After a year of experimental dance and theatre work, with its discoveries, frustrations and epiphanies, I came back to watching conventional theatre and was shocked to discover how much even the best work bored me. The archetypes and forms feel so creatively lazy and predictable, layered beneath the tried and practiced structure and clunky square peg writing rammed over two months of production into a round performance hole. Even the acting found familiar habits and forms that translated between actors and actresses. I felt like the average talented actor figures out the methodology and then spends the rest of their careers in artistic cruise control, making no more than artistically cosmetic adjustments to their practice.
I like the spirit of 14/48 but also think it’s no longer the risky endeavor it originally was. They have long since cultivated a streamlined process that makes the whole proceeding predictably reliable. I actually feel like it’s a tremendously accurate reflection of what Seattle theatre is now: A community that fancies itself as far more innovative and daring than it actually is, one that may have been daring and innovative a decade ago but is now just an exciting, hip and formulaic rite of passage for people who gain admission to the theatre’s community’s inner circle.
I want to see a 14/48 sort of event where, instead of a playwright running home and writing a play overnight for a separate cast to produce… the playwright, director and cast all sit together and generate the play from scratch on their own. Everyone collaborates as an ensemble to develop a story and script, rather than a single person writing it on their own. One person can sit down to do the typing, but this person is merely a transcriptive parser of group work rather than a decisive author. Ideally, the group will sit or stand at a laptop and assist in the textual composition of the final script, a la the writing process of the Sketchfest MashUp.
(This is not to say there can be no solo writing on the side in this process, so long as it’s brought back to the group to be shared as part of the development process.)
To be honest, I don’t have a problem if 14/48 stays the way it is and continues to successfully run. People like it and want to do it, and people come to see it, so I say go for it. Don’t let any of the above stop you. But there is a golden opportunity for a group of performers to take a new and exciting risk with tremendous potential for theatrical innovation. A 24 hour ensemble based production process could be just as fun, exciting and lucrative.