The hero’s journey always begins with the call. One way or another, a guide must come to say, 'Look, you’re in Sleepy Land. Wake. Come on a trip. There is a whole aspect of your consciousness, your being, that’s not been touched. So, you’re at home here? Well, there’s not enough of you there.' And so, it starts.
Back in Two, I talked about the assignment Michael Rohd gave me and how it led to the first articulation of the AMC. Within that assignment was the idea of interviewing possible locations outside of Chicago. For personal reasons, my wife, Simone, and I had discussed the possibility of a big move, but the idea was still a daydream. Well, Michael passed the piece along to my principal mentor, Jessica Thebus, and she sent me back a note. It said that she believed in me. That meant everything. Then I gave the piece to Simone. She said it made her cry on the train. That meant more than everything. The daydream began coming down to earth.
Over the course of the following year, I wrote the thesis that culminated with my ambition for the American Myth Center. By the end, it became clear that my instinct was right--it would have to be elsewhere. I love Chicago. In fourteen years, it made me the man, artist, husband, and father that I am. But the last thing that wonderful town needs is another company and it certainly doesn’t need one from me. The ecosystem, which holds over 200 theatre companies at any given time, is phenomenal, supportive, and vibrant. I would tell any young artist to run, not walk, to Chicago. But, for me, plenty of talented folk are doing the good work; work that resonates with me and with what the AMC wants to be. I don’t want to be redundant and fight for relevancy. That’s not productive. The Chicago theatre scene is going to be just fine without me and I’m forever indebted to it. I needed to find a place where I could resonate, that had a space for me, that had an environment and climate that could provide fertile soil for the seed that is the AMC.
Simone and I put together a short list of cities, including Austin, Boulder, Nashville, and Louisville. But Asheville worked its way to the top of the list. You see, I grew up in North Carolina (Chapel Hill) and my mom grew up just outside of Asheville (Swannanoa). I had spent plenty of time as a kid in and around the area, but it was a very different town then. In recent years, Simone and I had kept hearing about this booming mountain town and it had worked its way into the daydream. We visited in the spring of 2016 for a week and we took a deep dive into the town. As part of this, I spoke to two people knowledgeable of the theatre scene. One was the head of a local theatre, who was candid and honest in his assessment. In short, it wasn’t encouraging. Here’s the thing though. As you know if you’ve read other posts, I wasn’t and am not planning on creating a theatre company in the traditional mold. So, while his opinions were valuable and I was grateful, they weren’t necessarily applicable and what may have been meant as a warning came across as a challenge. The second contact I had was with Scott Walters, a professor of theatre with UNC-Asheville. His name had first popped up through Jessica, who had sent me a blog post Scott wrote on Todd London’s An Ideal Theatre, which I ended up reading cover to cover as it provided me with needed inspiration on this journey. I had noticed on Facebook that Michael Rohd had liked a post of Scott’s, so I asked for an introduction. This meeting countered the first as he was optimistic about the possibilities of my idea within the town’s community. So, I got a challenge and an encouragement, which is generally the right recipe for me. By the end of the week, Simone and I asked a real estate agent to look at houses. At that moment, we realized that we were moving to Asheville. And I was coming home.