: they know each other. Being on stage with Judith during The Connection, we had a whole personal relationship to draw on. She’s my roommate, she’s my mentor, she’s one of my best friends. We share almost everyday with one another.

Tom Walker, is a company member of ours who has performed in 39 seasons with The Living Theatre. To put that into perspective, Mickey Mantle played 16 seasons for The New York Yankees. Judith and Tom have been on stage with each other for almost 40 years.

These examples are just a couple of dozens and dozens of similar stories. The profound effect these real relationships have on our ability to make our art together, is very present for us. It’s what makes being a pacifist anarchist political theatre group even possible.

Our art can’t help but manifest itself from these experiences. Our thoughts and feelings as people are developed this way. It makes sense then that our ability to relay translations of reality from the writer/director/actor/thinker as artists and produce something that has a connection to reality that is clear to the audience.

One balance we have is the problem of not being involved enough with our audience, as strange as it sounds. We are such a culture unto ourselves, that we need to be careful to keep our every day reality a part of the culture we are living in. We are very fortunate to be a part of the academic culture, so that much of our audience, theatre students and professionals especially, know something coming into the show about what to expect. Well, in our case I suppose its more of what not to expect.

When I see the experienced ensemble here working together, the company members who have been doing it for 10, 20, 30, 40 or in Judith’s case 65 years, I feel connected to the development of the culture. I see an ability for compromise, an ability to find a common ground, an ability to move forward in the midst of crisis.

I think we are able to accomplish this because we are really able to be who we are to one another. It’s part of the vibe and message from the moment you arrive here, from Judith to the babies that are born into the company. It’s a real family, in all the wonderful clich├ęd sense of it.

This adds a reality to the work for me personally that I have not been able to find or see in many places other than the theatre community at large. I think the connection we have to each other here at The Living Theatre, but also industry wide helps us communicate and relate to people who love their friends and families. That’s most people in the world.

It’s certainly not always perfect as again is the norm, but I feel theatre and its ensemble nature can be a real example for societal structuring. People should be working together with people they love on something they care about that says what they believe, in their deepest, and most elevated selves. Hopefully our work as an artistic community is doing so. I believe it is in this city.

Happy World Theatre Day!

BB

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