Archive for category Slow

The Road to Mindful Theatre.

Slow movements are about, well, slowing down.  Mindfully approaching life and, in our case, the creation of art, audience, and community.  For me, the road to mindful living began with my child.  The first time she sat in grass: the way she curled her fingers around the blades of green life and grinned.

The sun shone like a fairytale, and the very air seemed to breath laughter.

It was only a minute, but in my memory it lasts for hours.

Tiny knuckles.

Blades flexing and crossing.

Sun dappling across her knees.

It took a child to make me slow down and choose a mindful life: notice the flavors of my meals, the bumps under my feet, the tightening around the eyes as my friend launches herself into a daunting scene, the inhale through the nose of a playwright before she pitches her story.  As it turns out, I like living slowly and mindfully: seeing people and life as valuable, essential, beautiful and whole beings.

Those of us wrapped up in theatre (or, really, any non-profit sector) can forget the value of approaching each other mindfully.  We are so wrapped up in interpreting and improving the world that we lose sight of the very community in which we create.  Tech week happens at top speed with people losing sleep and eating too much pizza.  Actors miss family holidays for auditions.  Artistic Directors skip their breaks in favor of mini-meetings.  Administrators eat lunch staring at a computer screen.  Our love becomes our work, our work becomes our life, and suddenly we are losing sight of life.

Theatre as an art is inherently slower than our lives today.  One scene is far longer than what we watch through media outlets.  We arrive 20 minutes early, lounge in our seats, and wait for the lights to go down.  We don’t leave without, literally, applauding triumphs.  What might the creation of theatre feel like if we all slow down like our audiences?

We get to converse and create for many times longer than we do now.

We get to take an intermission.  With no goal other than to stretch our legs and eat.

We all, literally, applaud each other for our triumphs.  Every day.  Take the time to see the triumphs.

Feel the time…Feel our breath…Oh, wait, isn’t that an acting exercise?

I think I rather like the sound of it.

Theatre as Mindful Living.  Life as Mindful Theatre.

SerahRose Roth is a director, actress, educator, and mom to a precocious preschooler.  She is the Producing Artistic Director of GAN-e-meed Theatre Project and a student at Boston University’s Institute for Non-Profit Management and Leadership.



What Do We Have Against Community?

By John J King

Say the words “Community Theatre” to a theatre professional and you’ll often get a Pavlovian eye-roll. For some, there are stereotypes associated with the phrase and most of them aren’t good.

In the midst of starting my own company, thinking in terms of marketing, I found myself thinking, “I want to sell this as a community theatre, but without using those words!”

But what’s wrong with Community Theatre?

At a workshop I attended, Marsha Norman said something that has stuck with me ever since: “A play is a community; every night, the act of theatre creates a community between the story, the artists, and the audience.”

That sense of communion, of theatre as a social act, is what excites me most about the art. It is a shared experience with others, and shared experiences are what blur the differences between people, erasing sects and creating communities.

In light of the Slow Food theme of the upcoming Boston Theatre Conference, how do we embrace the virtue of Community Theatre? A few thoughts that I feel particularly match up with the analogous slow food movement:

  • a theatre in San Francisco involved their audience in the selection of an upcoming season. The company picked 10 plays, each of which were given public readings throughout the year. At the end of the season the audience voted, and the top four plays were selected for the company’s next season. Not only did the audience feel engaged with the work, but the theatre had a chunk of eager audience ready to purchase tickets!
  • We talk about the student diaspora of Boston, with many fleeing to NYC and L.A. We need to “cultivate taste for locally grown” theatre while these young artists are here so they have reasons to stay. How? Internships, workshops, readings at the schools, open rehearsals just for students: all of these are free and relatively easy to coordinate.
  • Collaborations between groups give audiences new and different ways to engage with local theatre. Good examples that have already taken place: FeverFest; The Shirley, VT Festival; Emerging America Festival; Orfeo Group’s COMPLETE WOWS(A) which incorporated local bands and performers as opening acts.

To me, “Community Theatre” is the highest ideal one can strive for. At worst, the phrase may be redundant, because theatre is community. There is no theatre without community.

What excites me about the Slow Arts theme of the Boston Theatre Conference is its implicit assumption that Boston has everything it needs. We do! The Slow Arts movement encourages us to celebrate and better share with our communities what is already here, to create more opportunities for the shared experiences that enrich, deepen, and build communities.

I look forward to the many possibilities of communion that the Boston Theatre Conference will bring.

John J King is a Boston-based playwright who’s work has been produced by New Exhibition Room, Mill 6 Collaborative, and the Orfeo Group.  His new full-length BEAR PATROL will premiere at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, March 3 – 20, 2011.

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The Experience of Creating Community

By Rachael Donnelly

A typical meal in my house is based largely around the produce that comes in my weekly farm share, and flavored with herbs from my backyard.  It is important to me to eat food that is local and in season, produced without chemicals and hormones, and that comes from nature, not a plastic bag or cardboard box.  In other words, “real food.”

A typical day at work for me is based largely around exchanging tickets for subscribers, working with volunteers, talking with donors, and planning events in which our theatre’s patrons can have a closer and more intimate involvement with the theatre. Most of our patrons and I know each other by name, and even more at least by face.  There have been more times than I can count when a patron has told me that it is so nice to talk to a “real person.”

I think there is a relationship between the two.  I want to know where my food comes from.  The experience of rinsing dirt out of food and preparing a meal both delicious and nourishing connects me to my body and my self, in a way that packaged food cannot. I’ve also discovered new foods and flavors that I would not without the surprises in my weekly farm box.

In the same way, I want to know the people who come to the theatre.  The experience of building relationships with theatre patrons creates a community in a way that social networking and reality TV cannot.  The Boston Theatre community has become my neighborhood.  My point of view has been expanded through the discussions fostered by the theatre experience.

The basic tenets of the Slow Food Movement are “Good, Clean, Fair.”  The theatre can be that too- Good theatre that is entertaining, engaging, and appealing; Clean theatre that speaks to essential truths and sparks questions; and Fair theatre that find a way to reach audiences diverse in age, culture, and wealth.

Rachael Donnelly is a member of Slow Food USA and is the Development and Front of House Associate at New Repertory Theatre, where she serves locally produced baked goods at Behind-the-Scenes Tours.


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Slow Food = Good Theater

by Rafael Jaen

Originally posted on From the Tailor’s Table

For its next theater conference the Boston based StageSource organization has been looking at the relationship between the slow food movement and what we are calling “home grown theater” in New England. The idea got its start from various happenings including an inspired speech given by Peter Sellers at an Emerson College forum last Spring.

The website SlowFood defines Slow Food as a global, grassroots organization with supporters in 150 countries around the world who are linking the pleasure of good food with a commitment to their community and the environment.

The organization stands at the crossroads of … ethics and pleasure. It opposes the standardization of taste and culture…. We believe that everyone has … the responsibility to protect the heritage of tradition and culture that make this pleasure possible. Our association believes in … recognition of the strong connections between … planet, people and culture.

I did some paraphrasing, but you can probably appreciate why…

Along the way we have found some very inspiring stories (about the food industry) that do relate to the on-going development of theatre in our region. There are many samples that do denote a commitment to our community, our arts environment, our traditions and how theater creates a sense of place in the world. One sample is restaurateur Barbara Lynch, locally born and bred (South Boston) and now globally recognized.

That’s what I think of the growing Boston theater scene; it is locally grown and its tenacity is nationally known!

About Rafael Jaen

Mr. Jaen is currently the Costume Director at Emerson College where he is part of the Design-Tech Faculty. In adition he is  Co-Chair for Design, Technology & Management at the prestigious Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) Region 1. His design work can be seen on stage in Lyric Stage Company’s production of  The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickelby Parts 1 & 2.

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Home Grown and the Beginnings of a Slow Arts Movement

Earlier this month we posted a video interview with The Mellon Foundation’s Associate Program Officer Diane Ragsdale.  The interview discussed elements of the slow food movement how they might relate to a slow arts movement.  Three key elements of the movement are:

  1. Developing Relationships between the people who consume food and the people who produce the food
  2. Helping people cultivate their taste for locally grown.
  3. Foster multiple entry ways into the movement, by hosting festivals, going into schools, and finding creative ways of educating the public.

As we begin to think critically about taking these tenants and adapting them to our own movement, let us re-imagine our relationships with our audiences, and ourselves as artists and producers in Boston Theatre.  How do we talk to each other, how do we engage with each other and how do we make those engagements more meaningful?  How do we label ourselves and does that need to change?  Let us think of these key elements and shape them for our cause.  As you start to answer these questions, tell us about your findings.  Share your learning, your successes and your failures.

In the meantime, we present you with another video in the series by Diane Ragsdale.

In this video Ragsdale talks about what a Slow Arts Movement might look like.  Perhaps, you’ll watch and be inspired.  Tell us what this looks like for Boston, what it looks like for your company, your community.  We hope you’ll help us keep the conversation going by joining us in February for the Boston Theatre Conference.

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Slowing Down

By Julie Hennrikus

Slow food. Locally grown. Sustainable. Creating new economies. Cultivating a new palate. Invigorating a community based appreciation for food on many levels.

The slow food movement is about creating a community based approach to food so that people will think about locally grown, and go out of their way to support it. Parallels to theater are obvious. And exciting. And inspiring. And challenging. Once you start to explore the parallels you understand the complexity of the issues. Because slow food may be more expensive. More difficult to find. Not the current taste. So the paradigm needs to shift. You can’t ignore these issues. You have to address them.

And then blow past them.

Boston Theater is changing. Morphing into something bigger, and broader. Its own slow movement. We can toss around words like locally grown and sustainable. We can count the number of theater related jobs, both direct and indirect, and graph their impact on the economy. And we can project into the future. Or can we? Because while we make the case for locally grown and sustainable, and we talk around community, but we need to stop and pause. And talk about what all that really means. What is sustainable mean for a company, or an individual? Is it measured economically, or by satisfaction? Does the satisfaction of theater artist mean as much or more than audience satisfaction? What does that mean, anyway?

There is concern about the viability of theater. Of course there has been concern about the viability of theatre for the past hundred plus years since more forms of entertainment have become part of the lexicon. And while these concerns are valid on the one hand, on the other hand isn’t that part of the challenge? Why do we need to justify our viability as an entertainment option? How about if we show, rather than tell? We shift the paradigm by helping everyone buy into the idea of a slow theater community.

Framing the Boston Theatre Conference around these ideas, and unpacking what they mean to us is a great opportunity for discussion. Motivation. And change.

About Julie Hennrikus

Julie Hennrikus is the General Manager of Emerson Stage at Emerson College, which is the producing arm of the Department of Performing Arts.  She is also the Communications Director for Performing Arts and Emerson Stage.



Diane Ragsdale and Conversation Starters

Ideas are an amazing thing. They seem to live in the ether, and collect when called. When the Boston Theatre Conference committee started to discuss ideas, we were inspired by conversations around the parallels of the slow food movement and theatre. Peter Sellars had been in town, and talked about bringing Michael Pollen to his class. We looked into the philosophy, and liked the conversations that came up, and decided they were worth exploring on a community level.

This summer we found a series of videos that spoke to some of these ideas. Here is one–we hope it helps frame the discussion. And inspires you.

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