For us. By us. About us.
We have restructured the Artistic Director position and created, in its place, a self-governed Artistic Council. In years past our theatrical season was chosen by one or two people in key positions of power. In 2021, the shows we produce will be decided on by a cohort of incredible artists from many walks of life and diverse artistic specialties. These folks are working together to choose stories that best represent the experiences of our direct community - Middlesex County. The power to choose what stories we tell each year no longer belongs to one or two people - it belongs to a group of creative people who know the county we live in, and seek to serve those needs first.
ReThink Theatrical will no longer employ an Artistic Director - we will instead have a Director of Artistic Planning. This position is currently held by Thomas Young who will continue to bring his astute artistic eye and institutional memory to the position - serving as liaison between the Artistic Council, Executive Staff, and Board of Trustees.
STATEMENT AND PURPOSE
Since 2015, ReThink Theatrical has operated on a simple mission statement: provide free and accessible storytelling to the community. Whether through educational opportunities or theatrical experiences, community engagement is at the core of our company.
ReThink Theatrical serves Middlesex County and the greater Central New Jersey area. In order to build a truly inclusive and community-driven organization, ReThink Theatrical relies on an Artistic Council composed of a diverse group of artists and educators from the Central New Jersey community. As opposed to a top-down, centralized artistic power, ReThink Theatrical seeks to democratize the process of season selection and theater-making through the committed civic engagement and participation of the members of the Artistic Council. The hope is that this radically democratic approach to the artistic process will decentralize creative power and create a more inclusive, equitable experience for all members of our community.
The Artistic Council makes a commitment to challenging the conventional notions of who makes theater and who theater is for. For the people who live and thrive in the community that we serve,
We commit to elevating diverse voices and perspectives at all levels of the creative process by creating an inclusive and democratic organization encompassing both on-stage and off-stage roles
We commit to telling stories that reflect a wide range of experiences and identities through a combination of original work, adapted projects, and licensed productions
We commit to eliminating the barriers and redressing the inequities that have too long prohibited all individuals, regardless of background, from engaging fully and safely in community-driven theater
We commit to creating a respectful and conscious working and learning environment for all of our artists and company members by acknowledging and dismantling systems of bias and oppression--including racism, patriarchy, and colonialism--that infringe upon creative potential and joy
We commit to engaging with the community itself--its geography, its history, its people--by providing innovative and important theater-making, in an effort to give back and create a greater sense of place
ReThink Theatrical is a community theater insofar as we work to maximize access to all audiences by creating productions from square one with the audience in mind. We engage with local people and partners, providing quality storytelling that attracts local residents and reflects community values. This happens by choosing strategic locations, content, and partnerships that will lead to stories that are immediately relevant and wholly accessible to the community we serve.
ReThink Theatrical’s artistic imperative comes from its name: we must rethink how we tell stories and reimagine who gets to be at the center of those stories. The theater that we make will not only challenge the conventions and practices of theater-making, but also break down the structures that have too often marginalized certain theater-makers and audience members.
The Artistic Council’s primary responsibilities are the following:
I. Season Selection - The Artistic Council discusses, deliberates, and votes on a season of productions. The Artistic Council’s discussion should be guided by the following questions:
- Does the project reflect ReThink’s mission to provide a culturally conscious, progressive theatrical experience in content and/or form?
Does the project allow for a truly inclusive company of artists, and particularly one that represents the community that ReThink serves?
Does the project elevate original work alongside licensed properties in an effort to provide new and diverse voices the ability to create stories?
Does the project promote creativity and innovation in terms of place, process, and/or local partnerships so as to enhance community engagement?
Does the project maintain ReThink’s commitment to providing a free, accessible theatrical experience to the community?
II. Production Practices - In our commitment to maintain inclusive and anti-oppressive theater-making, the Artistic Council will have a presence at all stages of the production process. The Artistic Council’s advisory role should be guided by the following questions:
- Does the initial staffing of a production reflect an effort to elevate diverse voices at all levels of the production staff, including core creative roles like director, writer, and choreographer?
Does the pre-production stage introduce and practice anti-discriminatory and anti-oppressive behaviors and protocols? Does the pre-production stage reflect an understanding and effort to attain ReThink’s mission to create progressive, conscious, accessible theater?
Does the pre-production stage include a comprehensive and intentional outreach program to promote an inclusive audition and casting process?
Does the audition and casting process promote a democratic process of team-building and elevate diverse voices and performers? Does the audition and casting process seek to authentically represent the cultural and social realities of both the production and the community at large?
Does the rehearsal process adhere to ReThink’s policies on anti-discrimation and anti-harassment in order to maintain a safe, brave, and productive creative space?
III. Post-Production Retrospectives - In order to continue growing and evolving as a company, the Artistic Council will participate in the post-production debriefing procedures. This includes advising on reflective surveys and post-production interviews for the creative team, the cast, and the audience that asks questions and solicits feedback in several areas. These reflections should be driven by the following questions:
Did participating in the production provide a meaningful and educational experience?
Did the performance itself reflect an accessible experience, both in terms of content and form?
Did the production and/or performance reflect the mission statement and values of ReThink Theatrical and, if not, did it reveal any key areas for improvement for the company?
Did the production and/or performance reflect the type of experience needed by the community and, if not, did it reveal any key lapses in ReThink’s approach to the community it serves?