Making relevant theater in a violent world
To the editor:
Since my collaborators and I at Kickwheel Ensemble Theater started making our new show "Passage" in 2013, countless incidents of violence, hatred and ignorance have brought our world and our communities to a boiling point.
The widespread terror of ISIS, the Syrian refugee crisis, the murders in Orlando, San Bernardino and Charleston, the devastation of the Baghdad and Paris bombings, the kidnapping of 276 school girls in Nigeria, the executions of Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile — the list goes on.
In the wake of all this colossal terror, grief and rage, making theater feels small. It feels like it isn't enough. There are struggles for survival, human rights and justice happening all around us and this thing that we do, that we get to do, that we chose to do, sometimes feels removed from that.
I am one of 17 artists, technicians and designers working on "Passage" which premieres July 27-31 at Shire City Sanctuary in Pittsfield. The show raises some difficult questions about history, a changing world and the future of humanity — it's a comedy. I am sharing this letter because making theater and telling stories and creating space for human voices to be heard is my way into the world. It's not enough but it is what I know how to do. As a company, it is what Kickwheel knows how to do — it's what we are all still learning how to do.
What we are creating right now through "Passage" is not just about doing but also making. As artists, we are coming together to pose huge questions that we rarely have definite answers for. Making theater is a collaborative act and it involves listening, exchanging ideas and bringing what is happening in the world right now into the room. Theater is a place where we connect with each other and with our audiences in a very visceral way — an act that is becoming increasingly rare in our culture.
As theater producers, we often communicate with our constituents, fans and audiences in sound bites, social media posts, catchy tag lines, posters, postcards and splashy marketing emails. We do all this because cultivating community and bringing actual humans into a room together for a shared experience is the core of what we are doing.
It's still not enough, but it is what we have and what we are able to share and contribute to our tumultuous world. We are also only one tiny voice, one tiny story.
As artists and as human beings, we invite you into the room with us to allow space for more questions, more conversations and most of all, for empathy.
Sara Katzoff, Pittsfield Ms. Katzoff writes on behalf of Kickwheel Ensemble Theater. For more information visit bazaarproductions.org/show/passage