by Nick Fracaro
Playwrights needs to quit writing and start wrighting. Artaud suggested all should become producers with no distinction between actor director writer. Wrighter would be an apt name for such a theatre producer.
In most of theatre the specialization of training among actors, directors, writers, administrators, and producers has placed theatre workers at cross-purposes in the process of creation. But one of the first discoveries of commonness in rat was that in many theaters there was not this divide between artist and administrator and producer. Independently producing artists were also administrating their own facilities, audience development, grant applications, etc. Sometimes specialization occurred that exploited individual talents, but there were no “artistes” absenting themselves from the “business” of the theatre.
My belief is that at the heart of our real national theatre is this Renaissance Man approach to the creation of theatre. With a closer look at how these independently producing artists support their art form and one another, it’s evident how the “day jobs” also braid their business and resources into the production of theatre. The interaction between these different realms of business and art helps discover the almost-forgotten end of the creative process, the audience. And the audience discovered in such a process is only in a small degree removed from that bigger fish, the one that always gets away, the community.
One idea is to discover training techniques that put writers and actors on the same page, artists and producers on the same stage. Many rat ensembles have been informally practicing some of these techniques without actually naming them as such. One first step would be to formalize the artist’s relationship to the day job, which is also an important aspect of the theatre’s relationship to the community. (Broadening definitions of both professionalism and patronage.)
Actors “serious about their career” head to NYC and LA where all the ambitions of “being an actor” can be achieved. But it is not theatre but film and television that could eventually pay the rent and bestow the credentials the celebrity culture values. Serious playwrights cultivate day jobs as teachers and professors, achieving a certain status and prestige that will likely never be afforded their plays. So we have these strange citizens of theatre without any connection to audience or community except the hypothetical. The audition of bodies trained in isolation. The submission of scripts honed in detachment. And never the twain shall meet except in that factitious community of 4 week rehearsal.
To celebrate and revere the Renaissance Man over the celebrity artiste is a difficult counter culture ambition to instill in one’s self and one’s peers. To create an ensemble of art workers with such contrary ethos to the dominant culture is a truly radical endeavor. Yet I think this is exactly what is being accomplished in sputters in rat theatres across the country.