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Thoughts and Musings...


We are inevitably the products of our environment. The political, aesthetic, and moral forces that shape our responses may seem invisible or innocuous, but in seeking to delineate our artistic standards we are inevitably forced to confront and articulate our defining values. As an Artistic Director, teacher, and manager this obligation has become increasingly urgent. My guilt over growing up as a very privileged white South African has always been at the forefront of my consciousness. I sometimes have defended glibly the art I respect, in response to its political and moral dictates. At the same time I always have sought to direct plays that espoused the purest ideals and satirized the greed, racism and cruelty of my world. But in my increasingly complex world, moral imperatives have become less clear. Certainty is far more difficult. Fanaticism and Idealism are so easily conflated.

To proclaim a moral or political ideology has never been the task of good theatre. We in the theatre must seek truth, expose hypocrisy, and endeavor to create an aesthetic context in which significant questions can be raised. For twenty years Cal Rep has striven to provoke and inspire. The issues we dramatize are difficult, but we believe debate must continue. We offer no solutions. We shy away from trite platitudes. The plays in our season dare us to look into our own hearts of darkness, challenge our certitudes, and stir the frightening stew of our complacency.

Confronted with global economic uncertainty, political insurgency, and moral confusion, it might have been easier to celebrate our maiden voyage on the Queen Mary with light escapist fare, with theatre that soothes and calms. Festen does none of these things. At a time when we would rather deny or forget the evil that has been perpetuated in our name, Festen forces us to confront our "moral inertia." Torture, exploitation, corruption, and intimidation are political realities we often seek to ignore. We choose to pretend and maintain the fa├žade, rather than to deal with the consequences of evil. This "complicity of silence" haunts the characters in Festen until their forced humor highlights the grotesque cruelty they seek to conceal.

This extraordinary play was hailed by the London Independent as "an embodiment of what theatre should be." It will be followed by a dazzling tale about the ultimate working mom, Current Nobody. Flip-flopping gender roles while riffing on Homer's Odyssey, the play reveals its ancient story in a new, often hilarious, sometimes brutal, but always surprising way.

Cal Rep next embraces an unapologetically romantic tone as two unlikely soul mates cross the cultural divide to find each other through the Poetry of Pizza. Then to end our season and to continue the Cal Rep tradition of creating innovative original work, Steppenwolf founding member Jeff Perry teams with veteran actor/teacher Alexandra Billings to create Out of Thin Air a unique and unexpected exploration of relationships, viewpoints and community.

Are these challenging experiences entertaining? I believe so. Without exploring the darkness, how can we appreciate the light? Without asking the questions how can we ever find the answers? Escape is not the route of the artist. Delving into moral complexity and responsibility is revelatory and far more thrilling than bland titillation.

Enjoy our journey of discovery on the gracious Queen.

Joanne Gordon

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Cal Rep aboard the Queen Mary 1126 Queen's Highway, Long Beach, CA 90802
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