What’s Indie Theater? (Part 2)


Trav S.D., who is one of the great Renaissance men of contemporary indie theater (actor, composer, author, playwright, critic, director, impresario, et al), recently posted the following on Facebook (emphasis mine):

I have a large family of friends I have been collaborating with on theatre for close to 20 years. I think of them as my “Brick” friends (after the Brick theater in Williamsburg), and we tend to call ourselves that, although we all work in dozens of locations besides the Brick, many of us were already collaborating years before the Brick was even born, and most of us work with other people in other settings, and so forth. For example, though I just did a play there, it had been at least a half-dozen years since I had last done so. Still, no matter where any of us go the Brick is “home”, and it is what the bunch of us will have in common no matter what we’re doing,no matter where we are. It occurred to me just now that one of the strongest things that binds most of us together is a total absence of interest in the usual academic jargon, pretension, and fascination with trends that characterizes a lot of alternative and experimental theatre work. I cover the beat as an arts journalist and I can tell you — this sets the bunch apart. The representatives of most alternative theatre companies sound like grant applications, and to sound like a grant application is to sound like a pile of manure, the manure of a donkey that has been swallowing jargon. My friends are every bit as devoted to pure (not-necessarily-commercial) art, but seem focused only on the ACT: the expression, the moment, the SHOW. Getting the thing up and on. The “thing” may often be the weirdest “thing” imaginable, but there is a pragmatism to the process, no nonsense, or bullshit. I think most of us would be ashamed to don that armor. It’s a diverse group of artists but this is one thing I think that we have in common: we possess “intellectualism”, perhaps, but without sucking up to this or that cardboard, temporal, false God. It’s why the struggle for success has lasted so much longer for many of us — we’re unconcerned with doing what you’re supposed to do in order to “succeed”. But we can live with ourselves, and we can live — very happily — with each other. Now that we’ve been at it a while, I think something like a definition is taking shape, and in the end none of it will have been in vain. (Trust me, ask any one of us. It feels like it’s in vain A LOT).

Trav graciously gave me permission to post this here. It is, to my mind, a clear and heartfelt explanation of the indie theater impulse.

Note, interestingly, that the Brick Theater that Trav alludes to here is the same one where Kirk Bromley saw Memoirs of My Nervous Illness in 2005 (see yesterday’s post about Indie Theater). (The Brick has always personified indie theater to me; it’s the only double winner of nytheatre.com Person of the Year Awards, perhaps for that reason.)


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