Notes from Today: A Blog

Liz Maxwell is a theatre director, producer of culture, and artistic innovator. I am passionate about the role of the artist in society, interdisciplinary collaboration, and making original work. I believe that the process and product are important, that new ideas are the life-force of society, and that the arts hold a vital role in shaping our collective future. This blog reflects musings on the evolution of theatre, reflections on the process of art-making, and committed observations on what it's like to be a human being these days.

Updating the Lobby

The theatre lobby is outdated. It's from the old paradigm, the world of suburban private homes and SUVs. Of course it still exists - but I think the lobby as we know it will be radically different in the future.

The future will be ever more about collaboration, connection, and an appreciation and celebration of our interdependence. It has to be. It's the only alternative to an apocalyptic, post-nuclear wasteland. We have to learn to get along on this planet together, because there is no where else to go (much like there is no them). 

I believe the theatre needs to continuously evolve, as much as everything else. New ideas are the lifeblood of society, and Change is the mother queen. We must adapt or die, and because the flow of life will not stop.

So I'm tired of a lobby where I'm supposed to have an expensive drink and pretend that it's a social space, when actually I just talk with the people I came with, maybe make a shallow comment to a stranger, exchange polite pleasantries with my neighboring audience members, and return home at the end of the night hopefully having been through a cathartic emotional experience because of the powerful work on stage, but as alone and disconnected from my shared audience-mates.

 Photo Credit: Fox Theatre, by  Sharon Harper , via Pinterest

Photo Credit: Fox Theatre, by Sharon Harper, via Pinterest

And there's no reason for this! The theatre is a particularly unique, *live* way to share Space and Time with other human beings, particularly in the digital age. As it becomes ever easier to connect with friends far away, meet people and literally "hang out" online - I think it also becomes more apparent that those are fabulous second choice replacements but never true substitutions for face to face interaction. And the theatre is unique and challenging because it really demands of the artists and spectators to *be* *present*. People watch movies to check out, I can listen to music while having a conversation, but live performance more than any other art form direct demands presence from all in the room. 

So let's have a social space that cultivates that. Let's celebrate connection, and enjoy the fact that we all left the house tonight and aren't looking at our smartphones for a few minutes and acknowledge that while we were watching that person on stage bleeding to death - yes, we both knew it was fiction, but I felt you tense up and hold your breath the same moment I did. And you were there next to me as I was holding back sobs and we both laughed at the same joke in the third act. Even though we're strangers, your heart was beating next to me the whole time, as we took a crazy emotional roller coaster together, and came out on the other side, exhausted from release.

How can we redesign the space or program or evening expectations to reflect that? What are the new frontiers for meaningful audience engagement, and how can we be comfortable enough to have rigorous debate with people we don't know? How can we truly meet each other in a shared public space, celebrate our differences of opinion and diversity, and transform a group of strangers into temporary community, even if only for a night?

The power of these in-person interactions are exactly why Boal and so many others think the theatre is perfect staging ground for a revolution

If anyone wants to brainstorm ideas - I'll meet you in the lobby.