Going Through the Back Door to Get to the Front

Anne Bogart's picture

Misconceptions are unavoidable now that we’ve eaten of the Tree of Knowledge. But Paradise is locked and bolted, and the cherubim stands behind us. We have to go on and make the journey round the world to see if it is perhaps open somewhere at the back. - (Heinrich von Kleist)

In conjunction with SITI Company’s production of Room, based upon the writings of Virginia Woolf, I participated in a panel discussion with Washington DC’s Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith and Tina Packer, who was the Founding Artistic Director of Shakespeare and Company in the Berkshires.  The discussion took place at the University of Maryland.  Our task, in the spirit of Woolf, was to address the notion of women carving out careers in the arts. As the public conversation proceeded I suddenly realized that all three of us – Molly, Tina and I – had each found our places as directors in the theater by going through the back, rather than the front door.  When Molly Smith graduated from American University with an MFA in directing, she and her then husband transported 50 old theater chairs back to her hometown of Juneau, Alaska where she had gone to high school, with the intention of starting a theater company.  In Juneau, a city with absolutely no tradition of theater, she founded the Perseverance Theater.  Tina Packer left the U.K. and the male dominated Royal Shakespeare Company to create her own domain in the hills of western Massachusetts. My own path was the downtown theater scene of New York City.  As a young director it seemed to me that the corporate ladder to success in theater was constructed for men and quite out of my reach.  Instead of trying to jockey for a place with the men on their ladder, I turned in another direction and self-produced work on the streets, in lofts and in non-traditional spaces around Manhattan and Brooklyn.  

The Art of Restraint

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When restraint and courtesy are added to strength, the latter becomes irresistible. -(Mahatma Gandhi)

My British wife Rena recently returned to New York after a period of time in London. On her first day back in the city, she ran errands at our local CVS and a grocery store that she had frequented countless times over the past decade. She was surprised at how previously shown common courtesy had been reduced into barely disguised disdain towards her as the customer. Based upon her brief encounters of that day, she wondered if the level of civil interaction in this country might be rapidly diminishing. 

Much like a frog placed into a slowly heating pot, not noticing that the heat is escalating dangerously, I wonder if we, who live in the current cultural and political moment, are unaware that our civic space is, bit by bit, eroding.  Are we gradually giving in to uncivil behavior? Are our daily lives gradually losing the benefit of big-hearted social exchange and perceptive discourse? The current administration accords unspoken permission to be rude, to use abusive and dismissive language, to indulge in uncivil attention, all which tend to diminish the quality of social interaction. As our public discourse is becoming a toxic soup is the social arena deteriorating as well? 

Intentional Civics

Anne Bogart's picture

Up on his political soapbox, filmmaker and activist Michael Moore insists that now is the moment for non-politicians to take action by running for political office.  What does “running for office,” mean to theater artists? 

In the performing arts we have arrived at an unusual tipping point. Partially due to the repercussions of the #MeToo movement, but mostly because the current generation of long-time artistic directors are stepping down from their posts at regional theaters, presenting houses and large and small theaters everywhere, more artistic director and producing artistic director vacancies exist than any time in my memory.

Entertainment

Anne Bogart's picture

There’s a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.
(Leonard Cohen)

I graduated from high school in Middletown, Rhode Island in June of 1969. Yes, that 1969 – the year of Woodstock. And yes, I attended the Woodstock Festival the following August. Not only was I at Woodstock for the entire three days of peace, love and music, but also I arrived there from Rhode Island in the predictable green and white VW van full of mostly longhaired fellow travelers. During that same summer Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon, Charles Manson and his followers murdered five people and Ted Kennedy drove off of a bridge on his way home from a party on Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts and Mary Jo Kopechne died in his submerged car. In 1969 Richard Nixon was president and the Vietnam War was raging although no one really understood why we were there.

Spotlight: Karron Graves

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On Facebook and here on the SITI Company blog, SITI has been spotlighting alumni of our many training programs. Today, we have the great pleasure of spotlighting Karron Graves who started training with us in 2004 and was back in the Peter Zeisler studio as recently as this fall. She has performed in several SITI Company productions, starting with Imitations for Saxophone in 2005.

Hanjo: A Director’s Diary, Part Three

Leon Ingulsrud's picture

PART 3.

(If you haven’t read Part 1 go read it here. Part 2 is here.)

When SITI launched our new production paradigm Work/Space we decided that we would begin by focusing on three productions, one by each of the three co-artistic directors. The idea of Work/Space was to allow us to work on projects that we were interested in but didn’t have commissions for. So I proposed that Hanjo be one of those projects.

Conscious Action

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We attempt in vain to describe the character of a man; but a description of his actions and his deeds will create for us a picture of his character.
(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

Action is the essential grammar of the theater. In his book The Necessity of Theater, the philosopher Paul Woodruff defines the theater as, “… the art by which human beings make human action worth watching in a measured time and space.” An action worth watching is the result of the collaboration between the actor and the audience in a shared attentiveness to the action as it is happening.

Hanjo: A Director’s Diary, Part Two

Leon Ingulsrud's picture

As I post this on Wednesday, October 4th, I am in Purchase, New York, where in two days, on Friday, October 6th, we will present the world premiere of SITI Company’s Hanjo at The Performing Arts Center at Purchase College.

Hanjo: A Director’s Diary, Part One

Leon Ingulsrud's picture

Hanjo is a project that is very close to both my heart and my brain. It is an exciting production to me on so many levels that it is hard to know how to start expressing myself about it. And although it seems like a cop out, ultimately I really do agree with Robert Wilson that it is not the artist’s job to explain their work: that’s up to others.

Spotlight: Ali Kennedy Scott

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On Facebook and here on the SITI Company blog, SITI has been spotlighting alumni of our many training programs. Today, we have the great pleasure of spotlighting Ali Kennedy Scott, who started training with us in 2012 and was a member of the inaugural SITI Conservatory. Ali is an Australian actor, writer and theater-maker based in New York City.

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