New blood must always be brought into the mix. The elders who hold the reigns are meant to pass them onto the next generation. It becomes the responsibility of those who have come before to assist those who come after, and accept the fresh ideas that youthfulness, with its incredible vitality, will always bring. Sometimes, if those who hold hegemony can forget their pride they may even learn a few powerful and new ideas as well. No matter, as I for one have seen the future and they presented their work for free which in itself comes as something as a unique offering that breathes freshness into a weary world.
This past Thursday I had been asked to attend a show, “How To Be a GoodPerson™” at the Maker Theater, produced by Lamplighter Productions. What I saw can only be described as the beginning of the changing of the guard. I saw youth at its finest as they built, funded, created, directed and performed a powerful play that enunciated the speed, cynicism, and ethical quandaries faced by Generation Z.
Lamplighter Productions, founded by Jordan Sucher along with his partners obtained funding for this current show through non-traditional sources. In the past, investment money has traditionally been limited to the following three sources: Friends and Family, Banks, and Angel Investors. But now, thanks to the internet, the world has access to a fourth source of new money. By definition Crowd Funding can be described as the practice of obtaining funding for a project through small amounts of capital supplied by a very large number of people. Such efforts, will typically be processed through internet sites devoted to this effort. One of the largest, and most successful, being Kick Starter, where Lamplighter obtained the cash to bring the play to life. Furthermore, the funding has allowed the company to bring the play to the people of Pittsburgh at no cost.
Pittsburgh should be proud of these young actors and actresses as they fight to build their careers, to express their art, and to hone their skills. Many of them are their sons and daughters, and those who are not have been brought here with the promise of superior education at one of our city’s fine schools such as Carnegie Mellon University. Jordan Sucher finds himself in his last year at CMU, and we can only hope he will continue to work his art in our city for years to come. Will he? Hard to say, but you can be sure of one thing this article, and the others that are sure to be written about “How To Be a GoodPerson™” are just the beginning of what promises to be an awe inspiring career. I’d say good luck, but he does not need it as he has been born with all the gifts he will need to carry the day!
I asked Jordan how he received the funding for all of this as I often wonder how the men and women who do this type of work pay the bills. For sure it can’t be easy. The world hasn’t labeled the starving artist as such without good reason, but Jordan has other methods to obtain funds other than simple crowdfunding. He explained to me in brief, that they had attempted to teach acting for local high school students but that simply didn’t play out. I believe that they will revisit this effort and bring acting to the masses of children who would be thankful to receive their training. Jordan and the members of this troupe are not limited in the imaginative ways they will use to obtain the resources they need to promote their shows.
I believe that so many people do not attend plays around Pittsburgh because they are priced out. In today’s economy, money can be in short supply, and food and bills take precedent overtop of a play, and I see that as a sad thing. If you find yourself able to make it to a venue where the Lamplighter production company has booked their shows, then maybe you might just be able to explore the meaning of a play and see something you just might enjoy at no cost. I for one am proud and surprised by the free offering they have made. In the upcoming week they will take their show to New York next and their finest days have just begun.
The Play “How To Be a GoodPerson™” provided something unique in that they asked for and solicited the audience’s feedback. They express this as a continuous part of the show, or a sort of continuous feedback loop. The members of audience were engaged, and gone had been the immaterial wall that separated the stage from the crowd. They asked the question, how do you define a good person? A difficult question with an even more complex answer. I doubt if they, the actors, know and I doubt anyone can truly answer, but we all do try, don’t we? We all do this in context of today’s society with all of its mad rush at the senses. At times, as the play unfolded, I felt as if I had fallen into a YouTube video and all I need to do to complete my experience would be to click and make everything full screen. I believe they intended this affect and if so it felt, well, peculiar. It definitely allowed us the time to churn through the material they delivered and ponder their meaning and intention.
The show had components of technology as larger than life video of the players would explode upon the screen and then as the actors took the stage there would be moments where they expressed sorrow and scorn at society, and then other times they laughed and sang. Just when you thought you comprehended what would happen next, the troupe would stop, step out onto the stage and engage a bit with the audience. Yet, then an alarm would sound and lights would dim as an explosion of activity would blast through the stage and the cycle would repeat. Perhaps all of this, and so much more created the strange effect it had upon me, but at the least they made the audience stop and think, and if that can be their only claim, then they have succeeded in their effort.
Overall, the show stands out as something different, something new, and unique. Will they change the way plays are done in the future? Will they revolutionize theater? I haven’t a crystal ball to tell, but if they continue to cut new territory and force audiences to look hard at the society we have made then they will do something, and it can only be good thing! There are so many definitions of what it takes to be a good person, but I know one for sure, and that has always been the legacy that you leave when you are gone. I for one, believe that this troupe of actors will achieve such a legacy. Whether they do this collectively, or individually only time will tell.
Performance Date: Thursday, July 16, 2015