The Collective Project, Atlanta's favorite theatre and performance pulse, has worked it's beloved magic yet again. Taking on David Lauby's "The Great McAnigan", the ensemble and crew have polished a work based around the tribulations of an all-star facing his true passion and his ineptitude for it respectively: poetry. BANG! talked to Executive Director Corey Bradberry about "The Great McAnigan", their intentions and inspirations.
BANG! Due to the fact that The Collective Project is somewhat of an organism derived from the creative inspirations of Atlantans, how contingent are the pieces to cultural waves?
Corey Bradberry One of the biggest challenges we face in the theater is that we can only reach the limited number of people who come to see it, whereas a painting or television show can now be digitized or transmitted instantly to anywhere in the world. It’s never been about having a culturally relevant piece, it’s about exploring subject matter that means something to us. Our artists are a living breathing part of this city, and so the culture itself is infused within the show naturally. Creating a simple piece of performance still takes hours of preparation and rehearsal, but the reward of sharing it with others makes it worth the risk.
BANG! In what ways have you seen the various ensembles of The Collective Project take off where the playwrights left the piece? Can you elaborate on the cosmos between inspiration and execution?
Corey Bradberry It's different for every show and depends on what the script calls for. With McAnigan, the ensemble's challenge is finding the tempo and timbre of multiple characters within a fast-paced script. Last October's The Devil Tree involved rewrites based on what actors brought to their characters and placed an emphasis on the literal world through the set and light designs. Both incarnations of The Theory of Everything have had cases of gender swapping based on the makeup of the ensemble in an attempt to find a balance to the overall production.
The script is not the end goal of a production: the cast and design team must make it live on the stage. The script is a map, the playwright is the cartographer, the director pilots, the stage manager navigates, and each actor and designer is a part of the vehicle. It takes all of the elements working together to create what may seem like a simple night of theater, so the line between inspiration and execution becomes all about the details. Imagination is our last magic, and there are complexities to these ideas that can’t be understood with a worksheet.
BANG! There’s no doubt that The Collective Project is an exceptional company, although there must be times when the challenges of local operations can be difficult. Did the theme of McAnigan fighting to do what he loves connect with The Collective Project for that reason?
Everyone can relate to the conflict between realizing one’s dreams and recognizing the harsh reality that makes those dreams seem impossible.
On a more personal level, we can absolutely relate to a starving artist struggling to be heard (though McAnigan’s troubles lie in the fact that he is the world’s worst poet), but fortunately we live in a time where social media and modern technology can be utilized to help us stay connected to our community. Imagine if McAnigan had access to Twitter!
BANG! In reference to the “for Atlanta, by Atlanta” mission statement, has The Collective Project ever looked out to other modern theater hubs in different areas for inspiration?
Corey Bradberry Steppenwolf has been one of the finest regional theaters in the USA since its inception. They are constantly producing new work and their performers bring a strong sense of ownership to the scripts. The Neo-Futurists (also based out of Chicago) can also claim influence: their dedication to silliness and bending the mold have certainly shaped shows like The Theory of Everything.
BANG! Are there any aspects of Atlanta that haven’t been funneled into productions that you would like to see in future projects?
Corey Bradberry We'd like to produce a show ABOUT Atlanta, a “love letter meets mix tape” kind of show. We've been kicking around some ideas for the last year or two, but it hasn't seemed like the right time... yet. We would also like to continue playing in new spaces around the city; we created a piece for last year’s Art on the Beltline and we very much hope the city will continue to fund such efforts.
BANG! What demographic would you like to see attend a production that hasn’t necessarily frequented The Collective Project’s performances before?
Corey Bradberry The nice thing about working with the Goat Farm is that they have a built in audience based that enjoys multiple art forms. Our target audience member is 18-35 year-old creative type who enjoys a bit of spice in his or her social outings.
We are always trying to reach out to college-aged young people, especially since more and more of them are moving to Atlanta every year. Entertainment options are limited when you’re eating Ramen Noodles every night and theatre should never cost more than the cost of a movie and popcorn, so we’ve been offering a discounted ticket price (usually $15) for anyone under 25 years of age for the past year.
BANG! As with any creative outlet, there is a responsibility inherent with the process. What do you think The Collective Project’s responsibility is to the Atlanta area?
Corey Bradberry Creating and nurturing an expanding ensemble of artists who live and work in the Atlanta area. It's built into our mission: by investing in local artists, we invest in the city's overall creative capital.
BANG! Do The Collective Project’s goals influence the pieces chosen for production or do the pieces for production influence The Collective Project’s goals? In other words, do you guys set challenges for yourself and look for works that present avenues to meet them or the other way around?
Corey Bradberry It's a bit of both, but a great story is always the key. We look for stories that reflect our company and our own artistic goals while looking to improve production value and keep our finances in line. Space is also a major influence: what will be the literal boundaries of this play's world?
Get all of the info for dates, times and overall McAnigan magnificence here.