Indie Theater

I went to the 2nd Indie Theater Convocation yesterday. Going to that did what going to good theatre always does for me. It reminds me I’m not alone in this pursuit of human stuff. It was great to be in a room with people who make theatre from a place of passion, intelligence, humanity, and with craft. Huge big thanks to Rochelle and Martin Denton as well as John Clancy and the rest for hitting the metaphorical bottle of champagne against the ship setting us all off on the most amazing adventure.

(Side note: There was a lot of talk about Actors’ Equity Showcase rules mucking us all up. As a member of Equity and this world of self-producing real work, I know we will push it ahead. We should call ourselves Progressive Members of Equity while we are in the wave of creating a sea change.)

I have a dream for The League of Independent Theater and will share with you the flashes, images, and crazy notions I would love to see come true from this.

1. A change in the mentality the public has about Indie Theater. I think we should stop using off-off for awhile and see what happens. What will off-Broadway do?

2. Gain respect through good marketing and branding. LIT should mean quality. A great image/logo. T-shirts, stickers, etc. Maybe cool League of Independent Theater trading cards. Kids will say, “I’ll give you 2 John Clancy’s for a Chris Harcum.”

3. A League of Independent Theater TKTS booth in Times Square, Union Square, and with posts at the big schools here.

4. A LIT Development Center where work grows so we can move beyond some of the slapdash cramming of festivals. I’m not knocking festivals. I’m suggesting other choices besides festivals, showcases, and evenings of work.

5. A LIT connection with colleges. Internships. Field trips for schools with multiple shows in a weekend. Talkbacks. Workshops connected with productions to give the serious drama major across the nation insights into methodologies and real-world conditions. Wouldn’t it be great if the Plays and Playwrights Series had a play going up at every college across America and worldwide? Scene study done with pieces by our colleagues and not just Williams, O’Neill, and Pinter?

6. Seeing a great show run for 8 months in a LIT space because it can.

7. A reclaiming of important theatre spaces. I never was here when the Caffe Cino was the Caffe Cino or the Theatorium was the Theatorium. They should get historic designations. LIT spaces should have 80/20 rent. I know this is also a problem with rock clubs. Maybe we can start a revolution here.

8. A working relationship with the Producers League so the people who want to learn how to produce theater can do it with LIT shows. Or have them help LIT peeps learn how to produce work better. Or an exchange/learning center so you don’t have to kill yourself to mount your first Fringe show (or your third). I put up a bunch of shows I still have an existential crisis when I have to sit down to make a budget for a production.

9. Volunteer hours as part of yearly membership. I think we would all benefit if we gave 10-20 hours a year helping shows in which we aren’t directly involved. We would learn from how other artists work and they wouldn’t have to cry into a bowl of despair cereal at 2am because the show opens Thursday and they are too busy to eat a real meal. It would be great if being with LIT got rid of the “I’m all alone here/no one gives a shit/why am I doing this” syndrome. Or some of it anyway.

10. A code of ethics. We’re in this together. Don’t push aside someone else’s postcards on a table for your own, etc.

11. LIT teen series. Wouldn’t it be great if kids around this theatre mecca city started doing indie theater early? How many voices are we not hearing? How many hearts are wandering in silence?

12. Get on tourists’ radar. Have deals with tour bus companies to drop them in nice, safe areas where great indie theater is done. Get listed in Lonely Planet and other tour guide books. Get connected with hotel theater desks.

13. A LIT Majors Revival Series. What if 3 shows a year were chosen to have 10 week runs the next year?

14. No awards ceremonies. No divisiveness. You mount a LIT production, you get to be certified officially. Maybe a post on Gawker or Wikipedia but no awards. New generation, new rules. You want competition go play chess boxing.

15. A place to post needs and jobs like a LIT craigslist.

16. Performances captured and preserved on video. Great LIT on PBS?

17. A great slogan. “If it ain’t LIT, it must be $^!+.” Or something better.

18. A brochure to explain to our parents we haven’t thrown away our lives.

19. A street named after Rochelle and Martin Denton. Preferably while they are living.

20. Have it be noted in Theatre History books that July 12, 2008 is when LIT started a revolution.

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