Posts Tagged Slow Food

Slow food and slow theatre: metaphors and rethinking audience’s role.

By Anita Lauricella

I sometimes think we approach developing audiences in the way some of us were taught to eat our vegetables.  The issuance of a rather stern “eat the broccoli its good for you” married to an assumption that this knowledge would make me want to “friend” broccoli.   In theatre we develop friends and work on “education” through talk backs, reviews and program notes with a similar faith. We build opportunities that assume that if you only understood why this is wonderful you would come back and bring your friends.

The Slow Food movement has moved past this one dimensional approach to encouraging an appreciation of food.  Education, appreciation and connoisseurship are key aspects of the slow food movement.  But what is interesting to me is the message that says it is important to know how the food got to the market.  The slow food movement stresses demystifying the food production process.  They want us to know where and how the food was grown and how it got to the food stand or grocer.  Not only do they want us to know; they spend time developing a compelling narrative.  I buy local because the story of factory farms disgusts me and the story of the local farmer down the street is so compelling.

If the local audience can look behind the curtain and into a theater’s “production” process will they value and appreciate the performance?  I think I do feel more intrigued when I have been given a “back stage” view.   I appreciate a peep at the creative process and wonder if this feeling is shared by other audience members? For me this taste is the impetus for learning more; staying for a talk back or checking out a review.   A colleague tasked with developing some supporting educational panels was invited to attend and comment on rehearsals.  She loved it, but was it too much?  Did her knowledge of the director’s intent or the actors’ trials ruin the mystery that is part of the theatre experience?   Not in this case but maybe sometime; currently I know more than enough about Spiderman.

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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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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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