Thursday, March 29, 2012

The beauty of Indie Theatre

Contributed by Jordana Williams

When I was 19, my friends and I drove up from North Carolina and camped out all night for tickets to RENT. That show meant the world to us. Because it was about artists in New York, which was what we all wanted to be someday.

I am an artist in New York now, but it's nothing like I thought it would be. I have two kids. I have a steady day job that I totally don't hate. I am neither deliriously rich nor dramatically poor, which I used to think were the only two options available for artists. I wouldn't even know how to begin sticking it to the man. It's all I can do to sort out babysitting while I'm at rehearsal. And I haven't lost much sleep over whether or not to sell out because: A) I don't think anyone's buying, and B) I don't have much sleep left to lose.

I don't know if I would recommend my life to anyone else, but it works for me. And somehow--blessedly and improbably--I think being a mom has made me a better artist. The less sense my artistic life makes, the more clarity I find about exactly why I'm sticking around.

Every time I read a script or consider a project, I have to decide if it's worth the missed bedtime stories, the favors called in, and the sheer exhaustion. It means I say no to stuff. It means I've had a dozen ideas that really excited me for a few days that I just never followed through on. But it also means that when I do move ahead with something, it's usually tremendously satisfying; not only because I chose carefully, but also because every time I walk into a rehearsal room, I have to justify my time there. It's made me more focused, honest, and efficient. It's made me more respectful of my collaborators' and audience's time as well.

The beauty of Indie Theatre, to me, is that it doesn't make a whole lot of sense either. Nobody's getting famous. Nobody's even getting paid enough to live on. It's nearly impossible to cajole an audience to part with a small amount of time and money to come see our shows. I used to think this was depressing, but now I think it's kind of awesome. Because you can't control the money or the fame or the audiences. All you really have any say in is how completely the art you make reflects your own values and interests and twisted sense of humor. If other people like it, that's great. If they don't, at least you do. Eventually, I think we all wind up doing it for the right reasons--even if it's only because the wrong reasons simply don't pan out.


Jordana Williams has directed Mac Rogers' Hail Satan, Van Badham's Continuing Occupation for The Australia Project, The First Annual St. Ignatius Hanukah Pageant for 'Tis the @#$%ing Season at Theatre Row, Mac Rogers' Roll, four years with the Estrogenius Festival and several stints with The 24 Hour Plays. She is the lyricist portion of Williams/Rogers/Williams (Fleet Week, Air Guitar, The
First Annual St. Ignatius Hanukah Pagean and Love Story: A Story of Love). She is one of the founders of Gideon Productions, which currently is running Blast Radius.

1 comment:

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