The process of creating Beertown is happening in several stages. We are currently beginning phase two and so are taking some time to look back at what we have done so far.
The jumping off point for the project was the question, “What does it mean to be from a small town in America today?” I won’t take you through all the twists and turns in the process, but that original question sparked many avenues of thought, including the overlap and potential conflict between individual and community identity and the collective formation of memory and myth.
The first phase of the process was all about collecting inspiration, investigating ideas, and finding themes. One major branch of this was exploring the group’s own childhoods and experiences with small towns.
One of the other major tools that we used was what we called The Dramaturgical Parking Lot, a continually updated list of related source materials that group members thought it might be useful to explore.
We came back to these materials in three main ways.
Collectively Watching Movies and Shows - Dogville, A Christmas Story, The Laramie Project, other friends’ theatre pieces
Collectively Reading Novels - Winesburg, Ohio and Everything is Illuminated
Individual Presentations - on books, people, scholarly ideas, Radiolab and This American Life stories, anything that seemed related
We used these materials in a number of ways. Some things led to discussion, others to scene work, games, and writing exercises. With everything we asked the question, what can we learn from this, both thematically and structurally?
Here is where we seem to be at the end of phase one.
- We have A LOT of ideas.
- Those ideas are complex and overlap and intertwine in interesting ways.
- We have common reference points.
- We have begun to develop some productive methods of collaboration.
Questions that remain:
- Do we have too many ideas? Will some have to be jettisoned for clarity’s sake and will feelings get hurt because of this?
- Will we be able to express theatrically what we are able to discuss philosophically?
- Will we be able to transition into more familiar actor-writer-dramaturg-designer roles after being in reader-viewer-thinker mode for so long?
- Will we be able to create something original after looking at so many works of art that deal with similar concepts?
COMING UP NEXT
In the past few weeks, we have moved into Phase Two of the process, where we are focusing more on creating actual material for the show. To accomplish this, we have broken up into two groups: one that is working on overall narrative and structure and the other on creating character. Reports from the field on that will be coming in soon.
- Jess Holman