The top of the year is a time to think outside the box and, perhaps, entertain some new ideas.
One of the most indelible theater experiences over the past decade was Out of Joint’s promenade-style “Macbeth,” presented by the Guthrie Theater. Max Stafford-Clark’s visceral production, which set the Shakespearean tragedy in war-torn West Africa and featured soldiers in garish wigs, was curated by James Morrison under the WorldStage program.
It’s time to bring a similar program back, and on a grander scale.
Imagine a two-week festival of such productions at venues across the Twin Cities. Such a festival would unite such places as Walker Art Center, which has its own global eye, with the likes of, say, the Jungle, the Ordway, Penumbra and even the Hopkins Center for the Arts. It would bring global talent to the Twin Cities and give people from all corners of the state opportunities to see and experience work.
A festival like this would also draw out-of-towners to a place they may have heard about but may not have had reasons to visit. Think of the Humana Festival, which draws people to Louisville, Ky., a place not otherwise known for its theater. Think also Edinburgh, Scotland, a destination for global lovers of performing arts.
Now, to be clear, there are important but smaller festivals in the Twin Cities. The Fringe is a cheerily messy free-for-all. There also is PlayLabs, which feeds the nation’s appetite for new works. And, lately, the multimedia Northern Spark has been sending up flickers of promise.
But we need something on a more substantial scale that showcases our dynamic arts ecology while also feeding artists and audiences with global works.
Another idea for the new year has to do with support for artists. For the most part, our philanthropic and corporate support is aimed at institutions, which are vital to our arts ecology. But more of that support could go to individual artists.
This is not an either/or proposal, but a both/and. There should be a concerted effort to support the creation of work, and the artists doing that creation. There should be more ways for the Legacy Amendment funds, for example, to go to composers, playwrights, painters and multimedia artists doing genre-bridging, hard-to-classify works.
And while we are at it, perhaps we could set up a trust for individual artists who often are in need of rainy-day/retirement funds. Often, fundraising benefits are held quickly to get resources to cover health or burial costs. With smarts and resources, the Twin Cities can do better.