This week marks one month since I joined the artistic staff at Seattle Repertory Theatre. The transition has been joyful and arduous; the enthusiasm of my first few weeks met in equal weight with the endless stream of artistic possibilities measured oddly in tasks, meetings, agendas, Outlook appointments and committees. Despite the practicalities of the process, it is a dream to discuss Art all day long. What to make? How, who and when to make it? How to fund it, sell it, tell the story of the process of creating the story in order to gather the resources for the story to thrive? Fascinating work.
Already I see how I could get lost in the possibilities here, and have challenged myself with finding a way to prioritize, a way to further define my own artistic mission so I may have a compass moving forward. Because, truly, there is so much to attend to – Ferreting out the most intelligent, entertaining, evocative plays and artists and laying paths to lead them to these stages; engaging courageously with the problems, terrors and wonders of this era in Seattle and the world and sharpening my ability to be an ally for justice and parity; deepening the Rep’s roots into our local community of artists and extending The Rep’s branches wider into the national landscape in order to regularly produce great works that are “locally grown and nationally known” (a motto I’ve been trying on); and crafting a path to becoming a wise, just, inspiring contributor while becoming a more daring, masterful artist so that I might be an example and a champion for my colleagues… These are only a few of the topographies I hope to scale in this new role, at this tremendous organization, working among local and national visionaries.
But first, I’ve been trying to listen. The way I try to listen when I first begin work on a play. I read it. Over and over. I try to listen to it deeply before deciding what it is. I ask questions about its characters, its themes, its rising action. I research the circumstances, the setting, the era, the artists involved. And that is what I’ve been trying to do here at the Rep. I’ve been trying to pay attention, to listen to conversations and excavate the deeper themes, to discover the structure of how this grand machine works and the motions of all its subsequent parts. I’ve been learning about the Rep’s artistic leaders and their legacies – from Stuart Vaughan’s founding principles of repertory, to Dan Sullivan’s artistic authority and great vision for Seattle as a capital city for the American Theatre, Sharon Ott’s commitment to diversity onstage, Jerry Manning’s deep resolve to give Seattle artists a home to experiment and grow, and now, to Braden Abraham’s relentless commitment to artistic excellence and the scope of the playwright’s potential. (You can read more about these inspirational leaders here.) These visions inspire me forward. Ultimately, I know my personal mission here will be to serve, to make good use of myself somewhere in the place where great art and strong community meet. For now, that place is in navigating the fervent shifts between deep listening and decisive action.
Rising Action is a weekly reflection on theatre and community from the Rep’s Associate Artistic Director, Marya Sea Kaminski.