TCG Whatifesto submitted

Got the TCG Whatifesto submission in — with about 20 minutes left in the deadline day. The 500 words inspired by and edited out of the 15,000-word document from Sunday are under the cut.

From where I’m sitting, the hardest part of this project was the editing. Not necessarily the most time-consuming. But the one that made me feel most like, wow, I’m not sure we’re quite nailing this. Challenges to the editing process:

  • SPEED. Co-creation event happened on 13 March. Submission deadline for TCG was 15 March. That is a very short amount of processing time. [But…this is one of our beliefs (for X, P and me): We want to be faster. Cut out the padding, the hemming and hawing, the it’s-not-readys. The pressure of the clock we felt over the last two days is something we want to train ourselves, in a way, to love.]
  • DISTANCE. X and P are in NYC. I am in Berlin, five hours in the future. We are all busy people: I have two out-of-town visitors this week and rehearsals for 7-8 hours a day, X and P both have full-time jobs. We can get up early, take a lunch, or stay up late to work on a project, but my early/lunch/late is not their early/lunch/late. There is lag time when we want input from one another, sometimes a lot — and when that input is important to have before proceeding, it makes that SPEED issue all the trickier.
  • OPINIONS. We are opinionated people. (I remember when I first knew P, about 5 years ago: a friend of ours would always criticize him for “liking” every show he ever saw, and ew, that just sounds like I’m talking about Facebook. Curse you, book of face, for appropriating the word “like.” At any rate, it is really funny to think about that today — that anybody could ever call P un-opinionated.) Three opinionated people working together on something that expresses opinions? And that’s built from 23 pages of other peoples’ opinions? Yikes. [But the pressure of time meant we had to compromise more, relinquish more control — another goal of ours. See how our goals feed into one another?]
  • RESHAPING TO FIT A PROMPT. For a while I was wonked out by this, but then I remembered — We’re not losing the original document. We are going to do something with that document that honors its spirit better, remains more faithful to all the voices it contains, gives them all credit. But not submitting to TCG would also have dishonored the spirit in which the document was created, even if the amount we had to cut and leave out and sterilize in order to do that made us all twitch.

Despite the challenges, boiling the document down over the last few days did have one unquestionably positive side: It forced us to reflect on the process and the document while it was still fresh. We did not have time to allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the document’s size and by its plethora of ideas. We dove in. It did not just sit there.

We would love to hear what you would like to see next from the original document. One thing we are working on: editing a video that incorporates screencasts, screenshots, and commentary from the creation of the Whatifesto.

You can read what we submitted to TCG yesterday below. Feel free to leave us feedback about how we did with boiling down to fit the TCG prompt and word limit.

Submitted to the TCG 2011 Conference

What if theatre were a product not just of the artistic prowess of a small creative team, but of the efforts of a community-at-large, triggering a universal sense of ownership over the piece?

On March 13, 2011 a group of 18 participants writing from NYC, Berlin, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Munich and India simultaneously created a 15,000-word Google Document. Building from a handful of seed questions, they engaged in a 3-hour event — part debate, part brainstorming session.The result, our Whatifesto: the importance of developing a sense of personal investment in theatre within the community-at-large.

Recognizing that communal participation at a high level develops a sense of ownership, our vision of the theatre invites the community to participate in its administrative and creative processes. Our theatre replaces the role of season subscriber with “shareholder.” Using Community Supported Agriculture as a model, our theatre’s shareholders would invest through participation that moved beyond purchasing a subscription or volunteer ushering. They would be invited to build and strike sets, help make decisions through shareholder meetings, especially when choosing the next production, and would always understand the theatre’s reasons for a decision. Giving people a stake in the process gives them a stake in the product — it becomes their show and their theatre. Ultimately, it would produce their stories.

For our theatre, traditional theatre spaces must change. They must transform into communal hubs.Those spaces must invite participation by supporting non-theatrical events.They  must actively collaborate by hosting events involving other community organizations: from schools to mental hospitals, prisons, and shelters. In essence, the space belongs to the community-at-large, and theatre is just one of the many activities that takes place there.

For our theatre, the creative process must change; it must allow for constant evolution. Shareholders will be theatre makers and theatre makers, shareholders. Productions will consciously grow and change from day to day. Each morning, theatre makers will gather ideas. In the afternoon, they will rehearse. By that evening, they will have incorporated those ideas into their piece. The shareholders see it, provide feedback, and the piece grows. We relinquish a measure of control and gain immediacy, relevancy and community voices in return.

Our Whatifesto’s writing methodology is a testament to our vision. A community that feels ownership of its theatre will regularly engage in debates, similar to our writing process. Consequently, theatre makers will need to be less controlling and more transparent in their theatrical practices. Our Whatifesto co-creation project was an experiment that allowed organizers little control, but opened up the playing field, sparking new debate and ideas.

Our “What if?” is achievable through transparency and diversity in the ways that audience and community members interact with the theatre.


4 thoughts on “TCG Whatifesto submitted

  1. Cory,

    I hear you. Editing was a huge hump, bump in my mental everything.

    I was worried/thinking about a number of things:
    – Fitting the criteria.
    – Properly representing the co-authors.
    – Making those 500 words count.
    – My brain not exploding.
    – Loneliness. We created this amazing document in a group, but editing felt lonely.
    – Releasing control, and what that means…
    – How little I like shrimp.
    – What does community mean?
    – And so much more.

    At one point, I was so overwhelmed I went to climb for an hour and came back to revisit it.

    I am happy with the final document, but I also feel that we should continue. Continue exploring these ideas. Continue shaping it. Continue this conversation, because it really is only the beginning of this process/conversation. So many other ways to fulfill our ideas/mission/focus/whatif.

    I want to keep us going.

    • I want us to keep going, too. I hate that I may have to now fall off the radar for a little bit. What with rehearsals up to 9 hours a day/5 days a week, out-of-town visitors for a week and a half, the Fulbright mid-semester conference next week, more visitors the following weekend, an application for a really cool summer program due on March 31, and the OFAF play due on April 1 (draft one, anyway) — I may not make it to the end of this month.

      I am going to try to work on creating/editing a short film documenting the Whatifesto creation, though. I feel like that will be something I enjoy doing when I have a spare couple of minutes here and there, and I think it’s a good way to record the event. I have 15 minutes of screencasting and a bunch of screenshots that I took during the process. You and X should each make short response videos and send them to me, I will edit them in as well.

  2. Cory,

    We should totally do it.
    I love that.
    I need to find a time to make X join me and we will make another little film and send it to you. This time about the whatifesto.

    Love it. Love it.
    The only problem is time.

    If you cannot tell. I have become OBSESSED with blogging. I have such an addictive personality. Give it some time and I will calm down. Until then…

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