Teresa’s Weekly Update: Our Town Edition

by Teresa Eyring

in Weekly Update

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“Very ordinary town, if you ask me.”
Mr. Webb, Our Town by Thornton Wilder

On July 12, the NEA announced the 2012 Our Town grant recipients, and whether or not Wilder’s eponymous paean to small town life served as inspiration, theatres were well represented. In fact, if we were to call forth our own Professor Willard, he might politely note that theatres not only submitted the most proposals, but received the most awards. He might also point out that a number of these grants were awarded to communities around the same size as Grover’s Corners.

These “creative placemaking” grants are designed to increase “livability,” a word that might best be defined by Wilder’s question, “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?” From the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City, UT, to the William Inge Center for the Arts in Independence, KS, to the Writers’ Theatre in Glencoe, IL, these theatres will be using the NEA’s support to help the people of their communities realize life while they live it. A look at this Our Town interactive map illustrates how the hunger for that realization of the arts crosses every state line, regardless of geography or size.

That hunger also crosses the increasingly stormy waters of class, most recently stirred up by the Occupy movement. The Civilians have spent the last year performing interviews with Occupy activists, and in the Political Theatre Group on Conference 2.0, they shared news about a nationwide Occupy event on September 17. Occupy #S17: One Year Later invites theatres, schools and activist groups to simultaneously perform the interviews conducted by the Civilians, and engage in conversation on Twitter at #S17civs. Email occupy@thecivilians to get involved with Occupy #S17, and Gus Schulenburg to be set up with full Conference 2.0 access.

Attention must also be paid to a very different 1%—our men and women serving in the armed forces and their families. In collaboration with Blue Star Families and with support from the MetLife Foundation, TCG is thrilled to announce the Blue Star Theatres program. Inspired by the highly successful Blue Star Museums project, we hope to go beyond simple ticket discounts and encourage theatres to make classes and other engagement opportunities available for deployed military personnel and their families. Many theatres and artists are already involved in this work, and we also hope to be a nexus of information. If you’re a Member Theatre that would like to participate, visit our website and contact Laurie Baskin with any additional questions. We’ll be officially rolling out the program in October, so please join now and show your support for those who have given so much to all our towns.