Friday, July 29, 2011

Why Indie Theatre?: Frank Kuzler

 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?"

First, I want to say thank you for asking me to be part of this. The work that the Innovative Theatre Foundation is doing is fantastic.

This is a difficult question because, as already noted, so many other questions can be read into it. It not only contemplates 'why start in independent theatre' but also 'why continue to work in it?' —And the difficulty is a good thing. It's a thoughtful question for a thoughtful brand of theatre. I could sidestep it and say 'I didn't pick this life, it picked me,' but that's not true at this point. I actively pick this everyday. As I write this I'm aware of the opportunity cost of taking hours to spontaneously answer this question. : ) I could be doing other things that could 'build my career,' so why am I doing this? This is important and essential, so it outweighs the alternatives. It's all a matter of freedom of choice. It's freedom that draws me in and freedom that keeps me doing.

Independent theatre gives you the ability to get things done. Personally, I don't like waiting for funding to materialize. Of course, I do everything I can — apply for grants, fundraise like crazy, beg. But while I'm waiting, I want to create and give others the ability to create. I want to hear what people have to say through theatre. I don't want to get stuck in development hell. I've worked enough in the commercial world to know that the odds of anyone's vision reaching reality is one- maybe two- thousand to one. Why would anyone who has something to communicate wait for someone else to give them the okay to say it? If you want to speak, speak. If you wait for approval, the only ones listening may turn out to be worms and angels.

Many companies operate with that passion to create, giving artists the opportunity to explore their craft and talents as much as possible. This is a completely necessary step in the process and fundamental in the discovery of the American voice. Where else does it happen? The developmental theatre experience is in danger of drying up as much as is the space within which to develop, but independent theatre keeps producing. The leading arts official in the United States complains that we produce too much art. That is a major problem. I haven't heard the Secretary of Commerce complain that we make too many cars. We realize (and hope our country will realize) that our artistic products (yes) should be as fostered as much as are our industrial markets. It is our voice as a people coming out of the arts that reaches most easily across borders and changes world views. Showing the world that freedom of speech is strongly supported is pivotal. Independent theatre collectively braves the dismal economic tide to continually produce as much as it can. This shows the world that individual voices are important to us, and you can't put a quota on how many voices can be heard.

There are many obstacles facing production companies not to mention individual artists, but there is certainly something exciting taking place. The many initiatives being undertaken in the Indie Theatre
universe -- the space issue, the NYC's showcase code conundrum, the economic impact analysis, the reevaluation of production budgets -- along with the growing presence of industry groups such as ITF, LIT and the Dish, point to a maturation that can only lead to the realization of community objectives. Yes, this life requires a galaxy's worth of energy, heavyweight stamina, and the infinite hope of first love, but as a group, we're at an amazing time, and it's exciting. Who wouldn't want to be doing it?

So why indie theatre? Because of the freedoms it allows me to express and the ones it allows me to support.


Frank Kuzler has been writing, directing and producing independent theatre and film for over ten year. His full-length plays include The Substance of John, The Last Spoken Word, Giant-n-Variation, and
most recently Maps. His plays have premiered independently in NYC as well as within the NY International Fringe Festival, the largest multi-arts festival in North America. A strong believer in the development of new talent and the expression of new ideas, Frank has built the foundation of his career developing projects that come from new voices and have a fresh and unique perspective.

As a theatre producer, Frank was the Managing Director of the award-winning Boomerang Theatre Company, a staple NYC independent theatre company. Boomerang has received several awards for its productions and mission, notably IT Awards’ 2008 Caffé Cino Award for Outstanding Independent Theatre Company. Frank started with Boomerang as an actor. The company produced two of his full-length plays. He continues to be active as a member of Boomerang’s Board of Directors.

Currently, he is the Executive Director of DecadesOut (, a multi-disciplinary production company focusing on the intersection of science and the arts. As part of its film program, DecadesOut is presently in production on Burning to Communicate, a feature length documentary on the history and development of NYC's independent (aka Off-Off Broadway) theatre movement. For more info, go to


Other Indie Theatre Week Posts

Life Offstage is on the air! - episode 5


  1. Excellent essay Frank, full of passion and intelligence which are the emblems of the indie theater world.