Critics conference journal #1: Defining theatrical Indy

March 21, 2013
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

At a Cafe Patachou breakfast on Wednesday with some early arrivers for the American Theatre Critics Conference here, I was asked by Susan Cohn of the San Meteo Daily Journal  how I would define Indianapolis theater. How is it different from, say, Ohio theater?

I stalled a bit, wanting at least to appear thoughful ... even though I knew I didn't have an answer.

That's one of the reasons I'm thrilled that IBJ is hosting this conference, running until Sunday, which brings out-of-town writers here to explore, discuss and (for some) write about what goes on on Indy stages. (And in galleries, since the early-birders are here, in part, to explore those as well.) With a battalion of scribes to look at Indy's work from different perspectives, perhaps we can come closer to defining who we are and where we stand in the grand scheme of regional theater.

As I fumbled, Cohn's question broadened. Is regional theater really regional? If the IRT is doing "The Whipping Man" (see my review here) and so are a dozen other theaters around the country, what's regional about that?

I did have a counter to that.

First, in most markets, a professional theater that focused entirely on local playwrights would be out of business before the curtain went down on its first season.

Second, theater isn't just a script. It's actors, directors, designers and audiences. It's the building, too. And, yes, the arts journalists who help fuel the dialogue.

If most of those elements are local, then it's local theater for me.

But it's a question I'm sure will come up again as our guests visit the IRT, the Phoenix, Beef & Boards, the Palladium and more over the next few days. Follow member posts on twitter #atcaindy13. For more on the conference, see my story here.

And join us for a free public panel discussion on "Why the Midwest?" at 1 p.m. Friday at the Indiana Historical Society and/or for the ticketed Mini-Fringe on Sunday.

Oh, and in the wee small hours of the morning, I did come up wih a better answer to Cohn's first question: Indy theater is a collection of individuals striving for excellence but with a sharp eye on survival. 

How's that? Care to modify?

Your thoughts? 

ADVERTISEMENT
  • The beyond theatrical part
    Arts and Entertainment in Indy and beyond. If the beyond can go as far as Hillsboro, we have Myers Dinner Theatre. Myers Dinner Theatre is a wonderful place to feel welcomed, enjoy a nice meal, and see a wonderful play. My son was been in the last several plays there, and at age thirteen they have always made him feel part of their family.
  • Integrity
    That's a challenging and fascinating question. I'm not sure anything definitive can be said about Indy's theatre scene from an aesthetic perspective. It's not the home of slick profit-making ventures like Broadway or an incubator of raw, bare-knuckled creativity on the scale of Chicago. But in a larger sense - and this may admittedly be a stretch - you might say that the theatre companies that have thrived in Indy share the same qualities as the city's most successful and well-respected businesses and institutions, e.g. Lilly, the Colts, the Speedway, etc. Indy's successful theatres have a strong sense of their own role in and relationship with the Indianapolis community, an irrepressible work ethic, and a characteristic Hoosier humility. In an art form that's notorious for outsized egos, there are surprisingly few divas on the Indy theatre scene. Even some of the most talented and celebrated performers in Indy - people like Claire Wilcher, Charles Goad, or Scot Greenwell - are humble, approachable, hardworking people, who will sooner give credit to their collaborators for a show's success than claim it themselves. That humility and integrity may be the strongest identifying quality of what Indy theatre is all about, and that's something to be proud of.
    • P.S.
      Postscript: I'ts a pity that the itinerary of the critics' conference doesn't appear to include a trip to the Bloomington Playwrights Project. Admittedly, it's a bit of a drive, but they're the greatest champion Indiana has of new plays and new voices in theatre.

    Post a comment to this blog

    COMMENTS POLICY
    We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
     
    You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
     
    Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
     
    No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
     
    We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
     

    Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

    Sponsored by
    ADVERTISEMENT
    1. I think the poster was being sarcastic and only posting or making fun of what is usually posted on here about anything being built in BR or d'town for that matter.

    2. Great news IRL fans: TURBO the IMS sanctioned movie about slugs running the Indy 500 has caught the Securities and Exchange Commission because Dreamworks had to take a $132MILLION write down...because the movie was such a flop. See, the Indy/IMS magic soiled another pair of drawers. Bwahahahahahaha! How's CARTOWN doing? HAHAHAHA...Indy is for losers.

    3. So disappointed in WIBC. This is the last straw to lose a good local morning program. I used to be able to rely on WIBC to give me good local information, news, weather and traffic on my 45 minute commute.Two incidents when I needed local, accurate information regarding severe weather were the first signs I could not now rely on WIBC. I work weekend 12 hour nights for a downtown hospital. This past winter when we had the worst snowfall in my 50 years of life, I came home on a Sunday morning, went to sleep (because I was to go back in Sunday night for another 12 hour shift), and woke up around 1 p.m. to a house with no electricity. I keep an old battery powered radio around and turned on WIBC to see what was going on with the winter storm and the roads and the power outage. Sigh. Only policital stuff. Not even a break in to update on the winter storm warning. The second weather incident occurred when I was driving home during a severe thunderstorm a few months ago. I had already gotten a call from my husband that a tornado warning was just southwest of where I had been. I turned to WIBC to find out what direction the storm was headed so I could figure out a route home, only to find Rush on the air, and again, no breaking away from this stupidity to give me information. Thank God for my phone, which gave me the warning that I was driving in an area where a tornado was seen. Thanks for nothing WIBC. Good luck to you, Steve! We need more of you and not the politics of hatred that WIBC wants to shove at us. Good thing I have Satellite radio.

    4. I read the retail roundup article and tried Burritos and Beers tonight. I'm glad I did, for the food was great. Fresh authentic Mexican food. Great seasoning on the carne asada. A must try!!! Thanks for sharing.

    5. John, unfortunately CTRWD wants to put the tank(s) right next to a nature preserve and at the southern entrance to Carmel off of Keystone. Not exactly the kind of message you want to send to residents and visitors (come see our tanks as you enter our city and we build stuff in nature preserves...

    ADVERTISEMENT