This summer I have the privilege of working at The Civilians, an experimental theatre company located on South Oxford Street in Brooklyn. Basically, they devise original theatrical pieces exploring social issues or controversial subjects through research and interviews. Their unique process yields some of the most socially conscious plays and musicals produced in contemporary American theatre. They just produced an incredibly successful show about climate change called The Great Immensity, and their next big show is a musical about the porn industry. My parents were particularly proud and somewhat concerned to hear about my possible involvement in the research and development of that upcoming show.
In all seriousness, though, I’m very excited and honored to be working with The Civilians. Since their founding in 2001, they have produced fourteen original shows and since grown exponentially in popularity and respect. They now produce consistently smart and intriguing works of theatrical genius, and I’m so lucky to be able to see and work with the people behind the magic. Although I won’t be acting this summer, it certainly feels good to be working for the benefit of a company I truly respect. Particularly in a time when performing art can be seen as frivolous and esoteric, The Civilians bring forth the unique quality in it that many overlook: the ability to provoke thought, start dialogues, and motivate action in a way that nothing else can. While still entertaining, their shows challenge audiences intellectually and continue to push the envelope on what theatre is, what theatre can do, and what theatre means in a contemporary context. I’ve always been fascinated by the intersection of art and social change, and I really appreciate a group of people that can create a piece of undeniably relevant and valuable theatre.
My official title is Arts Management Intern for the summer, but so far that position includes but is not limited to creating Facebook posts, writing blog posts for The Civilians company as well as for The Great Immensity blog about various environmental topics, uploading all sorts of photos to Facebook and Flickr, writing many many many acknowledgement letters, filing everything in the world that exists in The Civilians office, researching venues, people, and social issues, locating information for every grant possible in the state of New York and otherwise, etcetcetc.
Although I can’t reveal some confidential details about future work of the Civilians, I have currently been working with the founder on a bigger project. He has been commissioned to write a play for which he needs lots of preliminary research to be done. I’ve been tasked with the feat of scouring YouTube for videos, finding and reading all of the articles ever published about this topic, and possibly even hunting down contact info for people intensely involved or affected by the event. I will certainly be an expert on the topic by the end of the summer. I’m excited to be doing a more independent project to work on whenever I want and from wherever I want PLUS it’s much more directly related to the creation of theatre. If the play actually gets written once he finds enough time to devote to it aside from his never-ending responsibilities at The Civilians, it will be cool to know that I did so much of the foundational research for it.
Additionally, The Civilians are also working on a new way to compile articles encompassing the doings of artists in the realm of social change. This new development will feature a vast range of things that actors, directors, playwrights, dancers, visual artists, sculptors, and filmmakers are doing to investigate, spark discussion on, and comment on social issues. Because the company is founded upon the basis of an artist as a social investigator, this will serve to showcase all of their research and interviews on the subjects they’ve explored as well as future collaborations with other brilliant artists doing exciting, groundbreaking things. Again, a mysterious description, but all projects I’m getting to work on have been exciting, stimulating, and worthwhile.