At our first meeting I mentioned the work of one of my favorite theater companies, The Civilians (based in NYC). For me, one of the things that sets their work apart is their insistence on theater/performance as a mode of inquiry essential to real-world problem solving. They call themselves “investigative theater,” implying something related to but separate from documentary theater making, specifically their insistence that the depiction of reality doesn’t always require “realism” and that factual information can be conveyed via fictional constructs and still produce a depth of understanding necessary for artists and spectators to tackle pressing social, political, economic, and scientific issues of today.
While it’s difficult to assess the validity of my claims about their work without seeing one of their shows, you can get a taste of their approach and philosophy at their new website created to support/extend the reach of their recent piece, The Great Immensity, which will have its world premiere at the Kansas City Repertory Theater in Feb.-March 2012 (after a development period at Princeton University and the Princeton Environmental Institute in 2009-2010).
In our plans so far, PearlDamour would bring a work to Duke that requires student participation to “realize” its production but a work that has been, more or less, fully conceived outside of here. One discussion we might have down the line is the interest in/funding for developing a work with a performance company, getting in on the ground floor of a performance-based investigation in an environmental issue/theory/project. For now, it seems wise to familiarize ourselves with the kind of work out there as well as identifying the specific investments, course, concerns we have here (at Duke, in Durham, NC, the US, etc. etc.) so that we could imagine and implement a collaborative project in the future.