We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community. ~ Dorothy Day
The idea for the AMC came from the culmination of my MFA thesis in Directing at Northwestern University. It was based on an exercise I did in class for Michael Rohd, which asked me to write a first day address to an organization or project that I might lead in five years. The address to the AMC came out in a flurry, but right before I was to turn it in, I made a key word change: theatre to center. It was an instinctual edit for which the reasoning has taken me more than a year to fully articulate.
Initially, I made the change because I knew I wanted the organization to be more than just a theatre. I wanted to it be a communal meeting place in the same way a church, library and town hall are. I wanted it to serve communities that are becoming more and more secular, those that yearn for stories but no longer turn to the great stories, and those that, no matter which party one ascribes to, are sick and tired of the state of our politics. Among the definitions of “Center” are: middle point, main part of town, place for a particular activity, influential place or organization as well as the verb, meaning to put something in the middle or to focus on a theme. All of that felt right, but it was the last one that became the key.
Not only do I want the AMC to be a middle point of our community, I want to put American Myth in the middle of our focus. No matter who won or who one voted for in the past election, it became clear during the campaign that we are a nation struggling with our own identity. I believe that I have a tool that can help. I believe we can use American Myth to investigate our evolving identity. And I believe we can rise above partisanship to a conversation that can remain political, but be framed humanely.
A key to becoming a Center for the community is providing an open invitation for everyone to experience the AMC as a haven. There has been a lot of talk surrounding the words diversity and inclusion both within the national theatre community and beyond. This is unequivocally a good and necessary thing. However, true diversity must include all genders, cultures, races, religions and even those who don’t think alike. Many a good intention often stops short of that last one. True inclusion brings everyone to the table. The AMC fails if it preaches and fails harder if it preaches to a choir. The AMC only succeeds if it nurtures a conversation amidst an entire community.
The final articulation of the move from Theatre to Center is the realization that theatrical productions are not the product that we will offer. My initial idea, based on those around me, of a season of plays produced in a traditional space has evolved into a wholly different organization. The product is American Myth and full theatrical productions will merely be one delivery system. Once that was understood, the possibilities suddenly multiplied and the idea that I was starting a theatre was no longer valid. This will be a Center of our community that uses American Myth to investigate our home.