Monday, July 25, 2011

Why Indie Theatre?: Hamilton Clancy

 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.

To sleep.
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  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.,

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