Putting a Face on Theatre
So, I've been back from Humana now for several days, and a few days' distance is giving me a new perspective on the experience... as a few days' distance is wont to do for almost everything.
One thing that's sticking with me is the diversity (along several lines) of the work I saw on stage. The six full-length plays included a zany comedy with music, a dark and somewhat sci-fi period comedy, a naturalistic period drama, a classic living room drama, a monologue-driven melodrama, and an otherwise indescribable blend of hip hop and naturalism. (Not a ton of surrealism or abstraction, or structural innovation, but you can't have everything.) There's just no "house style" at Humana.
There was also a different (and more important) kind of diversity on stage as well: in the casts of the six plays. Of the 35 actors (if I'm counting correctly), 11 were people of color. Not bad, Humana. Not bad at all. I wish the rest of the country's artistic directors would follow your lead. Of course, I also wish I'd seen as much diversity in the audience as I did on stage. Maybe next year?
Another element of the experience I keep coming back to: gender parity. Six full-length plays, three by women. 35 roles, 19 for women -- that's more than half! When was the last time you saw that? Those are real numbers to be proud of, for sure. Of course... I wouldn't be telling the full story if I didn't note that of six directors, five were men. Harumph. Sorry, Humana: I hope you know that I criticize because I love.
What also impressed me was the festival's scenic, costume, sound, and lighting design. Ostensibly, these are plays that are still (to greater and lesser extents) finding themselves: not finished, perhaps, but definitely on the road to finished. (And far down that road...) And yet: they're all treated as if they're perfected things. Each play is lavished with artistic talent. (And for the most part brilliantly cast, I might add.) It's an embarrassment of riches, really: one I'd be honored to have myself. I can only imagine that, as a playwright, you'd feel really well taken care of... and that the process of working with such talented collaborators would help you reveal (and address) whatever issues you might find in your script.
I also continue to be awed by the professionalism, organization, and attention to detail of the Actors Theatre of Louisville's staff. This is a major-league operation they're running, let me tell you. When I walked out of my last show, with minutes to spare before my bus was leaving for the airport, someone had already taken my bag (along with dozens of others) out to the curb. When I walked through the building's underbelly to get from my Sunday morning interviews in the administrative offices back to the theater, I passed an elaborate makeshift food prep area in which volunteers were making sandwiches (practically around the clock) to keep the other volunteers and staff well-fed. (Seriously: there was a fancy grilled cheese station in the basement! What's not to admire about that?) There were shuttles whenever you needed them; eats for the hungry; people to answer questions all the time; well-trained, friendly ushers; and never a moment's doubt about where you were supposed to be. I could not be more impressed.
Bravo, Humana, on many fronts. I hope I get to visit with you again next year!