We’re all in this together

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Actors used to have it so easy. In the old days, they’d show up for rehearsals and find two things: a script that would tell them what lines to say and a director who would tell them when and where (and, in some cases, how) to say them.

But more and more theatre companies are dispensing with these hierarchies and creating their own pieces from the ground up, in what has been called devised theatre. Just as Wikipedia has supplanted the World Book, groups like the Civilians, Rude Mechanicals, the TEAM, the Tectonic Theater Project and dozens of others are looking to democratize the playmaking process.

Sometimes these groups conduct interviews and mesh the results into a piece; the much-produced Laramie Project stemmed from hundreds of interviews as well as news reports and the creators’ journals. Other times, they adapt pre-existing texts, as Elevator Repair Service did with The Sound and the Fury (April Seventh, 1928) and Gatz.

In general, though, devised theatre typically begins with little more than a rehearsal space and a group of eager, committed theatre practitioners. Through a series of improvisatory theatre games or other conceptual ice-breakers, they start to tease out the kinds of stories they’d like to tell and the way they’d like to tell them. Over time, a text emerges, one covered with the fingerprints of each and every participant.

A director sometimes emerges from the creative chaos, offering what amounts to a final say on the process. But the dividing lines between performer, author, choreographer and even designer often blur or disappear over the course of rehearsals, which tend to be much longer than the traditional two or three weeks. After all, someone’s got to write a play during that time. Or, rather, everyone’s got to write one.

–- Eric Grode

This video was made by The TEAM.

The TEAM is the Theatre of the Emerging American Moment. We are a New York City-based theatre company dedicated to dissecting and celebrating the experience of living in America today.
We devise plays by examining a wealth of material, ranging from existing texts (fiction, theory, drama, etc.) to images taken from visual art and film, and then combining that research with original writing and staging. At times a rock concert, at times a sporting event, the TEAM has been described as Gertrude Stein meets MTV.

Our productions are relentless out of necessity, multi-tasking between hyper-intellectual commentaries and exuberant physicality; we know of no other way to behave. The work combines aggressive athleticism with delicate examinations of the social and political factors shaping our world today, keeping the brain, eyes, and heart of the audience constantly stimulated.

Special Thanks for this video:

The Rude Mechanicals: Lana Lesley, Thomas Graves, Jason Liebrecht, Erin Meyer, Meg Sullivan (all featured)
Satori Group
bluemouth inc.
The Assembly
The Living Theater: Judith Malina
The TEAM: Frank Boyd, Libby King, Jessica Almasy, Brian Hastert (featured)