Tuesday, May 26, 2009

DecadesOut Launches on June 3 -- They Are Making a Documentary about the History of Indie Theater

DecadesOut, a new indie theater-related nonprofit organization here in NYC, founded by Frank Kuzler, is launching on June 3. I asked Frank to talk about this new endeavor of his. Here's our cyberinterview:

ME: Frank, congratulations on forming this new company DecadesOut. Can you tell readers a bit about the company’s overall mission, and who is involved with it?

FRANK: Thank you Martin for your good wishes. The overall mission of the company is to develop and produce new works that explore the impact of science in our lives and our relationship with science. It sounds like it runs the risk of being a college seminar or about the gadgets that have taken over our lives, but fundamentally it’s about relationships, making connections between ideas and people and looking behind the technology to the heart of science. I’ve always looked at science not so much as a school subject but as a philosophy and an art form. I think there are parallels between the way we communicate emotionally and the way we analyze who we are and our existence here. The real basis of the company is that these ideas (and whatever grows from this initial seed) be explored through the eyes of today’s artists with a focus on new work.

Since we started the company, we’ve gotten great feedback from artists and organizations that want to see the mission in action, so we feel that the energy behind the organization is already so positive. So I guess to answer the question, so many people are already involved, and the network of people has expanded well outside of myself, my lovely wife Jen [Jennifer Larkin Kuzler], and our wonderful friend Morgan Harris, who are the founding members. Jen, of course is an actress who has worked in the indie theatre scene for many years; Morgan has a fine arts background in photography and film and really rounds out what we’ll be trying to accomplish in film and visual arts; and my background is as a writer, director, and producer in the indie film and theatre worlds. I’ve learned a lot from those I’ve worked with and have had the pleasure of seeing work, and one of the most important lessons has been to not be afraid of taking chances. So here goes.

ME: One of the key activities DecadesOut will be working on is a documentary called Burning to Communicate. Tell us what this film is about.

FRANK: The film is about the origins, social impact, and development of the off-off/indie theatre scene from the late 1940s to the present. It is a mammoth project, but one I feel very strongly about, and one that has to be done right, so that’s the challenge. So far we’ve gotten great interviews with icons of the early days including the Living Theatre’s Judith Malina who is a fantastic soul and a force of nature; Lanford Wilson, writer of the American classic Balm in Gilead; and Doric Wilson, writer and active supporter of the indie theatre movement. Both Doric and Lanford got their start at the Caffe Cino in the 1950s where so much of the foundation of the indie theatre scene rests. We’re also in the process of arranging interviews with many other figures throughout the movement’s sixty year history including, Ellen Stewart at La MaMa who also continues to work and create amazing theatre. It’s going to be a busy summer. One of the things I want to explore in the film is the spark behind creativity and how from a social science perspective creative energy flares into a movement which leads to social change. I mean, it’s no secret that we’ve been in the midst of a movement which started sixty years ago and continues to grow everyday. With every new theatre person coming into town to follow their dreams or participate in a festival, ideas continue to get exchanged and the dialogue expands. This is what leads to new visions for society and social change.

ME: How did you get interested in off-off-Broadway/indie theater? Why is it important to document the history of this movement?

FRANK: I think those two questions are actually tied together for me on a personal level. Why did I get interested? My involvement was far from deterministic. I didn’t set out to do it. It’s simply the path that got laid out in front of me. There was little choice, and I went willingly. I studied theatre in school but was more of a poetry student. I like images, telling stories or revealing ideas image by image, moment to moment. My love of film and playwriting grew from that. Then I studied acting because as a writer I wanted to know about the actor’s perspective. Then I acted for awhile, found Boomerang Theatre Company, found FringeNYC, and here I am. I’ve had the extreme good fortune of being involved with companies and people doing great work at a great time, so my interest grew to fascination and activity. And that’s why it became important for me to document the history. I want to know more about the things I love, and I want to share it with as many people as possible. That may sound like a big ole can of corn, but that’s where it comes from for me personally.

On a different note, I’m a researcher at heart, and always want to know more, more, more about things by jumping in and learning about them and then trying to bring it together and present it to the world. I think that history teaches us everything we need to know about reshaping ourselves and the present world into the ideals we aspire to. The history of this movement has value on social, artistic, and individual levels. That’s why it’s important to embrace the past as vital to the present.

ME: How are you going about collecting material for this documentary? If someone reading this thinks they have a story to tell or something to contribute to this endeavor, can they get in touch with you?

FRANK: The project will likely be a multipart piece. I think it has to be because of its scope which needs to not only explore theatre history but also look at the social conditions of each segment. As I said, it’s a mammoth project. We’ve been doing copious research into the history of each decade, and as I mentioned, have been conducting interviews. We have a ton of interviews planned, and continue to build the list of people we need to speak with. It’s great (and a little daunting). Everyone we speak to always has at least five other people they say we need to speak to. We’ve also been fundraising and meeting with potential producing partners in the documentary world, and we’ll be showing a trailer of some of what we have at our launch/benefit party happening on June 3rd. That being said, we are reaching out to everyone and support has been great so far. We would love to hear from as many people as possible. We welcome people to contact us at http://www.blogger.com/info@decadesout.org if they have stories or would like to be part of the project.

You can learn more about DecadesOut at their offical website: http://www.decadesout.org.

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