Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Why We Do What We Do, Pt III

So, I listen to science podcasts when I get the chance, and one of the things that is most fascinating to me in the scientific world is how much there is to be interested in. Seriously. Today's episode of Quirks and Quarks included someone who sequenced the genome of an extinct human being, someone who studied whether six month old babies who can read our intentions, and someone who studied the tentacled snake to figure out why it has tentacles. Oh, and a Canadian astronaut who spent six months in space.

And then there was This American Life's 400th episode, where they let their parents pitch stories to follow up on -- and they wound up covering a car, the Erie Canal, a near-destroyed university in Haiti, the humor of death, and corporate personhood.

What it reminds me is that we, as artists, have so much potential to do work about. In the same way that scientists can find out interesting and cool stuff about any number of obscure creatures or beings, we can find ourselves in an unlimited sea of ideas and possibilities.

It's on my mind because my theater company is in the process of figuring out what we're doing for the next year (as for this year, come see our production of Hamlet that opens next week!). And I guess there's a lot of ink that has been spilled over how plays are selected, but I'm interested in the independent theater from the DIY crowd -- how do they select ideas?

What's the general process? Are there tendencies in terms of what we're drawn into taste-wise? How much do we draw inside of our own organization, and how much do we draw from outside? When we draw from outside, how much do we take in from strangers and how much do we take from acquaintances? What is our prime focus? Is it finding something new? A unique structure? Something that seems topical or immediate? Something that leaps off the page as being well-made? Something that accomplishes the mission statement? Something that you can striking home for your audience? Something that you imagine will be fun to do?

I'm thinking of stumbling my way towards making this a survey of some kind. Not just a collection of anecdotes, but something--if not 100% empirical, but something to look at trends in DIY theater season-making.