In Search of the Artistic Home
Jamie Gahlon has asked theatre artists from around the country to talk about their personal search for an artistic home. Aditi Kapil continues this series.
What makes an artistic home?
The door is always open.
The commitment is long term.
Speaking specifically as a playwright, it’s a theatre or a development center that you are no longer auditioning for, or even tentatively dating, you’re in a full-blown relationship, and that’s a two-way deal. There is communication—making plans based on the assumption that we will still be together five seasons from now. And a mutual understanding that you’re in this relationship because you love each other’s work, and you’re together because you make each other better, support each other artistically, economically, etc.
...artistic excellence—what is it, how do you achieve it, how do you more honestly assess your work and its impact?
On the part of an institution that means investing in the artist, not the individual project, and committing to what is next for that artist, and the extended dialogue with their work as it evolves. On the part of the artist, that means giving your partner your best game, and the respect of communicating openly about what’s next for you artistically, even if it bears no resemblance to what you think they want to hear. Because otherwise someone is going to get left behind. And I think also being intimate enough with your artistic home that you understand their limitations, economics, audiences, and are creating work somewhat with them in mind. It’s a partnership, not a patronage. At least not in my experience.
Where and how did you find yours and what does it mean to you?
I feel like I have a few.
As an actress/director/playwright, my artistic home is Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis. Jack Reuler invested in me right out of college as an actress, kept me employed, at some point the conversation shifted from auditioner/artistic director to more of a ‘what are we doing next year?’ thing. He has always been interested in where I’m going next, frequently before I was. A few years after joining Mixed Blood’s loose unofficial company of artists, I began directing, and a few years after that I started writing plays, and I think Jack instigated both transitions. Every year we have the ‘what are we doing next’ conversation; sometimes it’s more a debate. We want to do our best work, and finding the perfect project that matches both the theatre’s needs and my artistic needs can be an argumentative process, but it usually results in really cool ideas that neither of us would have thought of independently.
Specific to playwriting, our process tends to be that I start working on something that excites me, and once I’m secure in my vision, Mixed Blood comes in as the commissioning organ, ensuring the work is always artist-driven. A year ago I decided to write a trilogy based on the Hindu trinity—so far I have a play and a half in sloppy first draft form and a lot of big ideas. Mixed Blood is supporting the writing and development with a commission, and is planning on producing the trilogy of plays in rep so I can see them living together, in dialogue with an audience as a cycle, whenever they’re done. This could be years from now, but I know in the end I’ll see my vision realized as a whole. It’s ok to write the big idea.
The Playwrights’ Center has become another artistic home, it’s been amazing to feel a part of a community of playwrights in Minneapolis, to know that I can call over there with a need (and I have, often) and know that they’ll bend over backwards to meet it.
And I need to mention the Lark Play Development Center too, they pulled my play Love Person out of cold submissions years ago when I didn’t know if I was going to be a playwright at all, and made me part of the family. They’re my New York home.
How can one create and/or build an artistic home for others?
If your artistic visions and work styles and dreams for the future of theatre are a match, and you think you’re in love, don’t make the other person have to prove themselves or win your favor every other year—just commit already. I think my grandmother said something to that effect.
And monogamy is not required. Or recommended. Polygamy is great!
My grandmother did not say that.
What is the the artistic home of the future?
There are no fish anymore.