By Brian Fruits
In the first chapter of his controversial book True and False, David Mamet fires out something that has always stuck with me. Mamet says “those (artists) who have come up from the streets rarely have interest in their own performance for they instinctively seek to please others namely audience members.” Here, Mamet is praising the power of the audience for we, as theatre practitioners, are nothing without them. Though I sometimes cannot stand Mamet and his ideals, I completely agree with his observation in this case.
Theatre is meant to be shared with society; it is meant to be unselfish and, above all, life-changing. To me, the best storytellers are the ones who have seen it all. They have seen the good and the bad; the beautiful and the ugly. They have been rich and poor both tangibly and metaphorically. They have seen success and failure, they have known what it is to be chosen and left behind. Coming from several broken homes myself, I understand the power of healing and unification in theatre; I have found my safety and my home there.
Our theatre is a place of community and acceptance of ideas and values open to all. There is much power in theatre, as Hamlet says, it is a way to hold a mirror up to society and ask the questions: Who are you? What are we? What do we want to be? Where are we heading? When will we understand? When will we change? Are we able to change? If theatre should be accessible to everyone, why do we (as an audience) need to pay attention?
The Saltbox Theatre Collective realizes that all people have a voice and can have impact within the theatre world. If we are producing a play about the life of a policeman…bring in a policeman. If we are producting a play about a government official…bring in a government official. If we are producing a play about people dying of cancer…find a way to visit the nearest oncology ward. If we are producing a play about a woman who misses her child in prison…seek out a way to understand these human-beings by partnering up with a local missions group, meet them them and listen to their stories. We strive to be ears as much as we are a voice.