Posts Tagged Slow Arts

The Boston Theatre Conference, what’s it all about

This February welcomes the return of the Boston Theatre Conference.  The 2011 Conference, Home Grown investigates the parallels between the Slow Food Movement (http://www.slowfoodusa.org) and a Slow Arts Movement.  What do we mean when we say Slow Food?  We mean; local, sustainable, lively, fresh and lush.  Slow Food is a way of living and a way of eating where taste and appreciation for locally grown food is cultivated.   This year’s conference is an opportunity for us to start the conversation and to strategize about what a Slow Arts Movement is, how we create the environment for this shift and what elements from Slow Food we should look at in building our own campaign.  Artists from many of the area’s most vibrant companies will be on hand to talk about the advantages of supporting local theatre. This is an opportunity for you the theatre lover to speak to them about their companies, the type of work they do, what their missions are and the why and the how they support local. Pop-up performances will be peppered throughout each day so that attendees may sample the neighborhood fare.

Scheduled to speak is area restaurateur Barbara Lynch whose ventures include No. 9 Park, B&G Oysters, and The Butcher Shop.  Ms. Lynch will speak about Slow Food in Boston and how it has changed the attitudes of both the producers and consumers towards supporting local food.  The Huntington Theatre Company’s Michael Maso will talk about the changes he has witnessed in Boston Theatre over the years.  Attendees will be able to participate in workshops ranging from the ins and outs of a portfolio career to what we can learn from community theatre.  We’ll spend the rest of the conference examining how to put the tenants of Slow Food into practice.

In the past conference attendees have skewed towards theatre practitioners, and often those at a mid point in their careers, but the Boston Theatre Conference is for everyone.  Slow Food calls for consumers to be participants, to act as co-producers.  This is our call to you.  Anyone who loves theatre, or is interested in theatre is encouraged to attend.  We’ve begun a blog (https://bostontheatreconference.wordpress.com/ ) to start the dialogue before February’s event.  Visit the blog weekly and “like” us on Facebook to keep up with the conversation online.  Watch for the twitter hashtag #BTC11, in the StageSourceBos twitter feed.  When you have an idea, contact us.  You voice should be heard, and we’d love you to be a guest blogger.  Speak with your friends and colleagues about the issues and ideas presented ahead of the meeting, and come ready to join the conversation in February.

Now is the time for all of us to get involved and come to the conference buzzing with ideas and inspiration.  They key to the Boston Theatre Conference’s success is engagement.  We hope you’ll join us on-line now and in person in February.

Tickets to Home Grown: The Boston Theatre Conference 2011, are available at www.stagesource.org.  Click on the Programs and Events link on the menu bar and look for Home Grown.

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How movements are created

Have you checked out the videos we posted of Diane Ragsdale speaking about “Slow Arts”?  If not check them out and come back to this video.

For those of you who have been following the videos, this final clip talks about How we start a Slow Arts movement by:

  • Increasing Demand
  • Increasing Appreciation
  • Helping an entire community or the individuals in a community to develop their capacities to more meaningfully engage with art

Those are just the starters.  It’s not an overnight process.  It will require more than one organization to make it happen.

Do these ideas work for Boston?  How should we frame the conversation for our sector’s unique needs?  Watch the video(s) share your thoughts and join us in February.

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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.  www.J-RexPlays.com

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