How do you get a diverse group of organizations to work together to engage an audience around a play?
On October 28, 2011 the Los Angeles Theatre Center and the Lark Play Development Center took their first steps together on the journey to the fall 2012 production of “The Road Weeps, the Well Runs Dry” by Marcus Gardley by bringing together a consortium of local theatre companies and museums to ask them that question: How can we work together?
The theaters in attendance were: American Indian Dance Theatre, CalArts, Cal State LA, California African American Museum, Center Theatre Group, Ebony Repertory Theatre, Native Voices at the Autry, Playwrights Arena, Watts Village Theater Company, and UCLA.
We all want to do more than simply mailing list exchange and cross-promotion e-mail. We want to find ways to bring our audiences together by weaving together events related to our play throughout all of the organizations’ schedules. But as we spent the afternoon discussing strategies, putting forward panel discussions, museum exhibits connected to the show, one of the consortium members declared he was already “bored!” That pushed us to think of more unusual events, such as site-specific readings at native sacred grounds in the L.A. area. The play’s action centers around a creek, which almost exists as a character in its own right, and we thought about doing some free performances on an actual creek, maybe something along the L.A. River, many sections of which have been restored in recent years. The playwright said that he would like to make the play relevant to local tribes, even though the text specifically focuses on African American/Seminole relations, so we brainstormed about ways to allow Native American groups to share their own stories either in a live forum or on-line.
In the middle of the meeting, Marcus read excerpts from his play. Though many of us had attended a staged reading last year with a full cast, hearing his own voice … and his own passion … reminded us what brought us together in the first place: the beauty of the language and how just the words alone could create in that room the world and the complex characters that live in it. He said that one particular thing he wants to do with the L.A. production is foreground the themes of migration and identity which are intrinsic to the play, because L.A. is a city of migrants, a city of changing identities
Over the next year, we’ll have a reading of the play (January) and a workshop presentation (June), leading up to the fall 2012 production, as well as other events with our partners to give the community opportunities to get to know the play and the playwright. But maybe we shouldn’t be locked into thinking we can come up with the answers about how to get our audiences involved in the process. Maybe we should ask all of you how you would like to become a part of this, and I hope y’all will comment on this blog and let us know what you think. Take this journey with us …