The Northwest Indiana Excellence in Theatre Foundation Awards are upon us, and crackling like the leaves in the Autumn air, is the buzz about "who among the nominees will receive what?" This year the 23rd Annual Foundation Awards Gala will be held on Sunday, October 25 and it's a wonderful opportunity to get dressed up and see samples of some of the best theatre in the region for the 2014-2015. It is with great pride that Chicago Street Theatre has received 23 nominations for excellence for our efforts last season on The Angels of Lemnos, Cobb, Frankenstein, Hamlet, and Tammy: A Coming of Age Story About a Girl Who is Part T-Rex. As a member of CST, I can honestly say that each of these five plays impressed our audiences with a range of theatrical choices and showcased what we do as a company very well.
While it is flattering to be listed among the very "Best" in the region, I think it's important to keep why we do theatre in perspective. Having received awards myself, for performances and directing, it's a tremendous rush to receive a standing ovation from an audience of your peers. It's also very humbling. That being said, I tend to use this time of year as a time to reflect on the work I've done as a contributor to Chicago Street Theatre. Because we are a volunteer organization, what we do comes from a passion and desire to create art. This art is, in turn, shared with the community.
Those of you who know me, know that in addition to being an a theatre guy, I am a painter and illustrator. While I enjoy the excitement of sharing my solo work with people, theatre is often more rewarding because it is art created by a team of artists who all bring different skills and insights. Theatre is a communal art form, where we try to surround ourselves with the "Best" people to facilitate the needs of a project. As a result of theses collaborations, what we are able to create together is better than anything we could achieve alone. As a director, I would be lost without a Mike Strayer or Jim Henry to build the set, a Marty Weisenbacher to create special effects, a Daena Sisk to keep me organized, or a Bob Cooley and Mary Bird to help me fulfill a vision for the show. Certainly casting the talent to inhabit the roles is hugely important too because they carry all of the show's drama and comedy to tell the play's story. This is an important collaboration as well because as an actor, I'm only as good as the people I'm on stage with.
From this standpoint, we are all winners in terms of the time, talent, and collaboration that it takes to share theatre with an audience. The audience is another important part of the equation that should never be discounted. They contribute an energy and enthusiasm to the work that elevates what we as artists do even further. The experience we create for an audience is the real reward of doing theatre. To be a child's first introduction to live theatre or to have a park performance convince someone that they really like Shakespeare is a feeling beyond compare. For me, theatre is about being part of something greater than myself. For me, the only affirmation needed is knowing that I've done my best work for an audience who truly appreciates it.
What's important to remember regardless of Sunday's outcome is that we are collectively a passionate group of artists that try to elevate our art for the betterment of the communities we serve. When the award season rolls around, I find myself thinking less about what accolades I'll receive on a personal level and returning to the ideology of what working at Chicago Street Theatre is really about:
- Mission: To present live theatre that nurtures the creative spirit of the community.
- Vision: A community that embraces the performing arts as a defining and treasured expression of life.
- Values: We believe in the power of theatre. We believe in the talent and commitment of volunteers. We believe in the nurturing relationship between audiences and artists. We believe in the unique experience of live theatre.
It's a notion that's less about getting and more about giving. I applaud the time and dedication that NIETF and its viewers devote each year to spreading the word about the arts in our region and they effort that they put into their events. When we focus on what it is we have to offer the community and the difference we can make as artists and storytellers, we're all winners in my book. This weekend, I look forward to celebrating with the incredible theatre artists that generously share their time, talent, and passion with Northwest Indiana!
-Eric Brant, 35-year Member of Chicago Street Theatre