Friday, February 10, 2012

R&D Writing Group: Mid-Year Update

This post is by our R&D Coordinator, Annah Feinberg. For more information about the group, the writers, and the projects, please click here!

When selecting members for our R&D writers group, we primarily look for writers who think outside themselves. I have always understood investigative theater as a way to selflessly instigate the act of creating from the outside in. There are certain artists and writers who hone the craft of looking inside for inspiration, and others who hone the craft of looking out. I prefer the latter. I care deeply about context, and about how human behavior shapes our world. I am not usually drawn to plays that weigh primarily towards the articulation of feelings or action derived from angst. This artistic value of mine, which matches the priorities and goals of the Civilians, is where our process of creating the R&D writing community begins.

The five dynamic writers in the R&D group are selfless in their rigorous curiosity and on a constant hunt for fascination. They do not necessarily employ the interview-based development methods that the Civilians, but they all dive head first into the real world to craft their work. Research is the jumping-off point, the inspiration, and the primary reason for their artistic exploration.

Jackie Sibblies Drury and Jason are both using historical documents to crack open a particular moment in history. Jason is using the music of Shostakovich to structure a theatrical exploration of the relationship with that composer and Stalin during World War II, which opens up larger questions of the nature of private and public lives. Jackie is using the 19th century autobiography of Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole to examine the changing power dynamics within the healthcare system. Alix Lambert is continuing her extensive research on crime in America, using years worth of interviews from all over the country. The voices of the individuals she has conversed with throughout her travels, and their idiosyncratic perspectives of the world, are building towards a fascinating moralistic probe into the social norms many of us take for granted. Mia Rovegno is crafting a tornado-like tapestry of how we value home in America, through text pulled from Found Magazine and many other sources. Seen through chaotic but crystallized snapshots of diverse stories, Mia’s work is a reminder of the connections between our economic and personal realities. Heidi Schreck is delving into the social implications of group awareness training, using anecdotal evidence from people that have been through programs that utilize it. Through this, she is crafting painfully hilarious characters in order to understand this therapy’s place in the world.

I am incredibly excited about the shape that all five of the R&D projects are taking this year. The investigative brains of Jackie, Jason, Alix, Mia, and Heidi are pushing full speed ahead and expanding our definition of investigative theater. They continue to stretch outside themselves to generously share the stories of others. Keep an eye out for information about the R&D reading series in May; I can not wait to see where these writers’ investigations take them.

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