Radical Inclusion in Theatre

May 3, 2007

I like this article on a local Austin project.  An excerpt:

Radical inclusion is not a new concept. It is used frequently in theological discussions. You can find it discussed by Unitarian Universalists, Episcopalians, and Quakers, among many groups. Sometimes it refers to the idea of an all-loving, benevolent deity, and sometimes it refers to specific human acts, i.e., who is invited to the worship community. It’s also a basic tenet of the Burning Man Festival: “Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger.”

What does radical inclusion mean for theatre? What does it mean for writing? What does it mean for Austin’s performance community?

Ken Webster, artistic director of Hyde Park Theatre, produced Week Five back in December. “I did something I’ve never done before,” he says. “I cast every person who auditioned.” Almost 20 people showed up, more than half of them new, and they were all solid.” Besides, one of the seven plays was set in an English class, and Parks never really says who the students are or how many are in the scene. Webster had enormous freedom to make a big choice. So he did. The cast of 17 made an exhilarating image on the tiny HPT stage. It was a visual moment of spectacle and conflict: How are they all going to work up there?

“Not only did we get new people onstage,” Webster says, “we got new people in the audience. They have been back since.” How does the artistic director know this so certainly? “I’m the box office guy, too.”

Coming from LA where few that audition get the part, I really appreciate this radical departure from the norm!  I hope my LA friends appreciate it!



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