Localizing Theater: Tailoring Creative Passion to ‘Community Identity’

Presentation with Ken Elston (USA)

Ken Elston, Chair of the Theater Department at George Mason University, is the artistic director of the not-for-profit theater company, Footsteps In Time, and a professional consultant in the area of presentation skills. Ken teaches Acting, Directing, and has a specialty in Movement for the Stage. Directing credits include off-Broadway, university, and regional theatres. His acting credits include stage, television and film. Stage appearances include Off-Broadway and regional credits from Theater of the First Amendment, Washington Shakespeare Company, the Bush Theater, Missouri Rep, ACT, Intiman, and Bucks County Playhouse. Ken is a member of Actor’s Equity, SAG, AFTRA, Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, and the Association of Theatre Movement Educators. 


Format of Presentation: this lecture will trace one theater's journey, emphasizing local context as a new model for organizing the form itself, as a new model for organizing the mission of theater in the United States might allow for the recovery of slipping audience numbers and the engagement of new, diverse populations. 

Tying theaters’ vitality to societal priorities encourages the growth of a new cultural dialectic. In 2005, the theater company, Footsteps in Time, grew out of a community’s passion. Identifying "history" as indispensable to Virginia's vitality, this not-for-profit arts group was created to support the community's passions, and, so, was forced to identify a new template for making plays that considered the character's story secondary to the audience's. Until this new century, dramatic conflict based on the obstacle set between the hero and the hero's passions attracted audiences who identify with the struggles and the resultant emotional "truth". In the United States, the Twentieth Century growth in theater was modeled on the imported English "Little Theater Movement". The contemporary result: theaters across the nation doing much the same work. Our theater scene, in large part, is the echo of another country's artistic (and, yes, economic) answer to the questions of a style that was new in the early part of the previous century. Might theater in the new century be in need of some rehabilitation? It is the artist's lot, after all, to examine, and even correct, our social trajectory, so it makes sense to apply that same thinking to the trajectory of the form itself. After all, artists must show us alternative and possible paths.

Organized by IUGTE in collaboration with "ArtUniverse"