WHEN I WAS A STUDENT, I LOVED BEING PART OF THE THEATER COMMUNITY at the U of MN. I was constantly in contact with my peers. We learned together, put up shows, and challenged each other, forcing ourselves to reconsider our concepts of the theater. Since graduation, I have been a part of communities like this—but only packaged in neat six to nine week increments. It’s great while it lasts: you live with your fellow actors, directors, technicians and writers, and spend an intense month or two sharing yourself with them and working together to make the impossible happen on stage. Then, on closing night you say goodbye. Sure, afterwards, you think of them often. And when you see an old castmate at the grocery store, even though you’re essentially strangers, there is still a connection because you’ve shared such an intimate experience with them. And until now, this was all the community we who work in the theater really had, because there was no central meeting point inclusive of artists at different levels, working on separate projects in a variety of places. But, all that’s changed. As a director in the Twin Cities, I now have access to the Emerging and Freelance Director’s Group. It is a place where theater professionals can learn new techniques, network with each other, and, most important, find that elusive sense of community. Directors have a unique role in the theater: they lead the production, but also connect all the players together, collaborating with everyone involved to create a one-of-a-kind theatrical experience: from the actors, technicians, and designers to the administrative staff, and the audience. It’s vital for the people serving in this directorial role to band together for support—to grow creatively and innovate together, because this new generation of directors is leading theater into the future. While the large companies give our city its national reputation, small, independent theater remains the life-blood of the theater community. Audiences are built by smaller theaters with more affordable ticket prices. Great actors have the opportunity to stretch and grow in the smaller venues, without the pressure to produce that they may experience later in the larger productions. Most importantly, baby theaters grow up to be robust adult theaters. Jeune Lune began in small venues, and the Jungle Theater got its start working from a store front. Why, in the ’60s, even the Guthrie got its start in a small, one-theater venue. Remember that? What was true then still holds true: the Twin Cities theater community gets its vitality from the little companies with offbeat performances that keep the scene interesting and challenging. So, what tiny theater is going to be the next big thing, pushing its way up the ranks to bigger audiences and plusher venues? Will it be Nimbus Theatre? Live Action Set? Torch? Wouldn’t it be exciting to watch it happen for yourself? About the Group: The Emerging and Freelance Director’s Group is about bringing together directors of theater in the Twin Cities to connect, learn, support and inspire one another. We meet once a week and have members at all different levels of their craft: some who are just beginning to direct, others who have started their own theaters and a number of members who are already well-established freelance directors in the Cities. Kristopher Lencowski is a leader in the theater, spearheading projects like the traveling shadow puppet show, Danse Macabre, and the recent Swedish Institute collaboration on Creditors. He has performed with the Jungle Theater, Jeune Lune, and Commonweal, and will serve as Assistant Director for The Lost Boys of Sudan at the Children’s Theatre Company which opens in late March. This summer, he plans to collaborate with Laura Purcell Gates to produce a new work, Cityceased.
This collection was originally published as the MASHUP feature for access+ENGAGE issue 14.2: The Play's the Thing.
Kristopher Lencowski's website
Find out a bit more about MASHUP writer Kris Lencowski, and keep current with his performance schedule and directorial projects.
access+ENGAGE Issue 14.2: The Play's the Thing
Click here to read the web (HTML) version of the e-journal issue in which this collection appears.
The (Indie) Play's the Thing: 10,000 Arts Quarterly
Visit The Rake's website to see the version of this collection which appears in 10,000 Arts: Minnesota's Creative Quarterly, co-published by mnartists.org and The Rake.