Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Blazin’ Hot Season

Earlier this week—this frigid, sub-zero week—we announced our “red hot” 2011/2012 Season: a mix of big Broadway hits (Red and Race), old and new classics (Camino Real and Crowns), and brand new work (The Convert). Head over to our website and explore our 2011/12 line up, warm up against it—then sound off in the comments on our selections.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Censorship, Controversy, and the Role of Art

By Willa Taylor, Director of Education and Community Engagement.

The Goodman recently hosted Belarus Free Theatre, a company of artists who at the moment cannot return to their country because the repressive regime in the former Soviet republic does not like what these artists’ works say about repressive regimes. Government agents have gone to the artists’ homes, interrogated their relatives, jailed some of their colleagues. A few weeks ago, before they started their current tour with an appearance at the Public Theatre’s Under The Radar Festival, the husband-and-wife leaders of Belarus Free Theater were arrested and roughed up during demonstrations against the government; Natalia was threatened with rape by the police.

That we hosted them is wonderful. That this theater would move quickly to give artistic refuge is one of the reasons why I am proud to work at the Goodman.

Freedom of speech is a basic tenet of our society. Freedom of expression is the right of every American and the mandate for every artist. But in this increasingly polarized society, is freedom of expression possible? When Mark Twain’s Huck Finn can be rewritten to make it more palatable to the squeamish, when government pressure forces the National Portrait Gallery, a gallery supported by my tax dollars, to remove an art work to assuage a politician, how do artists, artistic institutions, and cultural collaborators like critics make space for the debates that art should engender?

In her remarks celebrating World Theatre Day 2010, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage said this of art and artists: "We must be unafraid to look honestly at the human condition and try to come to terms with its contradictions and flaws." That means approaching our work not as journalists, but as fabulators, storytellers, breaking rules to help re-imagine the world. We must be truthful, while spinning yarns. It is the paradox of our creative process that gives us access to places we dare not go in our everyday lives. It emboldens us to ask difficult questions about war, race, religion, poverty, love and hatred.

Art should provoke thought and promote discussion. In light of the Belarus Free Theatre’s plight, we must remember what is truly at stake.

Why Mary?

By Robert Falls, Goodman Theatre Artistic Director

Rehearsals for the Goodman’s upcoming production of
Mary charged forward this week, amid the third-worst blizzard in Chicago history. The first performance of this world premiere by Thomas Bradshaw (right) is this Saturday night; below, Goodman Theatre Artistic Director Robert Falls shares his thoughts on this remarkable new work.

When considering works for inclusion in a season at Goodman Theatre, we look for plays that contain myriad qualities: the uniqueness of the artistic voice (or voices) that power the project, the theatrical viability and vibrancy of that voice, and the urgency with which that voice must be heard—or in other words, why must this play be done by the Goodman now? Inherent in all of these considerations is our desire to stimulate a dialogue—both between our artists and audiences, and among our audiences in general—that addresses significant issues and concerns
in our lives, our society and our world.

Mary is the newest work by Guggenheim Fellow and Prince Prize-winning playwright Thomas Bradshaw, one of the brightest lights of a new generation of young writers who focus on the ideas and beliefs that continue to factionalize us, whether in the context of our families or in our society. Commissioned by the Goodman, Mary confronts the pervasive nature of racism and homophobia in American society with biting satire, while attacking and undermining the social and racial stereotypes that still plague us. Mary is timely and theatrical, and we hope that it will spark a lively discourse on the changing nature of bigotry and oppression in our
contemporary world.

When it was presented in staged reading form as part of our 2009 New Stages Series, Mary elicited a variety of passionate audience responses. I have no doubt that this production, under the direction of Thomas’ longtime collaborator May Adrales, will do the same.