From the Editor: Volume IX. Oct-Nov 2013

by Donna Walker-Kuhne

This project involving a theatrical production of the road weeps, the well runs dry in four cities has encompassed a myriad of experiences engaging diverse communities. The play has now been produced in two of the four cities, Juneau, AK and Minneapolis, MN.

Artistic Directors from all four Consortium partners, Latino Theater Company (LTC) at the Los Angeles Theatre Center (LATC), Perseverance Theatre, University of South Florida and Lark Play Development Center all attended a performance at Pillsbury House Theatre last month. It was spectacular to see yet another version of this story. Community engagement activities included a trip to the Native American art gallery and a curated video installation in the lobby of the theater by Jonathan Thunder that provided opportunities for written comments from the audience.

And as Pillsbury House reflects on their recent successful production, a unique request by a college professor came in, asking for Marcus to make this a 10 play cycle because it has that much depth and interest.  Pillsbury House is smartly engaging the community in its final assessment of the production with two scheduled Town Hall discussions. This is a unique opportunity for reflection by all participants including the producers, the artistic team and the community.

The focus of gathering a consortium of theaters who committed to producing the play and building a diversity initiative around the production continues to roll out after the road weeps closes. In Juneau, the impact of the road weeps continues to resonate locally as they prepare for their fall season.  Building a culture of sustained diversity in the production initiated from the road weeps continues with the casting and goal for building a diverse audience for their new production of Treasure Island.  And that is no easy task.

The road weeps is currently in production in Los Angeles produced by the Latino Theater Company. In the Bulletin, LTC describes a unique type of community building as they set about casting the production. They were faced with the question of how to ensure the ethnically accurate casting as described by the playwright with a limited pool of local resources. The director and casting director were very creative and determined to get it right. The effort was not only onstage but also behind the scenes and this insightful piece illuminates the challenges in building diversity from the inside out.

University of South Florida is preparing for its spring 2014 production and the Director Professor Fanni Green shares her thoughts.  She has the benefit of having seen two of the four productions and is inspired by their focus on the production.  It also allows her to reflect on her ideas to ensure her production is distinctive and original.

Perseverance Theater continues to exemplify the lasting power of this initiative for cultural diversity. They are exploring how to make the experience with the road weeps become part of the DNA of how they do business involving their staff, board and their artistic team.

The Lark Development Center is committed to work that raises questions in the world
such as those presented in the road weeps. Each production presents different questions and successes, and an important measurement of success is engaging diverse audiences.

The Consortium has become a big family that crosses many borders. It is rare that four regional multicultural theaters have the opportunity to spend three years together, sharing the same vision producing a play that reveals an untold chapter in the history of America.

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