In celebration of Indie Theatre Week (July 23 - July 29, 2012), we asked members of the OOB community to share some of the Indie Theatre moments that inspired them.
Early 2008. We called ourselves The Heist. It was that start-up theater company that everyone has in their early 20’s: an assemblage of fresh-off-the-boat New Yorkers, newly-minted from the ivory tower with unmarketable liberal arts degrees, full of ambitions and unburdened by skills. We huddled together for security like wintering penguins, clinging to naïve ambitions and millennial angst as place-holders for the tangible sources of meaning we had yet to build for ourselves. You know, those people that Lena Dunham has been so acerbically skewering and about whom everyone has been writing hand-wringing editorials for the last five years . We didn’t yet have the connections and wherewithal to produce work in any established channels, so we set out to take matters into our own hands—hence the name.
As with any good heist, we started when a charismatic leader got the notion to assemble that super-team of specialists: the bombastic writer, the calculating director, the technical whiz, the beautiful ingénue, etc. While they were all long-time friends and collaborators, I filled the requisite role of the wildcard outsider, brought in on the good word of a childhood friend to round out the team for The Big Job. We met late at night around a long table, heatedly hashing out our schemes to break into the heart of New York theater. One of the better pieces of career advice I received from a mentor before moving here was that I was inevitably going to be involved in starting a number of companies, mostly made by college friends, built around some concept or other, and that these would almost certainly fail. Rather, truly sustainable companies are discovered simply by working with the people with whom you enjoy collaborating and finding that you have more to do. The Heist was very much the former.
We produced just one play before our inevitable dissolution. Lo-Fi Songs from the American Night was a monologue cycle which I co-directed. Our theater was the other director’s living room, our lighting board two power strips and a dendritic daisy-chain of extension cords. Working so completely outside of any institutional frameworks makes apparent that sense of how in theater we make something out of nothing. It’s why it has always given me the feeling of getting away with something. Like a heist, it is a process of Alchemy: the transmutation of ingenuity and will into gold. Disparate components, meticulously arranged, can add up to something greater than the sum of its parts. That extropic Mystery is the engine of life, love, and society, and it is what theater’s microcosmoi are perhaps best at exploring.
In subsequent years the members of the Heist have all moved on to greater things. All but one still make theater (the technical whiz makes more money than the rest of us combined in computer programming). There are a whole host of MFAs in various disciplines. I started a company, AntiMatter Collective with some actual legs. And yet I still hold onto the Heist as an archetype at the heart of everything I do—we’re still just bright-eyed kids trying to pull one over on the world and make something out of nothing.
Will Fulton is a freelance director, designer, and dramaturg based out of Brooklyn. He has worked in varying capacities with 500 Clown, Court Theatre, Target Margin, Jay Scheib, Nick Rudall, MTWorks, Creative Destruction, M-34, and is a founding member of AntiMatter Collective. Originally hailing from Boston, he was a member of the 2009 Lincoln Center Directors Lab and holds a BA in Comparative Literature from the University of Chicago.