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Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Home in the Streets

Two years ago, faced with our company's pending 'homelessness', I was feeling pretty down.

Sometimes having a small theater company is a bit like what I imagine it must feel like to run a small farm. Time doesn't really build security. Experience doesn't guarantee survival. At any moment, for almost any reason, at the whim of the weather or the markets or some new and destructive bug... you're back to zero. And you have to build everything up again once more.

What helped me pull myself up with a mental image of some tough little bootstraps, was, as it often is, the young members of our company.

I am their leader. That is my job. I have a responsibility to them.

Was I going to mope around in front of them? Share my bout of hopelessness? Let my resentment at our fate infect us all? That's not leadership. It just isn't.

And so I turned my mind to trying to find where that elusive silver lining might lie. Yes, I wept a bit in the middle of the night, but I got up in the morning and firmly directed myself (I'm a director after all) to find a way out.

Slowly, step by step, my mind nudged forward. One half thought a day. Or a week.

"Well... we don't have a home. We're on the streets. Then... we will make the streets our home. We don't have a building... but we have a stake in a vacant lot. The streets.. the lot... We will do theater without having a theater. What will we make? What will we make?? .. We'll make theater about the streets themselves. About what they've witnessed, what they've lived through. About the ghosts, the remnants of history that still cling to them."

Last spring, this experiment launched with 'The Waistmakers' Opera'. I still feel a wave of queasiness at the risky nature of that venture. Although the company and the board stuck with me, cheerfully, most have privately told me they never thought it would work. But it did. It did. Powerfully. And through it, although this sounds kind of dramatic, at least in an artistic sense, we were reborn.

Two weeks from today, we will open 'The Bowery Wars, Part 1'. We will be on the streets again, interacting with new ghosts. We will be on the streets -- ghosts ourselves -- as we perform behind, between, amidst, without stopping the business of the city and its people. I have found a new set of roots. A new sense of kinship to those who came before.

Home, it seems, is not a place we're searching for. It doesn't lie at the end of an odyssey. Home comes to us. When we are willing to accept the place we're in, home arrives.

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