How-To Guide for Creating Progressive Theatre

Since there isn’t really a step-by-step process for helping make more progressively provocative theatre happen, here are some tips and tools that I’ve found helpful in my work.

  • Read plays. Especially popular ones. But read as much as you can. Ask for recommendations. Find a random one in your local library. Just read. Understand what plays are out there, because some of the best gems are just sitting on a shelf somewhere. See what stuff you connect to.
  • Look at what plays are being produced. Look at your community, in big cities, everywhere. See what kind of ideas are already being produced, especially in your own community. Understand what’s being produced.
  • Start talking to people. In order to put on a play and then try to challenge yourself in its production, you need people to work with. Find people that are interested in the same issues you are. People that you meet and connect with don’t always have to come from the same background as you, but will need to care about the same politics as you.
  • Don’t be afraid to be critical. This is where getting more people that are interested in the same issues as you, and are interested in the same kind of theatre as you, helps immensely with being able to create a challenging work for you to put on. Learn how to approach being critical in a productive way, and find people that are willing to go through this process with you.
  • Find people that are suited for their specific duties. Though there are a ton of roles that go into actually putting on a production, there are much more than just the right actors. You will also need a director, stage manager, various designers (costumes, scenic/set, lighting, etc.) in order to make it happen. Look into it.
  • Talk to playwrights. This is how Empress Mei Li Lotus Blossom came to fruition, because our fabulous director really searched for a play that spoke to her, and was able to get in touch with the playwright of this particular one. Most playwrights love talking about their work, and would be more than happy to offer support to help bring their play to life.
  • Don’t think that your work will be absolutely perfect. Because that’s the beautiful thing about performing arts — nothing will ever be perfect. But continue to challenge yourselves and each other in your performance, and understand that this is an opportunity to grow as an artist and activists. Do work that challenges yourself, in as many ways as possible.

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