I've realized that a lot of this year has passed in a bit of a haze for me. I find myself walking the streets, earbuds in, walking the stairs to the subway, going to and from work, and not really being aware of what's going on. I find myself doing what I do when my plate is full: re-reading detective novels (generally by George Pelecanos...so awesome). This is me in my show prep mode. But I haven't been prepping a show. Mostly, honestly, I've been doing this: writing this blog. There's been a ton of stuff to write about, to think about.
Like I said before, I've been thinking about what my next move is. And it's a balancing act. Or rather a feat of plate spinning. On one hand, there's the very personal: what kind of career do I want, what kind of life do I want. Then there's the bigger picture: what does the field need? What good can I do? For me, as a minority artist, there's also the level of the community: how do I serve it? How do I add to that long conversation? It's been a lot to have rattling around during my almost hour-long commute to work.
After reading Sean's and James' excellent posts on self-producing and, today, Marissa's take here, I've thought about self-producing, and what that means to me. I very much admire their bravery, gumption and skill as well as their insight. But, in the end, that's not really the route I want to go down.
I don't know, maybe it's that it's Black History Month now (as the Yahoo homepage reminds me with its little cartoon figures from black history), maybe it's the lingering effects of the Black Playwrights Convening, but I want to aim at a wider audience. I feel, as a minority artist, a kind of responsibility to make as much change as I can in my life, to push my story, my experience as far as I can. There is absolutely a sense of ego involved in that, I'm not going to pretend it's not. But then again, I work in theatre, so a sense of ego shouldn't surprise anyone.
For me, I do work in relation to the world at large, not simply out of my own artistic urges. On some level, when I turned from more experimental art forms and towards more traditional, I made that choice. It's not everyone's choice, and I respect that. It's the one that made sense for me, for a lot of reasons. So finding myself here, what does that mean?
In some ways, straight-up self-producing isn't what I want. One of the things that is kind of daunting about it is that it seems like it's all or nothing: either you make theatre on your own and build your own institution or you buy in to the institutional system. I'm looking for a third way.
One thing I'm thinking about is that, as pretty much everyone who works in the field of new play development knows, plays aren't finished until production. And yet, the industry standard holds production as a final prize. If we can move to a place where the first production is considered part of development, maybe we address some of the issues that plague us. Doubly so, the more we can put playwrights in charge of the entire development process.
I'm thinking about what Young Jean Lee is doing. She's making her kind of theatre, developing it as needed and then, not renting a storefront, but essentially partnering with a larger institution to produce it. It involves fundraising, community-building, all of the things I value, but without some of the detractions of doing it all on your own. Right now, that's where my mind is heading.
So...what's next? More on that soon...