An Ideal Theater Salon

by August Schulenburg

in TCG Books

Post image for <i>An Ideal Theater</i> Salon

We are pleased to announce the launch of a new TCG Circle blog salon responding to the entries and themes of An Ideal Theater: Founding Visions for a New American Art, edited and introduced by Todd London. This documentary history of the American theatre movement  collects over forty essays, manifestos, letters and speeches from founding visionaries, each introduced and placed in historical context by Todd, who spent nearly a decade assembling this collection. (I myself tore through these 529 pages as if they were a who-done-it thriller, frantically underlining and scribbling in the margins, debating and drawing inspiration from these founders.)

The first half of this salon will focus on current theatre leaders responding to the call of these founding visions of the past. In many cases, we’ve paired people directly with the theatre at which they currently work: you’ll read current Cornerstone Theater Company’s artistic director Michael John Garcés responding to Alison Carey and Bill Rauch’s early visions for Cornerstone; and then you’ll read Rauch responding to the founder of Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where he is now artistic director.

In some cases, this call and response will be less directly literal: you’ll hear Sherrine Azab, a theatre-maker exploring the cultural renewal of Detroit, respond to the 100-year old pioneering spirit of the Washington Square Players. In all cases, the writers have been charged to respond to the following framing questions:

  • How does the vision expressed in your entry resonate in your own work? In our culture at large?
  • In what ways has the cultural context surrounding that founding vision changed? In what ways has it remained the same?
  • What key aspects of the founding vision do you think are essential to move forward? What aspects can be left behind?
  • What is your own founding vision?

Our hope is to create a blog salon “call and response” with these founding leaders to celebrate their legacy and carry their visions into our present moment. (I also want to acknowledge the great work Scott Walters has done responding to the book on The Clyde Fitch Report).

And that’s just part one.

In the new year, we’ll be launching the second part of this salon–which all are invited to participate in–that will ask current theatre people to share their own founding visions, drawing inspiration from key quotes, ideas and themes from the book. If you’d like to participate in that salon, email me.

Let’s end with one of my favorite quotes from the book, a quote Todd shares in his HowlRound post about an artistic home, from Maurice Browne of The Chicago Little Theatre, describing the odd and vital beauty of a true creative community, which he dubbed “the third “Bohemia”:

“The inhabitants of the third [Bohemia] seldom know where they live; they are too busy making beautiful things, which they give to one another for they have no money. They have, however, wealth and health, for the deeps which surround their shores are rich with treasure of many colours and the tides are strong and their tang savoury. They are fisher-folk, those inhabitants, fishers of men and of their own hearts, and dredge jewels from uncharted seas.”


August Schulenburg is the Associate Director of Communications at TCG. He is also a creative partner of Flux Theatre Ensemble, winner of the 2011 Caffe Cino Fellowship Award. He is a playwright whose produced plays include Riding the Bull, DEINDE, Carrin Beginning, The Lesser Seductions of History, Dream Walker, Rue, Jacob’s House and Other Bodies. He is also a director (most recently Ellen McLaughlin’s Ajax in Iraq) and actor (the recent film, The Golden Scallop and the play Hearts Like Fists). He serves on the board of the Network of Ensemble Theaters. Learn more here.

  • walt828

    Thanks for the shoutout, Gus! I just finished teaching a course on “The Ideal Theater” that was very exciting. Such an important reminder that the way things are now was not the way they always were. Hats off to Todd. Also, I wouldn’t mind participating in Part 2 of your salon. Good luck!