Scene and Heard

Dear Friends of Hartford Stage,

We are flooded these days with emails from and about candidates, and reminders of the countdown to this important election. As I navigate my inbox and try to judiciously read the news (doomscrolling anyone?) I’ve been thinking about how theatre has historically spoken to such challenging political times. Going back to our own country's history, and how in the 30's at another difficult moment for our nation, the government started the Federal Theatre Project to fund live artistic programming throughout the United States. The Federal Theatre Project was helmed by Hallie Flanagan, a producer and director from South Dakota, and its purpose, according to Flanagan’s writings:

“(Theatre) was to be a thorn in the body bureaucratic. Possibly that is one function of art in society. In the midst of learning the necessary lingo of (bureaucracy), we found time for exchange of ideas, ideas for salvaging the quickly receding past of our country, capturing it in plays, pictures, books; ideas for penetrating and illuminating our own age, finding quicksilver ways in which to express the mercurial present.” 

This is a vision of theatre not as a partisan endeavor, but an affirmation that art can shed light on our present, help clarify for each of us the true issues of our moment, and by doing so unite us beyond our political divide. A few years later another American theatre great, Stella Adler, wrote “The word theatre comes from the Greeks. It means&the 'seeing place.' It is the place people come to see the truth about life and the social situation.”

For the Greeks theatre was essential to the democratic process: theatre was the place honest and open dialogue could be heard, and where voice was given to women, foreigners, and enslaved people who had no place in the political institutions of that time.

I hope you can join us this coming Wednesday for our monthly Scene and Heard: LIVE, where we will explore what we mean by “political theatre” and share with you an unprecedented collaboration between seven of Hartford's cultural institutions. Together we are presenting American Dreams, a mash up of America's immigration policy and a high-energy TV game show. Godfrey Simmons, Artistic Director of HartBeat Ensemble; Tamilla Woodard, the director of American Dreams and Associate Artistic Director of WP Theater; and Victoria Abrash, dramaturg and theatre historian, will join me for this conversation.

From the Greeks to Teatro Campesino, from the cabarets of Weimar Germany to the works of Odets and Kushner, we will discuss how even in the midst of this pandemic artists are creating civically engaged theatre allowing us to explore the issues of our day through a new lens.

See you on Wednesday,


Mirjana Jokovic in Sophocles’ Electra (2003). Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

Reg Flowers and the cast of Sophocles’ Oedipus the King (2001). Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

Join collaborators HartBeat Ensemble, The Bushnell, Free Center, UConn/Dodd Human Rights Impact, Hartford Stage, TheaterWorks Hartford, and Charter Oak Cultural Center for AMERICAN DREAMS, a virtual, interactive theatre experience like no other! Running October 27 through November 1, YOU get to decide the fate of three immigrants; who wins American citizenship...and who gets a one-way ticket back home? Tickets are PAY WHAT YOU WANT and benefit these fine Hartford non-profits. Book your spot for this fun show now!

V's Trattoria

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