This edition of The Road Weeps bulletin is a special one. The first production of the road weeps, the well runs dry by Marcus Gardley was presented at Perseverance Theater in Juneau, Alaska from May 3-26, 2013. All of the Consortium Theaters were present: Pillsbury House, Latino Theater Company at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, the University of South Florida and LARK Play Development Center’s artistic staff. It was exhilarating that after two years of preparation, dialogue, casting and community building, we were all able to experience the production together.
Storyteller Joanne Alcantara describes the environment in Juneau as the cast hit the stage and the town. It is clear that involving the community is very important for audiences to engage in this play. Discussions on the historical context, merging of cultures and masculinity being challenged were held in various settings in Juneau.
Perseverance Theater spent considerable time and effort producing a series of workshops, facilitating media interviews and conducting class visits to prepare for discussions and unpack the story. It all paid off as audiences came to the show and continued informal post performance discussions amongst their friends. When I shopped in various stores chatting with the staff, I discovered they all knew about the play. And in speaking with my Consortium colleagues, they had similar experiences. There is a healthy curiosity about Marcus Gardley’s play and Consortium partners are finalizing plans for community engagement as part of the preparation for the production.
LATC has partnered with important cultural institutions that represent a breadth of diverse perspectives to help tell the story of the road weeps. It is an engagement of the community that is deep and significant because these were the same organizations at the table almost two years ago who pledged to support this play in pre-production. Despite challenges with funding, staff and capacity, they remained committed.
USF Theater Department has a unique community initiative that includes seniors, war vets and college students – an amazing and diverse group of participants. Pillsbury House is involving their academic community along with artists for an important dialogue that will bring disparate communities together.
There are compelling interviews in the Bulletin that offer the perspective of the Directors preparing for their respective production. They each have tremendous experience and have personal and professional reasons that informed their choice to direct the play. Shirley Jo Finney shares her personal story and why she was driven to direct the road weeps and Marion McClinton is clear about African American playwrights and his role in fostering emerging generations.
The next production of the road weeps, the well runs dry is in October in Minneapolis, but this summer each remaining venue is carefully building audiences and community involvement paving the way for a unique dynamic experience. Stay tuned.