What kind of theatre will the next generation inherit?
This was a recurring question as I continued my travels from the previous week, visiting theatres in Minneapolis, the San Francisco Bay Area and Santa Fe. I saw the inspiring potential of that next generation manifested in the work of Up Next, an organization that engages teens with Bay Area theatre. I also visited with Berkeley Rep’s Teen Council—members of which attended the past two TCG National Conferences—and learned about a compelling arts advocacy day they held on February 12. While theatre’s power to touch and transform lives spans all ages, there is something uniquely persuasive about hearing teens testify why theatre matters.
The unsettling uncertainty of the world these teens will inherit was also very much on my mind as I watched Theater Grottesco’s STORM, a new collaboration with the Out of Context Orchestra. The production deals with the imminent dangers of climate change and inspired an animated community discussion. I was reminded of the recent Kansas City Star interview with the Civilians concerning their global warming play, The Great Immensity. In that interview, Steve Cosson shared his experience of working closely with climatologists, and his growing sense of urgency:
“I would say I’m seriously concerned,” he said. “I think much of what I learned was pretty bad news and I think part of the process of doing this was trying to figure out if there’s a way to be hopeful and still work for change necessary knowing the harsh reality of how severe the problems are.”
This swiftly approaching environmental reckoning is a part of larger political and economic changes sweeping across borders. To meet these challenges, this next generation will need to find means of support and connection that also transcend old divisions. To that end, we’ve extended the deadline of our World Theatre Day essay contest, Generation without Borders, to March 9. Some of these essays will be published in American Theatre magazine and shared on the TCG Circle, and I strongly encourage you to share this call to action with theatre-makers under 30 and current students.
While these challenges may be daunting, the breadth, depth and daring of the work of theatres across this country give me a clear-eyed hope. Thank you to everyone on the boards and staff of the theatres I visited or met with, including American Conservatory Theater, Aurora Theatre Company, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Central Works, the Children’s Theatre Company, Guthrie Theater, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, Magic Theatre, Shotgun Players, Theater Grottesco, Up Next and the Z Space Studio. I hope to return soon!