Lost Works

What Could Have Been

In March, Broadway shuttered its doors, theatres across the world canceled productions, and theatre training programs hastily moved online. In the midst of panicked cancelations, of hearing from friends about lost artistry and income, and of dealing with our own theatres postponing their spring programming, we had a meeting about an upcoming workshop of ours (we are director/playwright collaborators). Our impromptu agenda was to try to salvage it and brainstorm how to move forward virtually. But we were unsettled and unfocused. We were preoccupied by the field-wide disruption to our work. We wanted to support our global community of theatremakers, but all we had were questions: How do we use this moment to meet in the liminal space of the imagination? If no one sees what has been lost, how will anyone know what is gone? And finally, faced with the magnitude of this crisis, we asked: What do we make of the scraps of lost works?

stage view of an actor

Kacie Rogers in a reading of The Surest Poison as part of the 2019 MACH 33: The Caltech / Pasadena Playhouse Festival of New Science-Driven Plays. Photo by Diana St. James.

Out of these existential questions and in memoriam of all the projects that will no longer come to fruition, we are creating Lost Works: What Could Have Been. It is a collective cry of anguish, a howl of rage. It is a beacon of hope for the world to come, as we will envision it together.

To create Lost Works, we need you, our community. How would you pay tribute to the work you’ve lost during this time? It could be big or small. Entire productions have been lost, but so have lovingly sewn garments that will never be worn on their intended body, intricately crafted moments of stage magic that will never ignite their moment of wonder, and so much more. The entirety of what could have been can’t be recreated, but a tiny piece of it can be captured.

Faced with the magnitude of this crisis, we asked: What do we make of the scraps of lost works?

The tributes can take the form of a two-minute video, a hundred-word micro-essay, a poem, a rendering, or some other creative expression. Together, we can build a collage that expresses the vastness of our collective artistic grief, and an archive for the future.

As theatre artists, we have all made a sacrifice for the greater good. The recent cancellations are part of our civic responsibility and are necessary to save an untold number of lives, including those vulnerable among our own community. Our artistic work is not the largest casualty of this catastrophic global event.

But in a moment that feels so scary, so largely out of our control, uplifting our craft is one small thing we can do. As we are being urged to isolate ourselves and exist in separation, let’s gather in this digital space to mourn our lost works, celebrate our artistry, and share our communal experiences. Just because we can’t share physical space doesn’t mean we can’t be together. You can submit your tributes at lostworksproject.com.

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