Inviting Chaos into the Room
Guest post by WP’s Associate Artistic Director, Megan Carter
We’ve done something crazy here at WP and invited a bit of chaos into the room; we handed over a coveted main stage spot to our Lab of brilliant but relatively unknown writers, directors and producers and asked them to create new work in a way that challenges traditional, institutional theatre-making.
We have been building up to this for a while. In 2006, the WP Lab, which has been around in some form since 1983, functioned as a sort of satellite to the theatre. It has always been a talent-filled and often cohesive group, but the group existed outside the central activities of the theatre (much like many other wonderful playwright and director groups around the city). Then Julie Crosby, in her first moments at the helm of WP, did something genius – she added producers to the Lab, creating the third spoke in the wheel. We began the 2006-2008 Lab for Playwrights, Directors and Producers and, in the course of just a couple meetings, discovered the mother lode. We realized that this Lab could and should be the engine of WP, not a side program, and we have illustrated this by putting the playwrights and directors of previous Labs on stage in the majority of our productions and by allowing for major collaborative projects for the current Labs.
After producing two successful, highly collaborative, short-run, site specific shows with the 2006-2008 and 2008-2010 Labs, we have upped the ante with the artists of 2010-2102. WP’s mission is to produce and promote women theatre artists, and here is an opportunity to showcase 15 up-and-coming women (honest-to-goodness, they’re going to take over the world in a few years). So with a few thematic prompts, a full main stage budget (and all that it entails), plus almost 18 months of development, we have charged the 2010-2012 WP Lab with the collaboration of a lifetime – creating a large-scale piece of theatrical art with 7 playwrights, 4 directors and 4 producers.
All over America, in cities large and small, individual theatre artists are finding new methods, new ways into process, and new avenues to getting their work seen. Institutional theatres, for varying reasons, have often been slow to embrace new methods: this is how you pick a play, this is how you develop it, choose a director, choose a creative team, this is how you market the play, this is your audience….
The systems that exist in these institutions create efficiency and, often, smoother roads for artists But theatre needs a little chaos. WP, because we are a small institution, possesses a certain nimbleness in the way we produce, but we also have institutional systems in place. Can we use those systems (and the stability they provide) to create a container for new ways of making work? That’s what we’re doing.
We are letting the rough edges of creative process cut through, letting the chaos in, and embracing the messiness that occurs when you put a lot of artists in a room together. Of course, in working this way, we may end up with a hot mess, but we’re more likely to end up with something of soaring, indescribable beauty, something that we can’t easily define, something that changes the people who create it and the people who see it and ripples out far beyond its initial impulse – which was to raise the stakes of collaboration, to challenge ourselves as an institution, and to promote and produce this group of rising stars.
Megan Carter is the Associate Artistic Director of Women’s Project. Select New York credits include Freshwater by Virginia Woolf; Aliens with Extraordinary Skills by Saviana Stanescu; Sand by Trista Baldwin; Burial at Thebes by Seamus Heaney; Mac Wellman’s Sincerity Forever and Harm’s Way. Megan has collaborated with Tea Alagic, Anne Bogart, Lear deBessonet, Katori Hall, Carson Kreitzer, Daniella Topol and at such companies as Intiman Theatre, ACT Theatre, and Classic Stage Company. She has an MFA in Dramaturgy and Theatre Criticism from Brooklyn College/CUNY.