Hi Acting Manitou Family!!
Benji here -- finally looking forward to the holidays and enjoying a much needed break after a pretty crazy few months. I'm in my second (and final) year of grad school at NYU's Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program, and it's been a whirlwind of a semester.
Now that I've really had a moment to reflect (a *moment of reflection* if you will), I've been spending a lot of time thinking about how we make theatre -- both at Acting Manitou and in the professional world.
It all started this past weekend, when I was lucky enough to score a ticket to "Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812." For those who don't know the show, it's a really wonderful adaptation of a very small chunk of War and Peace. It's sung-through, and the score is bursting with creativity -- there's folk, classical, electronic, pop, even traditional Russian music -- pretty much everything you could possibly imagine. The show is performed in what could best be described as "in the round" -- although I'd maybe call it "actors-everywhere, audience-everywhere." They've renovated the Imperial Theater to create this amazing, beautiful world that bares no resemblance to the theater that famously housed Les Mis. Also Josh Groban is in it.
Leaving the theater, I was totally in awe of the sheer amount of theatrical "rule-breaking" I had witnessed. Dave Malloy, the writer, and Rachel Chavkin, the director, took nothing for granted and subverted pretty much every expectation an audience would have for a "conventional" musical. And it was supremely successful.
It's easy to forget that sometimes great theatre is not just theatre that is unexpected, but theatre that questions the very ground it is built on. In my NYU program, I'm constantly being pushed to avoid boxing myself into what I think musical theatre is "supposed to be." In fact, what musical theatre is "supposed to be" has been constantly changing for centuries. Theatre is theatre and there are no rules -- only history.
Every summer, Acting Manitou consistently impresses me with its inventive spirit and its willingness to embrace the unconventional -- allowing each show to explore its own idiosyncrasies. Every summer I leave with a renewed sense of what is possible if a group of people put their minds (and their imaginations) towards creating theatre.
We are so lucky to be part of a community that encourages creativity, and as we look past 2016, I hope we all look for as many chances to embrace our own unconventionality and spread the desire to create that we all have.
Hope to see some of you at the reunion in January! Have a happy holidays, and a happy new year y'all!