How Many Times Can You Reinvent Shakespeare?
Don’t get us wrong: We love The Bard. He’s sexually adventurous, writes a damn good double-wedding, and made us love theater in the first place. But does reinventing something that’s already been reinvented thousands of times or retelling a movie on a Broadway stage really count as groundbreaking creativity? Innovation? Invention?
Dearest Theatre (with an “re”), for a community that claims to be so daring and adventurous—we actually find you very, well, staid. Yes, there is experimental, entertaining, trailblazing theater out there. But it’s not what the professional community as a whole is supporting. Most resources are being focused in the commercially safe and secure, the traditional paths, the tried-and-true methods. And we’re thinking: Sigh.
So, we decided to mix things up. We looked around. We explored. And we started blogging. We asked ourselves: What does storytelling mean in the world of social media, of instant access to millions of voices, previously unheard?
We began our experiment by interviewing strangers on the New York City subway, armed with a Flipcam. We uploaded the videos to our blog, Why Are You On My Train?—and, next thing we knew, we’d created an on-stage extravaganza entitled Blogologues, in which we ridiculously perform stories from the internet, verbatim. We took part in a six-month residency at a theater in the East Village, and this coming Friday, our first run of the project opens.
We’ve learned a lot—from venturing into entrepreneurship, from shaking up the theater scene, and from meeting people with completely different perspectives than our own. So, for anyone who’s ever thought about breaking the mold, read on, Macduff.*
Don’t Fear Unemployment
We spend our youth on a track: High school, college, grad school, an office. The idea of leaving that track to pursue something completely unknown and unimaginable is (or, so we’ve been told) terrifying. But we’re here to tell you that the world doesn’t blow up if you’re not going to an office every day. It doesn’t even blow up if, sometimes, you don’t have health insurance. (We thank our actress pasts for this knowledge. Still, we’re not recommending skipping the health insurance.)
If you don’t take risks—and perhaps more importantly, don’t make the time to dedicate to your idea—it probably won’t happen. Cliché, we know. But true.
Find a Partner
Get a partner. Definitely get a partner. (Hear hear, Christina.) You may not be in an office, but it helps when someone else is waiting for you to get to that coffee shop on Jane Street. And two heads are always better than one.
Find a Great Community
One of the challenges we’re still facing is that we no longer quite fit into the title we aspired to our whole lives: actresses. Then, about six months ago, someone introduced us at a party as theater entrepreneurs. And you know what? We kind of liked it.
If you’re working on a new idea, one of the best things you can do is to get fresh perspectives. Get in a room with people working on something completely different than you. And if you’re looking for creativity and inspiration, we encourage you to turn to the entrepreneurial world of tech. We’ve been pleasantly shocked at how the NYC tech community has inspired and welcomed us. (Check out our performance at SXSW Interactive this year!)
Women are Underrepresented Everywhere—But We Can Change That
Despite the fact that any given audition line is overwhelmingly female, there are fewer parts written for women. And the roles for women are often one-dimensional: Are you playing the ingénue or the floozy? There are exceptions to this rule, but it definitely stands.
One of us auditioned for a prestigious acting school and was told that 10 men are accepted every year, but only six women. Why? Because there are more parts in the canon for men. So instead of working to change the ratio, they reinforced it.
The more people realize this and do something about it, the better off we’ll all be. By creating Blogologues, we’re finally able to play roles that have either never been written for theater or that we would never normally be allowed to play.
You Have Something to Share
Even as we’re writing this, we’re wondering whether we have the authority to do so. What’s that about? We were reading recently that women are always second guessing their voice, but men rarely do. You know what? Screw that. We all have something to share. We have stories to tell. Let’s tell them.
(And we’d love to hear yours in the comments.)
*We proudly state that this is a bastardization of a misquote of an actual Shakespeare line.
About The Author
Alli & Jen are co-creative directors of Lively Productions and the co-creators of Blogologues, a sketch comedy show in which the internet is performed verbatim onstage. Blogologues has been featured in Time Out New York (“Your Perfect Weekend”), The Daily Beast (“this is a great, funny, intelligent show”), CBS (5 best things to do in NYC), and more. Alli & Jen lead customized public speaking workshops for companies and student groups such as Barnard, Lean Startup Machine, and more, and they are the official storytelling instructors for General Assembly’s teachers. For information on their 2014 summer public speaking intensive, click here.