All Art is Political: Empathy, Identity, and Intention in the Theater
This year’s Lab challenged directors to articulate the goals of their work as it relates to the psychology of change, persuasion, and bias. Topics such as social justice theater, breaking out of the echo chamber, inclusion and diversity both onstage and off, and the roles of empathy and understanding in the creation of art were explored.
Director—Audience: Engaging and Challenging a Distracted World
Why this? Why now? Why me? Many of the director’s answers to these questions will be about audience. With attention spans low and a hyper-connected world that has never felt more divided, this Lab considered our relationship with our audiences and examine our role in guiding them to engage with the work, each other, and our world.
un/spoken: The Language of the Stage
Lab 2016 explored the many ways in which we can communicate, both on and off the stage. We considered the language of music, movement/choreography, design, text, sound, and silence. We also examined translations, sign language, and verse. We took the discussion in all directions to find more effective ways to communicate with our actors, designers, and marketing team. And we asked ourselves why we choose the projects we choose, and how we determine what we truly want to say through our work.
DirectorsLabChicago 10.0: The Next Ten Years (and beyond)
In place of a traditional lab for 2015, we instead hosted Chicago theatrical luminaries and previous Lab attendees for a vision retreat. Two discussion-packed days at Ten Chimneys in Wisconsin (the estate of Broadway legends Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne) led to the expansion of our events series, a stronger Chicago focus, and several future plans for building out the resources an opportunities we provide to directors beyond our annual Lab.
Investigating Adapted and Devised Work
Lab 2014 investigated adapted and devised work in hands on workshops with inspiring local directors, group discussions sharing ideas of all the attending directors, attending Chicago theater productions, and creating performances using story of the Ugly Duckling to create vastly different adaptions.
The Director and The Designer
The relationship between the director and the designers is vital but often under-developed within the production process. Sometimes the designer is one person or, at times, an entire team. In a few instances, the director decides to wear both hats and takes on the design of certain (if not all!) elements. No matter the size of the budget or the constraints of the performance space, the design can enhance the director’s vision or overwhelm it. How and when does one begin discussion with the designers and navigate communication between the team throughout the production process? How do we find balance between the elements of design and the clarity of the storytelling? How can we further employ design to connect with our audience before and after the performance?
Left Brain | Right Brain
This Lab, a seamless, intensive six-day schedule combined thought–provoking sessions with guest artists ranging from a neuro-scientist to Tony Award winning set designer, Todd Rosenthal. We welcomed artists/directors/thinkers who are breaking new ground and advancing ideas not just in the theatre world, but socially, scientifically, and otherwise including Leon Ingulsrud, founding member of the SITI Company, the artists behind Manual Cinema, and Greg Allen, founder of the Neo-Futurists.
The Impact of Theatre
How can the art of storytelling provoke new thought, encourage social and political change, and inspire personal transformation? How has theater changed the world? Sessions included Doug Paterson’s workshop on Augusto Boal’s legacy of inspiring political change in Rio de Janiero, Paola Coletto’s mask workshop illustrating the power of storytelling when the actor’s face can no longer be seen, and inspiring discussions with playwright and activist, David Henry Hwang, and Steppenwolf Artistic Director, Martha Lavey.
This Lab included rehearsal observations at the Goodman, Lookingglass, and Eclipse Theatres. Rehearsal techniques were shared and practiced among the attending directors in an effort to hone our rehearsal skills and create more effective ways to communicate with our actors and designers. The Stepping Away from the Stage series included inquiries into rehearsal techniques with a fireman and commercial airline pilot.
The Kinetics of Directing
From the movement of an actor’s body to the movement toward new technology in theater, and everything in between this Lab welcomed such guest speakers as Ashley Wheater, Artistic Director of the Joffrey Ballet, John Boesche, award-winning projection designer, and Mick Napier, Artistic Director of the renowned Annoyance Theatre.
The Power of Myth and Ritual
Where and how did the traditions of the theater begin? Are they still relevant? Out of what needs are new traditions created? Why do some of our oldest traditions have the staying power that they do? These questions and more are examined in one of most popular Labs to date. Guest artists included Broadway director Gary Griffin, Thomas Riccio, and renowned puppeteer, Blair Thomas.
Re-envisioning The Classics
This Lab, now a week-long event hosted by the Chicago Cultural Center included a rare observation of rehearsals at Chicago Shakespeare Theater (Cymbeline) and allowed the attending directors to explore scenes from classical plays from an unexpectedly contemporary point of view. This Lab culminated in a public performance of the director’s work. Stepping Away from the Stage, a series welcoming guest speakers from outside the world of theatre, and the DLC intern program was introduced.
International Influence on American Theatre
DirectorsLabChicago takes an in-depth look at the history and contemporary influence of theater from around the world, making stops in Japan for a lesson on Noh Theater, France for the opportunities the Alliance Francaise offers for cultural exchange, Italy for a presentation on the work of La MaMa, and Brazil for a whirlwind master class on Theater of the Oppressed.
Inaugural Lab – A Lab Of Our Own
Co-Founders and Artistic Directors Elizabeth Margolius and Karin Shook come together after attending the Lincoln Center Theater Lab in New York, and create a Chicago based Lab. Anne Cattaneo, Artistic Director of the LCT Lab and Bob Falls, Artistic Director of the Goodman Theatre kick off three days of exploration, group discussion, and physical workshops with an impressive list of local stage directors and artists.