" THE AЯTS "
Conceived, Written, Designed and Co-Directed by Kevin Doyle
The Ellen Stewart Theatre at La MaMa E.T.C. - *world premiere* - September 13-30, 2018 - New York, NY
Created by SPONSORED BY NOBODY
Co-Directed by Mike Carlsen
Featuring Dracyn Blount, Alexander Chilton, Shayna Conde, Nick Daly, and Georgia Lee King
Original Score by Jesse Gelaznik
Video & Sound Design by Kevin Doyle
Lighting Design by Rob Lariviere
" THE AЯTS "
THE AЯTS is a three-part work of interdisciplinary theatre that investigates and deconstructs the history of public funding for the arts in the United States; then contrasts it with events in multiple European countries, where threats to public subsidy have become manifest in recent years. The final work combines elements of a finite work of interdisciplinary theatre -- with a participatory civic event for the general public and invited political leaders -- and original short films produced by the company that can exist equally in an exhibition setting, during performance, or online.
THE AЯTS project is based upon four main sources: 1) transcripts from debates and hearings in the US Congress from 1963-1965 and 1989-1994 -- 2) the work of American visual and performing artists attacked during the American "Culture Wars” -- 3) recent events in the USA/EU & our own interviews conducted in 2012-2015 with USA/EU arts leaders -- 4) interviews conducted with regular citizens in the USA/EU discussing their own personal histories with the arts in their lives (or - a lack thereof).
THE AЯTS incorporates elements of choreography, live-camera usage, music, video, pre-recorded films, and both “found-texts/media sources” and original writing. It will be structured as a three-part work with interactive breaks for the audience built within its construction. These interactive breaks will be of a civic nature, designed specifically to fit the city, state, country or arts institution where the project is presented -- whether that be in Kansas or New York; Belgium or the United Kingdom. Part One is set on October 28, 1963. Part Two is set on May 18, 1989. Part Three is set in the present and utilizes an invented dramaturgy to present multiple perspectives from different countries on stage simultaneously.
Part One condenses events from hearings and debates in the US Congress from 1963-1965 into a single date -- October 26, 1963. This is when the first joint hearings were held on the issue of federal government support of the arts; chaired by the late Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-RI) and Rep. Frank Thompson (D-NJ). These hearings led to the creation of The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Congressional transcripts are the basis of a text; with elements/aspects of mainstream American entertainment of the period splicing in/out as an engine driving the action forward. We end Part One with the sense of something being achieved.
Part Two condenses events from hearings and debates in the US Congress from 1989-1994 into a single date, May 19, 1989. This is the start of a formal backlash against arts funding, when Sen. Al D'Amato (R-NY) and Sen. Jessie Helms (R-NC) took to the floor of the US Senate. Each launched into fiery, violent speeches against public funding of arts; essentially beginning what we now call "the Culture Wars." These attacks led to drastic cuts in the NEA budget. We end Part Two with the sense of something being destroyed.
Part Three deals with the funding realities of the present day; where we live in the context of public subsidy on the decline; not just in the USA, but in countries around the world. Arguments used during 1989-1994 have become codified and accepted; part of a predictable line of attack used around the world. We explore the current arts funding realities in multiple countries -- where Kickstarter and "new models" seem to trump all debate and argument. Actual interviews with USA / EU arts leaders serve as a basis for the text and composition. Events from the United Kingdom and The Netherlands (2010-2012); and Québec and Belgium (2014-2015) -- where major cuts have been/or are in the process of being instituted -- play a major role. Part Three emphasizes the present-day funding realities and features a dramaturgical structure that allows for multiple perspectives presented on stage to culminate in a final unifying public action that can be tailored to fit the institution, city, or country wherever THE AЯTS is presented.
This public action in Part Three is inspired by the idea of creating a living “time capsule” (of sorts) in regards to the idea of arts funding; a “time capsule” which a departing audience can take with them (of sorts) as they exit the performance. Early starting points for inspiration on this “time capsule” theme can be found in the tsunami stones that dot the coastlines of Japan. The tsunami stones are markers that function as if they are public artworks, created over hundreds of years to warn future generations not to build below the stone markers. We will build upon this theme during rehearsals. We aim to end Part Three with a sense of hope; a rediscovered narrative that actual change is possible and can be implemented in terms of public funding policies for the arts.
Support for research on THE AЯTS project has been provided by a Saari Fellowship at the Kone Foundation (Finland); a Cultural Exchange Fund Award from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters / Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; the Monty Kultuurfaktorij (Antwerp); the IETM (Brussels); The Pell Archive Initiative at University of Rhode Island; Center for Legislative Archives in Washington, D.C.; the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council “Swing Space” Program; and residencies at the Drama League of New York, Escape To Create (FL), PLAYA (OR), Willapa Bay AiR (WA), the Jentel Foundation (WY) and Arc in Romainmôtier, Switzerland. Development on THE AЯTS is a credit to the work of actors and designers Mike Carlsen, Calder Corey, Josh Edelmann, Sauda Jackson, Eric Magnus, Kate McGee, Katey Parker, April Shannon Sweeney, Chris Tyler, Gabriel Vasquez, Gaia Visnar, and Oliver Wadsworth.
THE AЯTS draws upon concepts discussed in the following works: “It Is The Dark We Have To Fear” (1989) and “Speech To The American Council for the Arts” (1998) by Edward Albee; Resetting The Stage: Public Theatre Between The Market and Democracy (2012) by Dragan Klaic; “Decentralization as Chiaroscuro” (1991) by Michael Vinaver; Culture Wars: Documents from the Recent Controversies in the Arts (1992) edited by Richard Bolton; the collected writings of the Belgian dramaturge Marianne Van Kerkhoven; Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration by David Wojnarowicz; Arts, Inc.: How Greed and Neglect Have Destroyed Our Cultural Rights by former NEA Chairman, Bill Ivey; and the original, actual text of the 1965 United States Congress legislation that authorized the creation of The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities in the first place. [Essentially, the kind of things you would never read about on HowlRound or the Huffington Post.]
THE AЯTS is dedicated in memory of our friends and colleagues: Marianne Van Kerkhoven (Kaatheater) and Ed Vassallo (Labyrinth Theater Company/Franklin Stage Company).