"I'm not only an artist, but a citizen." -- Broadway director Bartlett Sher
New Line Theatre is organizing the third St. Louis Political Theatre Festival, running this fall, leading up to the 2012 Presidential election, and has issued a call for participating companies.
In 2006, nine local companies produced eleven shows for the first Festival, and in 2008, twelve local companies presented fourteen shows, several of them St. Louis premieres, for the second Festival. The 2012 Festival will run from September through early November, in venues all over the St. Louis metro area (like a smaller version of the world-famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival), bringing the most important issues of the day to the stages of St. Louis. These shows will challenge audiences to think about and get involved in the great struggles of our times and our country, as we find ourselves in the middle of yet another of the most crucial Presidential elections in our lifetimes.
To participate in the Festival, companies in the St. Louis metro region just need to contact New Line Theatre at firstname.lastname@example.org. Shows in the Festival can be overtly political or more subtextual. Political issues can be the focus of the shows or merely the context or background. New Line Theatre will present the fiercely political, Broadway rock musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson as part of the Festival.
The St. Louis Political Theatre Festival was created for two reasons. First, to remind people that theatre addresses with enormous power the biggest issues of our times, better than any other art form, by personalizing those issues in the bodies of live actors. Second, to remind St. Louisans of the importance of being engaged in our government "of the people, by the people, and for the people." The stage has forever been a place where political issues have been examined and challenged. After all, democracy and theatre were born in the same place and even in the same decade! The ritualistic and social significance of the earliest Greek performances in central arenas brought relevance to many controversial topics -- war, politics, sex, religion. We do the same today.
Throughout history, the times of greatest tumult are also the times of the greatest theatre -- in America in the 1930s and in the 1960s and 70s, but also in Elizabethan England and modern day Iraq. We believe that America in the new millennium is one such place and time. Back during the height of the Depression, the American theatre became increasingly, intensely political, with shows like Waiting for Lefty, The Cradle Will Rock, Power, Awake and Sing!, One Third of a Nation, It Can't Happen Here, Of Thee I Sing, Let ‘Em Eat Cake, Pins and Needles, and many others. Once America entered World War II, rabid patriotism overpowered political dissent, and political theatre faded away. But when the 60s arrived with renewed political and social unrest, the theatre returned to fiercely political drama and satire, with shows like Hair, Viet Rock, Cabaret, McBird, US, Tom Paine, Futz, and many others. Now, political theatre is back again, and it's more adventurous and fiercer than ever.
Festival organizer Scott Miller, artistic director of New Line Theatre, says, "I reject the notion that people go to the theatre to escape. I've never believed it and I never will. People go to the theatre to connect. I fully embrace the notion that we theatre artists are the shamans of our tribe. We are the ones chosen to tell our stories, to document our civilization and our history, to make sense of our world, to start conversations about everything that matters in our lives. Shamans are the intermediaries between the natural world and the spiritual world, and I can't imagine a better definition of a theatre artist."
The companies involved in past Festivals believe that live theatre is one of the most powerful tools for social and political change, appealing not just to the intellect but, more importantly, to the emotions and to our primeval need for stories that make order out of the chaos of our world. In what proved to be the most important and most exciting political era in decades, the theatres of St. Louis have reaffirmed our commitment to involving the people of our region in the thrill of politically relevant, live theatre.
Register to vote at Rock the Vote.
The website FaithfulAmerica.org, a faith-based grassroots political organization
The excellent magazine Sojourners, focusing on politics, faith, and culture in America
CNN's Impact webapge at www.cnn.com/impact
The ACLU of Eastern Missouri, and the national ACLU
Protest.Net - worldwide calendar offers locations, dates and information for activism, protests, pickets, strikes, demonstrations, meetings, and direct political action.
Progressive Secretary - letter writing cooperative sends out emails to Congress, the President, and elected officials on peace, ecology, civil rights, and other issues. Topics and messages are suggested and selected by participants.
E-The People - a nonpartisan site working with over 400 online newspapers, television stations and Internet portals to bring government closer to the people, allowing users to send an e-mailed or faxed letter or a petition to over thousands of federal, state, and local officials.
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