In celebration of Indie Theatre Week (July 23 - August 1, 2011),
we asked members of the OOB community to answer this question,
"Why Indie Theatre?"
To be or not to be? It's actually not a bad model for the answer to this question. Fear of death propels us all to live. Fear of anonymity propels us to move forward in our creative ventures where others would fear to tread. Should we venture forward, without the security of a well heeled producer or the backing of an established well vested institution with our ideas? Should we, as artists, let our dreams and imaginations be our guides - or is it better just to end it all, put those daring ideas to the side and accept the waiting for recognition by greater, more secure economic forces who can cushion the risk of our ventures.
The act that Hamlet speaks longingly about sleep in that famous soliloquy can touch the heart of any indie theatre artist who's raised funds, built sets, rehearsed at odd hours after support jobs, all while perfecting the subject of their ventures: the new play, the unlikely revival, the production turned on it's ear, the classic vested with raw emotion. The indie-designers who hang lights, discover costumes, wrangle sound design, and most definitely "fardels bear" as they construct sets without the benefits of union crews, can certainly tell you something about sleep. Next time you get an e-mail from an indie theatre artist check out when it was sent. Don't be surprised if its the wee small hours of the morning when many of us find the time to make time.. So yes...to sleep. That would be nice.
Perchance to dream
Ay, there's the rub.
For what opportunities may follow if we leave the destiny of our creative ideas to the whims othe corporate America? How long can we wait for that fantastic idea for a one person show, or design for a new kind of theatre experience, or idea for a new play inspired by a newspaper article that sits on the refrigerator, in a file on our computer, waiting. Bundle all together the awesome force of our artistry - our independent theatre community in New York City - and ask them all to wait patiently in line for our more commercial theatre to discover their artistry. What do you have? A vacuum of innovation, and innovators born only of artists who have served the corporate sector first, with saleable product.
So where should art begin? With the artist or the observer of the artist? With the patron or the creator? Economically one doesn't have to delve deeply into politics to discover what the answer most right wing politicians have for these questions, and ye by the same token, one does not have to study the history of any art or culture to know that artists are creative leaders,obedient first to the inspiration of their art. Each artist of reputation finds a way to blend their vision with the economic and political realities of their times , but their are few if any artists we celebrate today because of their business plans, their obedience to the corporate branding mandate, or their ability to capture the lion's share of the Nielsen ratings.
But here my comparison must end. For Shakespeare 's hero describes those who choose living over death as victims of hesitation and cowardice. He goes on to say that "enterprises of great pitch and moment...lose the name of action." Of course nothing could be farther from a description of the character of the independent theatre community in Manhattan. Indeed, without them the more commercial producing community would have no one to imitate.
Consistently you see large institutional theatres across the city developing programs and initiatives that directly imitate those that the independent theatre community has been using for years to keep production expenses down, artistic quality high and attract a new audience. Check out the independent theatre scene, find out what they are doing and imitate it.
So the simplest answer I could discover to the question that repeats itself again and again in the lives of artists across our city, is that without independent theatre , part of th e most vital fabric of New York, it's legacy as originator of innovative theatrrical experiences and ideas would be quickly gone and impossible to find in our city for the world traveller or the inspired young artist seeking greater recognition and development of their craft. If we were to lose this vital quality we would lose artists in our city . The presence of artists and great art in our city makes it a world class destination. Losing our innovative edge would be like losing a legacy given to us for generations before , squandering it to cash in on real estate value while ignorantly letting the most precious gift that has been passed down to us, this vital artistic community of New York City, be turned into a theme park for corporate innovation.
Why should we have indie theatre? Where else will the great traditions of New York theatre continue?
Hamilton Clancy is the founding artistic director of The Drilling Company Theatre, known for their new works and Shakespeare in the Parking Lot. With The Drilling Company he has produced world premieres of over 200 commissioned short works around common themes and as well 16 productions of Shakespeare and 8 full length world premieres. Most recently he has directed world premieres of Eric Henry Sanders adaptation of Woycek, Reservoir, Over the Line by P. Seth Bauer, Home of the Great Pecan by Stephen Bittrich, and for SitPL, Julius Caesar. As an actor he has appeared Off Broadway at American Place Theatre and Playwrights Horizon among others and been seen in film and television, notably the Coen Brothers Burn After Reading, Ridley Scott's American Gangster with Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe.
He is currently directing Hamlet for this summer's Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, set to open on July 28, 2011. www.drillingcompany.org,