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. Paul Meshejian continues this series.  

What makes an artistic home?
In a word, community. For a myriad of reasons, people come into the theatre to recast community, family. Artists begin to feel at home when they share common structures that allow them to function freely and imaginatively with an understanding that regardless of how far afield they may choose to go in expressing themselves, regardless of how many warts they expose, there will always be a sense of embrace. Often, an artistic home can be defined by activities as common as reading the same daily paper, going to the same cafes, restaurants and bookstores along with experiencing the same weather, walking the same streets, and following the same detours. Being able to make particular kinds of assumptions allows artists to feel at home, making work beginning with no assumptions, whatsoever. Because artists tend to create inside whatever constraints are offered by their environment, the artistic home is a simple function of maintaining elements of constancy that ensure, as best as is possible, that there is time and space to make work together.

Where and how did you find yours and what does it mean to you?
My artistic home is the city I live in. After spending quite a few years working in the Midwest, I returned to Philadelphia to join the company at People’s Light and Theatre. About eight years ago I founded PlayPenn. Both of these organizations, each in its own way, have been loci of artistic “homeness." In some ways Philadelphia has changed radically over the past forty years, establishing and growing a theatre community that remains a fairly well-kept secret. Despite Philadelphia being my hometown, there was a time when the idea of having a life in the theatre here was simply untenable. What hasn’t changed is the small town feeling of the city. And because it is my hometown, there is much here that feels culturally comfortable while a regular influx of artists of all disciplines has enriched the environment and keeps all of us creating in a forward thinking fashion. Having recognized Philadelphia as my artistic home means a feeling of commitment to my region, my city and most importantly the people who make up these spaces. Because Philadelphia has recognized how much its artists care about the city, the city fathers have found it beneficial to support the growing community of artists that calls Philadelphia its artistic home. It is that tacit mutual commitment that stimulates my best sense of myself as a responsible, responsive, creatively active participant in the life of the culture within which I live and the culture I imagine living in.

Jamie Gahlon has asked theatre artists from around the country to talk about their personal search for an artistic home. Paul Meshejian continues this series.  

How can one create and/or build an artistic home for others?
In my experience, the establishment of an artistic home comes about despite, not because of, grand schemes or designs intended to make the perfect environment for artists. By recognizing and fostering an environment that guides artists toward an awareness of their surroundings, politically, economically, socially, and most of all emotionally, individuals can begin to find harmonious ways to respond to one another and, in time, to the community in which they live, work and play. Perhaps empathy is the essential element in building an artistic home along with awareness that it is in the act of responding to and embracing others that we ultimately come to feel the comfort of home for ourselves.

What is the artistic home of the future?
I imagine the artistic home of the future as local, multi-faceted, open to all possibility and replete with struggle. It will be a home that refuses to conform to any other idea of home. It will be a home that artists want to leave and a home to which they long to return. And oh, yeah, there should be some money in the equation.

Paul Meshejian is the founding artistic director of PlayPenn. Since 1989 he has been a company member at People’s Light and Theatre (PLT) outside Philadelphia where he has both acted and directed. In addition to his work at PLT he has performed with all of Philadelphia’s major theatre companies. He has been nominated for the Barrymore award numerous times. In the 1980’s he was the founding artistic director of Stage One: Collaboration, a professional theatre in Minneapolis/St. Paul devoted to new and rarely produced works. He serves on the board of directors of the International Institute for Theatre Research and is a member of LMDA, Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas. For full bio, go here

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Thoughts from the curator

Theatre artists from around the country reflect on their respective "artistic homes."

Artistic Home

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