Our Own Town Hall Meetings

It’s Shirley again.

We wanted to tell you about something we’ve been working on–a new kind of “save-the-date” event.

From the press release:
To launch the 2009-2010 year, Theater J presents a series of Town Hall Meetings to open the door for candid conversation about what Theater J means to its audiences as we discuss past, present and future programming ambitions with audience members, Theater J’s Artistic Director Ari Roth, selected Theater J staff, Council Members and associated artists. The first Town Hall Meeting will begin with a special Season Sneak-Preview including a sampling of scenes from five of Theater J’s upcoming shows. Following each Town Hall Meeting, there will be opportunity to continue the conversation while mingling over beverages and light refreshments. The Sneak Preview and all discussions are free but to RSVP, which is recommended, visit www.theaterj.org.

Now, I know the idea of a town hall has become rather infamous in the past week. But don’t worry, while we encourage passion, we expect to stay civil here.

Delia and I have been working together to assemble a quick and tasty preview of what each play next season has to offer audiences. No spoilers in the selections, consider this our version of movie previews (but without any of the production bells and whistles). That will happen at the first discussion, Monday, August 31.

More from the release:
On Monday, August 31 at 8:00 pm, Theater J presents its first-ever Season Sneak-Preview featuring scenes from Neil Simon’s Lost in Yonkers, Itamar Moses’ The Four of Us, Winter Miller’s In Darfur, Hadar Galron’s Mikveh, and David Ives’ New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch De Spinoza… featuring Lucas Beck, Dan Crane, Helen Pafumi, Tonya Beckman Ross and Max Talisman. Following the presentation of scenes, the Town Hall Meeting will consider the question “The Upcoming Season: Why These Plays and Why Now?” taking a more in depth look at the overarching themes and ideas running through the plays, how and why the plays were chosen and how they reflect Theater J’s mission.

So, if you’ve ever wondered what kind of thinking and discussion goes into the sometimes voodoo-seeming-like-magic of putting together a season, join us for that one. Or for all of them. More:

On Thursday, September 10 at 9:30 pm, following the 7:30 performance of Jim Brochu’s Zero Hour, a Town Hall Meeting will consider the proposition, “Pushing the Envelope: How Far and To What End?” focusing on the controversial material Theater J has produced in the past, audiences response to that material, and how Theater J can best proceed in producing work that provokes, challenges, and enlightens the community.

On Sunday, September 13 at 5:00 pm, following the 3:00 pm performance of Zero Hour, the Town Hall Meeting will address the literal meaning of Theater J and its name in the topic, “What Does the J in Theater J Mean? delving into Theater J’s identity as it applies to both Jewish and non-Jewish patrons, and what the various expectations and wants from a Jewish theater company might be.

Speaking of next season, I was delighted (although perhaps “delighted” isn’t quite the right word for it) to catch Lynn Nottage’s RUINED at Manhattan Theater Club this weekend. There are a number of parallels between her play and Winter Miller’s IN DARFUR, which we’ll be producing in April 2010. Both deal with civil wars in Africa and the war crimes that go along with them. And both plays remind us that pain and loss are the great equalizers–that people whose lives seem to be nothing like ours aren’t that different from us after all. Stories like these put faces on news blurbs. I have to believe that there is value in that.