In addition to reviews and essays about theatrical productions, Theater Is Good is embarking upon a quest to cover the array of developmental, festival, and non-traditional work that happens in the broader theater scene. So much important work and creativity goes on at other kinds of events, with so many worthy organizations empowering and connecting artists, but they don’t seem to get nearly the attention of production runs. The Theater Is Good (TiG) Spotlight is here to shine a light on this truly valuable work!
presented by The Group Lab
At the heart of almost all great theater — all great media, perhaps — is a well-told story. There are exceptions that prove the rule, but in the end, in some way, it’s all about the meaningful journey or lessons of a story. Not the plot, to be clear, which is a series of events — a plot won’t take our hand, show us around the world a little bit, and then leave us alone in the supermarket. But a story will.
The art of storytelling grows ever more complex with the technical opportunities of the stage and screen. It has become thrilling to pare it back, subversive in its simplicity, and leave a lone performer the noble task: “Tell us a story.” Synthesizing, becoming all the strategies and skill that make stories work across media, a good performer can make you feel what it was to be ancient, and to need oral stories the way you needed the next hunt.
The Where Project, presented by The Group Lab, has grown to be such a gathering, bringing together various storytellers in a two-act presentation framed by the questions, “Where are you from?” and “Where are you going?” These are prompts for stories we’d find in a circle of newly acquainted friends, and the Lab inspires this atmosphere throughout their events. There’s time to grab a drink and chat, while the company loosely MCs the evening.
Presentations have been sporadic over the years, but the Project has recently had two back-to-back showcases: in June at The Kraine Theater as a part of Horse Trade’s Queerly Festival, featuring Soriya Chum, Philip Estrera, Natalie Rich, York Walker, and musical storyteller Hennessy; and in May at the Robert Moss Theater as part of The Habitat Theater’s ‘No Vacancy Series’, featuring Kaliswa Brewster, Molly Beach Murphy, Nandita Shenoy, Leah Walsh, and musical storyteller Diana Oh.
While we don’t necessarily need a framing device to hear a collection of good, personal stories — and there are certainly a variety of festivals around the country that celebrate stories of all types — The Where Project presents a wonderful spark to light the fire of communion. The diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and visions of the storytellers resolve into a rich cross-section of artists that leave you feeling broadened, and deepened.
And while the title suggestions a location, in truth The Where Project focuses on the progression of time, almost insists upon it. After all, no one in the room needs an explanation of where we are now. Company member Vichet Chum closed the June event with a reminder of the simple beauty of our sharing that space together for that time, and I think the whole Project hinges upon this fact. There’s nothing to say about the present — we’re here, together. But talking, telling stories, is the only thing we can do with the illusory past, and the yet-to-be future.
With such an introspective, personal premise, the prompts could have easily led to a navel-gazing tribute to the indulgence of theater artists. Instead, The Where Project is an activated understanding of the importance of storytelling and community, as well as personal and interpersonal growth. We at Theater is Good hope that The Group Lab is able to find more opportunities to bring together artists to share their pasts, presents, and interconnected futures.
– S. R.