I write books. I have 5 in print, and more than 7 others written and awaiting publishing. Writing is perhaps the loneliest profession. When I was an artist, often I had a model there. The same cannot be said for the art and labor(not craft) of writing a book. It is long hours of contemplation, research, writing, endless rewriting and editing. The book goes out. Though I hear from readers, there is no immediate feedback.
this month and next month my latest play, “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden” runs at the Oil Lamp Theatre in the Chicago suburb of Glenview. many of those who attend are regular patrons to the theatre. All theatre, I should note, is not the same.
My education in theatre literally comes from the streets. My first play, “Occupy my Heart, A Revolutionary Christmas Carol,” spawned a radio program, saw standing room only audiences, saw numerous interviews, including a segment on Thom Hartman’s radio show, received national attention and helped for a time to change the media narrative about the Occupy movement. It was interactive, organic and communal. several of the actors and my director, a brilliant young woman named Hannah Freidman, were students of a style of theatre called “Theatre of the Oppressed, which, in a very basic sense, sought to erase or assail the barriers between audience and stage.
At the end of each Friday and Sunday matinee performance I join the cast on stage for a talk back with the audience. This past Sunday a woman who attends more formal and traditional theatre found the interaction with the audience refreshing and interesting. Though she had attended theatre many times, she said, this was the first time she’d experienced a break in that traditional barrier. Maybe. Often many programs will flirt with that barrier, but most often that barrier remains sacrosanct. That is not a criticism, only a statement on style and context. I told her how I loved breaking that barrier, and how it made the program more of a community rather than another form of TV or movies.
At one point in the play, the characters solicit questions to “Snowden” and “The NSA”, which the actors answer unscripted. Indeed, the onstage battle between Snowden and my NSA Agent becomes a bit of a competition for the sentiments of the audience. That is the power of theatre. It is community, and should be, and it is immediate unlike any other sort of art form, whether one applauds or gets up and walks out…