Isn’t it just a lot more exciting to do something new?
It’s a trade-off. As a theater community, we put a lot of our resources and talent into the Fringe and a lot of our annual audience goes there to see what’s new, but that means that many of those artists depend on the Fringe instead of starting their own companies. They aren’t creating full seasons, or doing shows longer than an hour, and they aren’t concerned with theatrical design, and so the work isn’t rigorous. To be fair, there are Fringe shows every year that are simply, beautifully and elegantly crafted, and work perfectly within the Fringe’s constraints. But not every show, every play, and every idea is right for the Fringe Festival. So then where do these plays, shows, and ideas get done?
They should be getting done at the small theater companies started by bands of young artists who have bonded together to produce their own vision of what theater should be. And that vision needs to include new plays. Why? Because what is new brings the whole field of theater forward, and if the Twin Cities is creating what is new, we are a part of that national conversation, but if we cling to what is old and tested, we are part of the status quo. And isn’t it just a lot more exciting to do something new? Creating and producing new work is infectious and it infuses a theater scene with an excitement that is often lacking here.
Artists in the Twin Cities need to take more risks and put up new plays. Artists here should take initiative, start their own companies, make new work, self-produce their own plays, cultivate freelance directors and relationships between directors, playwrights, and designers. We desperately need more theater companies who are willing to be the actual fringe to the Fringe Festival and the Guthrie.
The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul have a population of 3.3 million, in a state with a population of 5.3 million – Adelaide, by comparison has a population of 1.2 million in a state of 1.6 million. This article from Howl Round, however, throws up some striking similarities in theatrical issues and communities in our cities – in many more ways than large Fringe festivals – some interesting differences, and some really fantastic ideas about theatre creation and support. Well worth a read; and a contemplate about the other cities facing similar issues we often find ourselves facing.