Thoughts from the Producing Artistic Director
We’ve not made it a secret that we’re leaning heavier on laughs this season than we’ve done for a few years. We came strong out of the gates with Steve Martin’s wacky Meteor Shower. Still to come are the hijinks of Midsummer, the comic exploits of Arturo Ui — even Doubt and Animals Out of Paper manage to find more laughs than you might think.
Laughter does so much: it galvanizes, it heals, it illuminates, it challenges. When humor is at its best, the laughter generated in public space can do all of these things at once (and so much more says the guy who wrote a dissertation on comedy). Group laughter helps create a special kind of “a great reckoning in a little room,” the phrase we’ve chosen as the 19-20 theme.
Some folks remarked after Meteor Shower that they prefer their comedy to be a bit more, well, meatier. That they appreciate our comedies that have more to say under the surface. Well, y’all are in for a real treat with The Thanksgiving Play.
noun: the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.
The Thanksgiving Play oozes with satire, and there isn’t simply a single target for FastHorse’s ridicule. Whiteness, “wokeness,” the education system, the theater itself: her bon-mots are deadly and come with incredible speed. This is one of those shows with so many layers and such a high jokes-per-minute count that I am *still* catching zingers.
We often walk a line as theater artists when it comes to pitching shows to people because we understand not everyone goes to the theater for the same reasons, even if we want folks to see every show we produce. None of us make a show for “this” audience segment or “that.” We understand that some folks simply want to be entertained. Others expect more. Some folks hate it when a show gets “political.” Others feel our current world demands nothing less. Some challenge themselves and believe hearing stories from viewpoints other than their own makes them a better person. Others are merely looking for comfort. We’re here for everyone, our home is your home.
I feel like the best thing we have going for us in theater, the thing that other forms of art and entertainment can’t touch, is that theater is something we experience between all of those bodies — onstage and in the house, together. Something should happen to us in that room full of strangers. And maybe for those not into theater, that’s why they don’t like it.
I am very confident that this show will make folks laugh. Hopefully hard, and hopefully until it hurts. It’s going to make some folks uncomfortable, possibly out of sensitivity or a sense of guilt or out of recognition. As someone who both studies and practices comedy — I think that’s how we know we’re getting to the good stuff.
Larissa FastHorse has a lot to say in this show, surely, however I don’t think she ever gets preachy. Yes, she critiques all that stuff I said before — whiteness, “wokeness,” the education system, and (with no irony lost on me) the theater — but she does so without breaking what Kenneth Burke calls “the comic frame.” She’s not looking to destroy through these characterizations but instead to merely “chastise the clown … picturing people not as vicious, but as mistaken” (1937).
New voices, a polyphony of voices, are critical to the future of the theater. Unfortunately they can also be the most difficult to get general audiences to pay attention to. So, we’re back at that difficult spot where so many of us in theater find ourselves: how do we find a manageable, sustainable balance between giving audiences what they want and what we think they need? We clearly don’t need to explain Steve Martin or Shakespeare to anyone, but how to we reach more people with the exciting work of Larissa FastHorse or Rajiv Joseph? There’s the $64,000 question. We work hard to earn your trust no matter what the show is, we want you to be a part of it all even when that means asking you to possibly try something new or out of your comfort zone. Come because it’s Jobsite.
Why should you get a ticket right now to Larissa FastHorse’s The Thanksgiving Play? Bottom line: because it’s really f*cking funny. That’s maybe what most of you wanna know. Larissa comments often in interviews that laughter is a gift, it actually adds time to our lives. Who can look down on that? Are there a lot of other reasons beneath the laughs that we hope factor in? Of course, but the laughs should be enough.
Once you see the show, please write in and let us know what you thought. As always, we appreciate your shares to friends and colleagues. Nothing means more to us than your word of mouth endorsements of our work. <3
Now get ready to bust a gut … this Thanksgiving truly satisfies.
Burke, K. (1937). Attitudes Toward History. Berkeley, CA, University of California Press.