“Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader—not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.“ E.L. Doctorow
I’ve been reading the “How to start your blog” blog that WordPress directed me to, and this quote came up on one of the pages. It’s funny to me, because they spend about three pages giving your brainstorming exercises (which require me to go find paper and pen) but they provide a quote which is the best jump starter I could ask for.
Good theatre, like good writing, doesn’t show or tell the audience what to believe or think. It gives them an opening to feel something. A brief glimpse at all of humanity. And it is our privilege as theatre-makers to show humanity itself.
This blog is going to be official blog of the (soon-to-exist-and-survive-I-swear-it) re-opened and new Defiant Theatre. For those of you who don’t know/remember the Defiant Theatre was a company that started in Chicago in 1993 when a group of alumni from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign theatre training program decided they needed their own space to produce work that challenged the borders of traditional theatre-making. This was at a time when places like The Hypocrites didn’t exist, and The Neo-Futurists were still focusing primarily on Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind. The city needed a company that was willing to go to the wall and back, drive a car blind-folded and then jump off a building to make theatre, and Defiant was born.
They lasted eleven years before closing their doors with “A Clockwork Orange” in 2004. I plan on re-opening those doors in 2014.
So why the Defiant? Why now? Why again?
Because I see a problem with Chicago theatre right now. It’s gotten safe. It’s gotten stagnant. And it’s starting to become very insular and limited in it’s scope. Gone are the “rock ‘n roll” days of Steppenwolf, now they’re more interested in producing plays that keep their season ticket subscribers gently bobbing along the calm waters. For example, Steppenwolf’s 2012-2013 season features two shows that were produced on Broadway this past season. When did one of the country’s leading theatres become a retread of Broadway? This focus on subscriber status quo is growing more and more prevalent as these big budget theatres in Chicago try to grasp as much donor money as possible. This issue is much less of a problem in the storefront community where theatres like Halcyon, Steep, Trapdoor, The Neo-Futurists, Profiles and the like continue to commit to the risky business of producing stimulating, challenging live theatre in houses that usually seat no more than 100, where a single busted show can be a death knell for an artist’s outlet and livelihood.
But I want to take theatre to the wall and back. I want to jump off that cliff blind-folded and then laugh about it. And the Defiant is the place to do it in. It may be young, brash and raw, but in that the immediacy that is so vital to live theatre will thrive.
The droogs are back in town.