Looking Back at Season One, Part 1
So today marks the end of the fiscal year for Halcyon. With the outdoor kids show having gone up, the first season is complete as well, so it seems like a good time to take a look at what the first year brought: what we learned, mistakes etc.-- which I will be doing in the coming days. I have been examining almost everything around me of late, as evidenced by some of my posts. I think fatherhood, and starting a new chapter in my theatre life made me see everything a little differently, so I began to look further into things that have stuck in my craw for a while. Much of that has been the subject of my blog, including last Fridays RANT/submissions call.
In examining what we want to do a little background info may be helpful:
In the Beginning . . .
The wife and I both moved to Chicago in 2000, though we didn't meet till a few years later. Before Chicago, I was in Paris, and she was touring a kids show in a van around the country. Both Jenn and I have been lucky to have had a lot of experience with many companies, so we were seeing a lot of good and bad all around. Most companies I know of are in existence primarily to get work for those in the companies. This is not an evil thing, a lot of great theatres and productions come about this way. But while we were both fully immersed creatively in our work, there was something missing; while our work was feeding our creative needs, it was not feeding our souls. We could not identify at first what it was. Then after a series of events, it came to us. Community. Almost everything we worked on was geared away from community towards the individual artists and it wasn't working for us. So we set out to try and change that. We want to use theatre to change the world, or at least get more people to talk to each other. We wanted to tell stories to bring people together. Engaged Theatre. This is by no means the only possibility for anyone, but it is the path we're striving to reach.
The "official version"
Why the company was formed
Halcyon Theatre was formed out of a love of collaboration. We wanted to create theatre that made a difference, which mattered both to artists and our community. Through telling stories both entertaining and moving, we wanted to work in a challenging yet encouraging atmosphere; giving a voice to stories that need to be heard, stories artists are passionate about telling. We wanted to create theatre where all elements are integral to the ritual of storytelling and every detail matters. Most importantly, we wanted a company that believed in our mission, where our work and our actions strive to reach our words.
At its heart theatre began as a communal form of storytelling. In many ways this has been lost in our day. Stories are what define people and cultures. Stories are how we learn about ourselves and other people. By creating magical experiences through storytelling, we show people a world beyond their own back doors, and what's inside their own house. Through theatre's transforming power and the ritual of storytelling, Halcyon Theatre hopes to opens doors, to awaken the possibility to dream of a bigger and better world, use our collective imagination more and differently. We choose to stay away from living room realism, to deal with both human issues and a bigger world. We hope audiences leave the performance feeling like they're part of something bigger, inspired to dream as big as they can and realize their potential-- becoming an astronaut, a fireman, a better husband or wife, a kinder person on the train—and to see all of us as part of the same humanity.
Halcyon Theatre awakens the imagination through storytelling in all its forms. We challenge audiences to think and dream of the richness of our world, both in far away lands and our own backyard.
We live in a fractured society; few know their neighbors; people are clamoring for community. Halcyon explores how stories and the art of storytelling can cross cultures, heal old wounds, reconnect peoples, create communal experiences and forge new paths forward.
What we do to accomplish our Mission:
Halcyon explores how stories and the art of storytelling can create a cultural dialogue that can be a uniting force. We do this by:
Telling stories from all backgrounds and places. Our first criteria is that it is a great story. We look at playwrights from around the world -- at plays and stories throughout history that have universal themes that cross cultural boundaries (For ex. The Visit is an impoverished town that could be on any continent, facing choices any town may have to face. Yerma takes place in Andalusia but her struggle could be anywhere.) We look for plays that lend themselves to learning and exploring forms of storytelling from differing cultures and how they can coexist and strengthen each other. We try to tell stories that have a Mythic, Epic Quality, challenging the audiences, big stories that have a heart and are entertaining. Stylistically we look for plays that are not tied to strict realism and moves beyond the four walls of realism. We look for the same types of qualities in stories that we develop/adapt for the stage.
- Having a company comprised of artists from a wide range of backgrounds and styles. Making every effort to have as diverse a company (and individual show casts) as possible. For ex. if we are creating a story and one actor is trained in classical text based acting and another is heavily trained in a different tradition, learning from each other can make both better artists and the company as a whole is better for that. If everyone looks and thinks alike, we'll never grow as artists.
- Growing the most diverse audience base possible. For ex. after Yerma a patron came to me to say how much she liked the show. In the conversation she also mentioned that when she looked at the rest of the audience she saw people of all colors watching the same play, including people who look like her. She said it made her feel far more comfortable than she typically feels when surrounded by older mostly white audiences. Much of this comes from diversity not only in the company, but also in play selection.
- With after school programs and young audience series, we want to ignite the passion for theatre and give young members of our community the tools to continue telling stories that connect people.
So how'd we do in our first year towards those lofty goals? Part II will look at how we're doing so far putting our money (literally) where our mouths are.
This was originally published on Tony's Blog.