It seemed like a slow year, but looking back at 2010, it was really jam-packed. It was also a great year of reflection and change.
Audacity came out of the gates at the beginning of the year with the remount of Matt Lyle's wonderful little comedy Hello Human Female. For me, it was a great way to start the year. That cast included some of my favorite people. Plus, anytime your gut consistently hurts from laughing, your occupation must not be too bad.
As the director, I was pleased with the reception of Hello Human Female. That production taught me a little about settling into my strengths. Not everything has to be a stretch. Artsy, experimental and outside the comfort zone has its place, but sometimes it’s okay to just make people piss themselves through laughter while gently tugging on their heartstrings.
My colleague and lovely friend Ruth Engel shepherded a production of Clay McLeod Chapman’s play Volume Of Smoke through at the Bath House Cultural Center last March. I designed the sets. Like Hello Human Female, I had a chance to work with a great group of Dallas artists.
I wrote and performed an original one-man show and was thrilled to world-premiere it in the DFW area. Chop had been in the works for two years prior to premiering at the 2010 Out of the Loop Fringe Festival in Addison's Water Tower Theatre. The whole process has been a giant learning experience. I have performed Chop in Phoenix, Santa Fe and New Orleans this year, with plans to take it to Portland in March 2011. Every time I present it, I get a chance to develop it further.
Performing solo work was a new thing for me this year. I had directed one-man shows before (principally Jeff Swearingen in The Last Castrato), but to take an idea from scratch and see it through to full stage life... that's exhilarating. It also reminded me that as a theatre artist, I can be an instigator.
For the bulk of the spring, summer and fall, I didn’t produce theatre. I sat back and really thought about the reasons and systems behind Audacity and my own processes as a theatre artist.
I came to a few conclusions.
First, I started to see myself as part of a greater community. I started to seek out and support like-minded artists. I began to appreciate—really appreciate—my community of fellow theater-makers here in Dallas for the first time. I’m almost embarrassed to admit this was a new thing for me. I had kept my head down in my own work for so long, I had kind of put myself in my own little self-imposed exile.
Second, I didn’t want to be solely “the Audacity guy.” My identity would be wider than this. I began to draw webcomics. Drawing comics was something I had loved as a kid, and I have really enjoyed creating art of some kind outside of the theatre. Doing my own thing was new this year, too. For the past decade I made opportunities for others to do their thing.
By the beginning of this year I had grown weary of merely facilitating projects for others to be a part of, but instead set out to design an environment so I could create my own projects from scratch. And others could create their own projects, too. This lead to the third and biggest change.
I made a decision this year. I chose not to take what was given to me, not to merely interpret the work of others (though I still enjoy that, too). I decided to create theater. The goal is my own kind of theater, from conception to far past the initial production. And, for the time being, see where that takes me.
I redesigned my theater company, Audacity Theatre Lab, with this in mind. As of the middle of 2010, ATL serves a small group of artists each making his or her own idiosyncratic projects.
I consider this a slightly new approach to how theater companies usually operate. The company will not create a body of work. The individual artists will make their own works, outside of a house-style or group aesthetic. The artist comes first, and through him or her, then the community.
The company is at the service of the artists rather than the other way around.
This being an experiment, it may not work at all. But, there’s only one way to really find out. 2011 should be a great adventure.
◊ Brad McEntire is the Artistic Director of Audacity Theatre Lab and the creator of the webcomic Donnie Rocket Toaster-Face.