We're lucky to live in Austin. We're lucky to live in a community that's creative and hard working and confident and intelligent. All this new work and all these open minds. We're lucky to live in a community where artists support one another—where we lift each other up instead of trying to tear each other down.
We're lucky to have so many amazing creative people that can make work with us, that are interested in making new work of their own, that understand failure is a symptom of working well and working hard and working right, not a predictor of future success.
We're lucky to live in a city where the audience is well-read and has a good sense of humor and brags on itself and yet somehow doesn’t take itself too seriously. We're lucky to have an audience that wants to participate in the creation of the play—that knows it isn’t finished until they show up and bring their own associations and dreams to the piece. And yet an audience that holds us accountable—with honesty but never dismissiveness.
We're lucky to live in a city that is full of bands and reads a lot of books and likes the outdoors and knows that a creative community isn’t just the money-generating “movers and shakers” but also the teenage punk rockers and the quirky artist who build spaces from trash and the hippies with their butterfly bicycles and the students making films and plays and music and their own new thing, whatever the new form will be.
Because our city brings so much to the table, it's on us to bring our audience pleasurable and challenging work, and we'd be lazy assholes if we didn't let them in on the process. They are smart and they know what they want, and we are not lazy assholes, so we let them in early, and often. Making new works from scratch the way we do—collaboratively and on our feet—really requires that we test material in front of everyone to learn what works and doesn’t work. So we mount workshop productions when we can afford it, we invite feedback, we hold talkbacks, we survey for input, and then we make the next draft.
Meeting the audiences' desires is every bit as important as fulfilling our own artistic desires. An audience feels that when they walk through the doors of a venue—whether or not they were a part of the creation process. Audiences know how much they were considered, whether you gave any kind of shit that they are even there, whom you were expecting to come. And when they don't feel considered, they shut down before they ever sit down. But if they do feel considered and cared for—in terms of making it engaging and pleasurable and challenging—all at once, that makes them very willing to go down whatever road we ourselves are on.
Everything we know about willingness, we learned from our audience. One of the things we've learned is to not drop completely into a fiction. We always keep an awareness that we, the Rude Mechs, are here in the room with you, our audience. This makes it easier for the audience to stay "game" because it creates a feeling that really anything could happen. Anything could actually happen, not abstractly to imaginary people, but really, with the people you are in the room with. Our work isn't an invitation. It's an RSVP to the party our audiences are going to throw. Our willingness to make new work is simply an attempt to engage with Austin audiences' willingness to do just about anything.
We are always asked why we chose to live in Austin, so far from the artistic meccas on the coasts. Why would we have chosen anywhere else? Here we have friends and colleagues who know the value of a life lived making art with comrades and taking time to relax on the patio and share a beer and not get all het up about “making it” because “making it” isn’t how much money is in your bank account or how famous you are, or how “respected” or “hot.” But how rich the hours in your day are, surrounded by people you love and admire, in a beautiful place that is both a safety net and the trapeze high above it.
Photo by Rino Pizzi.