New Line Theatre Announces Third St. Louis Political Theatre Festival


New Line Theatre presented Hair for the 2008 festival. - JILL RITTER
  • Jill Ritter
  • New Line Theatre presented Hair for the 2008 festival.
The current election cycle -- which began January 20, 2009 -- is approaching the vinegar strokes, which means everybody involved gets louder and makes less sense. If you want to be involved in the process but perhaps need to refocus your thoughts, there's no better method than the theatrical. Hence the third St. Louis Political Theatre Festival, a multi-company discussion of controversial topics held in the sanctity of the theater.

This year's festival will run from September through early November, with participants yet to be determined. Scott Miller, New Line's artistic director and  theatre provacateur, graciously agreed to answer a few questions about the STLPTF and why it matters.

And lest you think theatre doesn't matter, here's Miller's opening salvo: "The stage has forever been a place where political issues have been examined and challenged. After all, democracy and theatre were born in the same place and even in the same decade! The ritualistic and social significance of the earliest Greek performances in central arenas brought relevance to many controversial topics -- war, politics, sex, religion. We do the same today." Argue with the man at your own peril. there an upper limit to the number of companies that can participate this year?

SM: Nope, the more the merrier.

Were there any shows in the 2006 or 2008 festivals that surprised you?

SM: Yes, in 2006 Sonnets for an Old Century from Slightly Askew was a very unusual piece (not originally written for the stage, I think) and I LOVED it. Very poetic, very insightful about our culture, etc. And 2008 just had such a wild variety, from Frost/Nixon to Copenhagen to Blood Knot to Antigone to Hair to Pippin. It made me realize how political MOST theatre really is...

You mention the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as a point of reference for the STLPTF; are you open to non-traditional theatrical pieces such as monologues/performance art stuff for the Festival?

SM: Other than Sonnets for an Old Century, we haven't had any non-traditional pieces in the Festival, but I would LOVE that.

I know you can't speak for other companies, but will New Line be doing any political outreach or education in the lobby?

SM: We looked into voter registration in the lobby but it's very involved, so we never did it. We might try again. We have to be careful, being a nonprofit, that we don't advocate for any party or candidate.

You've written extensively about the history of alternative shows (as in, alternative to the all-white, mainstream America shows of the so-called Golden Age), and you also like to write a great deal of background material for each season online. Will other directors/companies be encouraged to do the same on the STLPTF website? Would you consider producing a chapbook of these essays that could be sold at shows during the festival?

SM: I never thought of that, but that's a COOL idea. I don't know if others like writing about their work as much as I do.  Blogging would be cool too, in that same vein.

How can interested parties be part of the STLPTF?

SM: To participate in the festival, companies in the the St. Louis metro region just need to contact New Line Theatre at Shows in the festival can be overtly political or more subtextual. Political issues can be the focus of the show or merely the context or background. New Line Theatre will present the fiercely political Broadway rock musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson as part of the festival.


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