July 28, 2016

Thrashing About in the Woods

A reflection on my journey into Psycho-Physical acting

In the woods of Western Massachusetts lies a retreat center committed to communal living, artistic exploration, and minimizing their environmental impact. It was in this setting that I attended a 12-day acting intensive based on the psycho-physical techniques of Jerzy Grotowski.  The class, entitled “Acrobatics of the Heart”, was directed by Steve Wangh, a professor emeritus at NYU’s Experimental Theatre Wing and the author of two outstanding books (Acrobat of the Heart and The Heart of Teaching).


My decision to attend was a bold one for a number of reasons.  First, I came to theatre through the word.  I love the literature, the language, and the story of this art form.  I’m a writer and a word nerd.  As a director, I’ve already worked to expand my focus into the visual.  But to dive into the body work of the actor was pretty far afoul of my usual artistic path.  All I knew of this technique and its iconic pioneer (Grotowski) came from theatre history classes and textbooks.  I wasn’t personally convinced that physical training had the capacity to connect me to the art in a meaningful way.

I had my share of anxiety as well.  I’m probably not the only theatre artist who would confess that a large part of my path toward theatre included a deliberate avoidance of middle school sports and the giants of the gym.  I found the stage because my intelligence and sense of humor were firm legs beneath me in this arena.  The idea that I might need to use my body to explore this art form I love transported me to the days of dodgeball, floor hockey, and musty locker rooms.  It felt like a violation to let P.E. on the stage. 

It’s also worth noting that this workshop took place at a retreat center that had an entirely vegetarian kitchen.  I am not a vegetarian.  That’s an understatement.  I’m sort of anti-vegetables.  I hate them.  More than I hate musicals or when people say “irregardless”.  So, I knew it was going to be a struggle.  I packed a few pouches of beef jerky like I was smuggling in contraband.


The retreat center was about what I imagined: beautiful setting, dormitory style living, and a lot of unfamiliar rules designed to keep us and our natural environment healthy.  The people were kind and enthusiastic about the workshop and their art in general.

At our first group session, we each introduced ourselves and said a few sentences about whatever we wanted.  The main instruction, was that we were to make sure we didn’t plan our comments in advance.  No thinking about how we’d impress the group while others were speaking.  We each said our name and had to wait fifteen seconds.  It was in those fifteen seconds that we could think of what we wanted to say.  That was a struggle already, but it was such a perfect introduction to kind of presence and in-the-momentness we’d be asked to practice for the next to weeks. 

When it was my turn I said “A friend took this intensive and told me it was transformational for him.  Transformation is a big word, and I’m honestly pretty scared. But I’m not sure if I’m more scared that it will be transformational or that it won’t be.”


In the experimental theatre scene of the 50s and 60s, Jerzy Grotowski was a hugely influential figure.  He called for a physically engaged stage artist and his work was known for its sinewy actors and acrobatic blocking.   That’s about all I knew before arriving at this workshop.

I was interested to see what all the fuss was about, but in those first days, I was what you might call a hopeful agnostic. I had never had a “personal encounter” with the kind of theatre that was being pursued by these teachers and students.  While I might have been one of the more experienced theatre artists at the camp, I was totally green when it came to this psycho-physical stuff. 

After a promising first night of personal connections and open-hearted sharing, the first days of workshops involved a lot of physical work.  My doubts about my own physical capacities were quickly confirmed.  I’m apparently a sub-par undulator.  Despite many assurances that being a perfect physical specimen was not the goal, I still felt like I was the kid who finishes the mile run last in gym class.  Two days of this kind of body-wrenching, unfamiliar work took its toll on my psyche.  It didn’t help that I was barely eating the various green goops that were being served over quinoa or cuscus. Also, sleep was elusive on the tiny dorm bed nestled between not one, not two, but three very loud snorers. 

I arrived on Sunday evening, and by Wednesday morning I had decided that if I had another bad 24 hours, I would leave.  I needed a carrot.  And not the kind they were serving instead of French fries; the motivational kind.  But I acknowledged that you have to move to get the carrot, so I decided to work harder than I ever have on what could be my last day as an acrobat of the heart. 

The physical training primarily consists of specific movements, stretches, and contortions of the body that are designed to be “provocateurs” and “containers” of emotion and imagery for the actor.   The idea is that the physical exertion and the stretching of the body can illicit (provoke) emotional responses within us, and that once those are there, we can use those same movements to embody (contain) the ideas that come to us.  For example, the undulation of one’s foot might elicit a memory of playing in the wet sand on the beach.  This might lead to joy or nostalgia that would inspire the actor, to begin using the hand motions to start playing in the sand, maybe building sand castles.  This may, in turn, lead to memories of a family member, which would lead to physical movements of gathering or embracing for those loved ones we’ve lost or who have become distant.  This can continue on for quite some time.  The physical provokes imagery or emotion, and then becomes a vessel for us to bear and experience whatever is being elicited.  


One of the things I kept hearing the teachers say to their students was “use it in the work”.  When they were frustrated, tired, coughing, or confused, the teacher encouraged us to let those factors impact the way we were working.  This is an interesting aspect of the training because, in my experience it’s entirely unique.  The current dominant strategies for dealing with emotional baggage within the actor fall into two camps:  “Milk it” or “Ignore it”. 

“Milk it”
Many American acting teachers (especially in the late 20th century) encouraged the mining of emotional memory as source material for acting.  Some would even encourage reliving emotional moments on stage in order to produce a desired effect.  “If you need to cry, think of when your dad died.”  As one might imagine, this could lead to a sort of hysterical acting, and then eventually, an extinction of the emotions connected to the source memory.

“Ignore it”
This is the “professionalism model” that encourages actors who are dealing with emotion to “leave it at the stage door”.  It purports that an actor has a job to do, and that job is to pretend. Real emotion should not get in the way.  As you might imagine, this leads to controlled, polished, but often stale performance. 

This idea of provoking emotion and finding a container for it seems an exhilarating middle ground.  Paying attention to emotions provoked by physicality makes the work alive and present, but the capacity to place it in a container and “bear it” gives a healthy alternative to being flooded or emotionally dried up by the overuse of emotional source material.   

On that crucial Wednesday morning, I had my first brush with this phenomenon.  I worked harder physically than I ever had, throwing myself fully into the physical training we had learned.  Sweat was dripping off of me. I was exhausted.  Then, I caught eye contact with another actor in the room.  I was dealing with anger and frustration, thrashing and punching at the air to fight my foes, most of which were internal voices berating me for not being able to understand this work.  And when I caught her eye, I put them all in her face.  I personified my enemies in her and fought her with my learned movements. In response, she gave me a tremendous gift, she didn’t back down.  She fought back. For several minutes we fought our demons by “fighting” with each other.  I worked even harder, pushing my physical limits as my emotions demanded.  It was abstract, there wasn’t any clear imagery attached to what we were actually doing, but I was using my body to both provoke and contain emotion.  It was satisfying and a little thrilling.  What I didn’t know at the time, was  that I just getting started.


In our next session, the director of the workshop, Steve Wangh, led our class for the first time. And it was here that he opened two doors for me into the work.  First, he told us to create our own movements (which are generally referred to as “plastiques”) and secondly, he told us to imagine that we were not in control of what movements we were doing; that an outside force was manipulating us to do these actions. 

It was under these parameters that I had my first full encounter with this work.  Through a series of physical promptings I was led through a series of images that told anew a story I’ve been living for 20 years.  It was extremely moving and revelatory.  And even though it stirred up serious emotion, I found myself using physical “containers” to express what was causing the tears, and to even make new discoveries within the sadness.  I walked away from that session knowing that I had been changed, artistically, emotionally, and maybe more. 


The interpersonal element of the workshop was a bit of a surprise to me.  To be totally honest, I expected to find a strange group of people with whom I’d have trouble connecting.  But I was very wrong.  There was not one person, in a group of 30+ students and 5 staff, with whom I didn’t feel a strong kinship by the end of the camp. 

I have thought more about this in the days since, and I’m pretty sure that what was strange about these people was that they (and I) jumped into this experience with open hearts.  As I learned more about each of them, there were things that I found unusual or very different from my own way of life, but I was already in love with them by that point.  We all shared such tremendous common ground that our differences didn’t matter. We were all artists, vulnerable, striving, and deeply flawed.  The first encounter I had with each person was to look into their eyes with no judgment.  Why did we not find each other strange or annoying?  Because we leaped into each other’s company with our humanity leading the way.  No political parties, religious affiliations, or other dividing labels mattered. We shared meals, living quarters, emotional experiences, doubts and fears, and late night campfires together.  These people tattooed themselves to me with laughter and tears. I can honestly say that this group of disparate folks from all over the continent, of various age ranges, sexual orientations, and world views are my people. It’s a connection like I’ve never experienced outside of my family.  I miss them dearly. 


As a part of the training, we were each asked have a monologue to work on over the course of the workshop.  I selected a monologue from a play entitled Red, by John Logan.  It’s a biographical account of modern artist Mark Rothko.  His paintings are generally large portraits that employ various layers of color.  Rothko’s character describes his work this way in the monologue I selected:  “I use a lot of layers, like a glaze.  Slowly building the image, like Pentimento, until the luminescence emerges and it’s done.” 

One morning, before beginning our morning session, I did what I should’ve done much earlier and looked up the word “Pentimento”. When I read the definition, I began crying (dictionaries do not typically make me cry).  Here’s what I saw:

As I have been doing this work, I find images emerging and they largely have to do with personal experiences and the ways I have changed over the years.  I’ve been painting on this canvas for some time now. There are hints of choices I’ve made (good and bad) in the past, and there are places where I have changed my mind, or circumstances have forced me to choose new shapes and colors.  The definition made me realize that we have one canvas in this life.  We may have a lot of starts and stops, redos, and undos, but we don’t get to wash the canvas. At best, we wash the brushes.  So, I am this painting, with layers of color, and hints of earlier images.  And it’s beautiful.  The changes, the mistakes, all of it.


In the wake of this experience, heck even during it, I was mindful of what I’d bring home and how.  I have not become a vegetarian and will never eat mung beans.  Ever. But there were certainly some poignant takeaways.

Of course, I found a new way to think about acting.  In my classes, I’ll bring some of this work to my actors.  I’m certainly not qualified to teach the material with any sort of authority, but I’m hoping to give them a taste of this thing.  This way of acting that both provokes emotions and gives them an array of vessels to contain them.  To take what’s inside and place it outside so it might impact them and the work. 

Yet, it’s about much more than that.  “Use it in the work” is a metaphor for how to live fully in the moment.  As I go through my life, I hope to be keenly aware of my emotions and how to contain them.  And by contain, I don’t mean, “keep them boxed up.” I mean hold them, bear them.  This mindset is not about working through difficult emotions but to acknowledging them and letting them impact us. 

            For example:
A student wants to talk to me after class:
-       I want to impress him
-       I want him to do well in my class and in his art
-       I am hungry
-       I am behind on my planning for my next class and feeling rushed
-       I am feeling sort of beaten down about university politics
-       I know exactly what to tell this student and I know it will be helpful

“Using it in the work” means embodying all of these internal things honestly. It means leveling with the student and myself. It probably means, scheduling a time when I can make his question and our conversation a higher priority.  And, finally, it means recognizing that I probably need a little self-care to get back to a place of calm and my best self.

On a personal level, as I write this merely one week after our last day, I’m still a bit tender.  As I re-enter a culture that’s so full of political rancor and division, I find myself feeling like an alien in this world.  I have had dreams almost every night that I’m going to have to advocate for the voiceless in my world.  I’ve had dreams about using what I am thinking and feeling in my work with honesty and boldness.  And I’m a bit scared.  When I started this workshop I was afraid that I would be transformed and more afraid that I wouldn’t be.  In retrospect, I think it’s safe to say that transformation has occurred. Now I’m scared that my transformation may start to impact my world, and more scared that it won’t.

May 01, 2015

Top Ten Weird Buck Adventures

We have a rule in our house.  When someone says the word “adventure,” then someone else must repeat the word, but as a whisper.  This is the reverence with which we treat new and unusual experiences.  It can be as simple as turning down a road we’ve never been down or trying the strangest snowcone flavor on the menu. 

From nearly the moment we met, my wife and I have lived by the principle that new experiences, or “adventures” (::whispered:: “adventures”), are the stuff of joy. Nothing is too strange, too dumb, or too cheesy.  In fact, the dumber and/or weirder the experience, the better.   

Here's a video with some pics to give you an idea of what we're all about.  

Weird from Dan Buck on Vimeo.

And for some explanation of some of those... 

The 10 Weirdest Buck Adventures

Towing and Recovery Museum
10.  The Towing and Recovery Museum – This is a thing.  There is a place in Chattanooga that holds the towing industry in esteem usually reserved for policemen, firemen, and revolutionary war heroes. 
I always thought they were mostly the guys who make your car go away when you’re illegally parked, but after an hour in this tribute to the men and women of the towing and recovery industry, I see things differently. 

9. Epic Nerf Gun Battle – In our former home, when we were all packed up and ready to move out, we had nearly 3000 square feet and many boxes to use as bunkers. So we found four nerf guns and fought until we were exhausted. 

8. Terrible movies – Rachel Anne and I have tried to catalog some of the awful films we’ve seen together.  Some of the highlights include Invasion of the Bee Girls, Nazis at the Center of the Universe, and Two-Headed Shark Attack.  It’s not that unique of a thing to do, but our appreciation of the awful as an opportunity for fun probably holds the key to our enjoyment of life.

Our family chalkboard
7.  The chalkboard – When we moved into our new home, my wife repurposed a large decorative
mirror by painting it with chalkboard paint.  We quite organically began a tradition where we take turns adding to a collective masterpiece. As you might imagine with two boys ages 11-13, most of the drawings include a character who is farting.  And I pretend I don’t think it’s funny.  But it totally is.  Every time.

6. The world’s largest ten commandments – This was a road trip to “Field of the Woods” a religious retreat center about 45 minutes from us.  The highlight of the campus is a hillside recreation of the ten commandments created with white stone laid on a grassy slope.  Each letter is roughly 4-5 feet in height.  It’s a sight to behold.

5. Trivia as Blonde Prussian Siblings – Back when we were dating we got on a kick where we spoke in Russian-esque accents which we decided were “Prussian”. We found some blonde wigs (which my self-professed weird wife had in a closet) and we went to compete in bar trivia speaking only in our Prussian accents and referred to each other as Juergen and Ute.  Our team name was Mother Prussia. We came in third.

4. Supersized Ears of Corn – While travelling home from a raod trip to Michigan we used our favorite phone app called “Roadside America” to discover that we were close to a field full of ears of corn.  No, not a cornfield.  A field of six foot, concrete ears of corn.  We had to make a stop.

3. Styrofoam Cup Museum – In a town North of Atlanta, there’s a place called Car City, USA.  It’s a sprawling junk-yard/art exhibit that an eccentric but kindly man has created on his property.  Dozens of cars over miles of trails are arranged, painted and overgrown with trees and wildlife.  However, one of the best parts of the stop is in the large building at the front of the lot.  Car City is across the street from a tasty little eatery where all the drinks are served in white Styrofoam cups.  The owner of Car City started to eat there daily and making each cup a work of art, with a pen, or pencil etching elaborate patterns and landscapes. Apparently, he kept ALL of them and has them on display.  Thousands of cups.  All decorated, elaborately and skillfully.  It’s wonderfully weird. 

Noah's Ark Exhibit (St. Mary's, OH)
2.  Things Swallowed Museum (Noah’s Ark) – Another road trip diversion. This is an exhibit at a regional museum in St. Mary’s, OH.Apparently, there was a doctor who found he was often dislodging or retrieving odd items from townspeople who had swallowed the unswallowable.  For some strange reason, he kept those items.  And for an even stranger reason, they are now on display in this museum. 

Also in this museum is a mechanized, glass-encased moving diorama that tells the story of Noah with various taxidermized birds.  When it starts up, there is music and narration as a birds enter the ark, two-by-two. Truly bizarre and glorious. 

1. Valentine’s Day – I was quite shocked this last Valentine’s Day to receive from my beloved a large red teddy bear in a scarf with a heart pattern.  It was a disturbingly normal gift from my wife.  I looked at her confused, almost a little hurt.  Then, with wide eyes, she handed me the scalpel (Pen knife).  Flipping the bear face down, I saw a scar with rough stitching that would’ve made Dr. Frankenstein proud.  So, I cut into it.  Inside, was… another bear.  And inside that… another, and another, and another.  Finally, I got to a strange figurine of a ferret holding a loving message addressed to me.  It was perfect.  She found a gift that required an adventure to get to it.  Albeit, a morbid one. 

Dressed for Lady Gwendolyn's Bleeding Hearts Ball
My gift to her was equally strange.  I told her that we’d be leaving in two and a half hours to head to Lady Gwendolyn's Bleeding Heart Ball.  It was an event hosted by the “Dark Princess Theatre” company at which a traditional New Orleans Funeral Celebration would be held.  And guests were encouraged to wear their best Goth, Steampunk, or Victorian garb.  It was fun to dress up and to see what people turned up. The event itself was terrible.  The program was neither funny or interesting, but with our attitude toward life, it would have been a success if it were good or bad.  Just for the sake of the Adventure! (::whisper:: adventure)

April 07, 2015

Limerick Apr 7th RESULTS // Apr 14th NEW TOPICS

Results of the April 7th contest are first, to see THIS week's contest (ending April 14th) scroll down .


It was a fun week for our Limerick Contest. Interestingly, all but one of the seven entries were about the same topic.

 The topics were:
• Working for Disney (in honor of Jaclyn, who recently quit the Mouse) 
• Lame April Fool's pranks 
• Verisimilitude 

In a shocking turn of events, no one picked Verisimilitude. I had trouble believing it at first, but it had the appearance of truth. The overwhelming majority went with Working for Disney.

I have to give a couple of honorable mentions. First to Eli, who had this gem:  

There once was a Donald the Duck
Who took Minnie out in his truck
But things got too sticky
When he answered to Mickey
As for work, he is s*** out of luck.

Now, while I want this site to be family friendly, I have to acknowledge that limericks are traditionally quite ribald. (that's an awesome word meaning "naughty"). So, the fact that he placed three of the Fab Five (as they are referred to in the parks) in such a perfectly limerick-esque scenario makes him worthy of a nod.

The second honorable mention goes to Matthew O'Donnell, (whose status as a songwriter with Irish heritage may put him at a distinct advantage), with this little verse:

A comfortable cushion, it beckoned 
'twas the day before April the second 
When I planted my rear 
A rude noise all did hear 
Nary half of the laugh they had reckoned 

This was the only limerick to take on the topic "Lame Practical Jokes".  Not only is the rhyming impressive (Beckoned, second, reckoned) but he stuck precisely to the topic. And also, he used "nary". Well played, Matt.

And finally, our winner this week is Jaclyn!

Though aware I would scarcely be paid
And the "cult" was just short of kool-aid
I would never have went
If I'd known I'd have spent
All my free time with Thomas Kincaid

Her limerick references a part of her story that wasn't known to all. She recently endured the Disney College Program and her roommates were all dyed-in-the-wool Mickey Devotees and would spend their nights off putting together Thomas Kincaid puzzles. That's rough. If painting countless gazebos and country cottages made the artist drink himself to death, just imagine what doing a puzzle of them would do. Too soon?

Anyway, the limerick is an excellent self-effacing nod to a memory now chalked up to experience. Well-played. And as your reward... an unsanctioned conflation (and conflagration) of Thomas Kincaid and a Disney commodity. I give you: "This not the cottage we were looking for".

Congrats to our April 7th winner Jaclyn!

OUR NEXT CONTEST STARTS TODAY!! (Entries due April 14) 

As always, choose one or more of the following topics and submit up to two limericks in the comments on this post.  

  1. The Dukes of Hazzard (in honor of the actor who played Roscoe P. Coltrane - he passed Tuesday)
  2. The coolest of Jesus's disciples
  3. Bad ideas for Broadway musical adaptations (example:  Scabies! The Musical)
Get limericking! 

April 02, 2015

The Return of DBuck's Limerick Contest

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls...

I present to you: 

That's right!  If you love wordplay, comedy, rhyming, or all things Irish, then this is the contest for you! Here's the way it works:

  1. Each week, I will post 3 topics of the week. 
  2. You will compose a limerick on any of the topics.  You may do as many as two per week.  
  3. I will judge the best ones and pick a winner (or two) and award a real fake prize. (Usually something amazing I've discovered on the interwebs.)
  4. Wash, Rinse, Repeat the next week. 
Fun, right?  

Let's get it kicked off shall we?

This week's topics are as follows: (write about one, or multiple topics.  Two limericks per entrant max.) 
  • Working for Disney (in honor of Jaclyn, who recently quit the Mouse)
  • Lame April Fool's pranks
  • Verisimilitude

Now, the magic is up to you.  If you would like to know more about limerick's here is a link to the Top Ten Limericks from the last time I did this contest.  

Happy Limericking,

March 28, 2015

Don't bother "saving theatre"

You've heard the gloom and doom predictions about theatre, I'm sure. They usually sound like one of these:
  • The audiences are all older people, and when they die... no one will come.  
  • Movies are killing live theatre. 
  • The internet is killing theatre. 
  • It's the prices! 
  • People just don't have long enough attention spans.
Some of the above things have some truth to them, but I want to address this idea of "saving theatre."  I think it's misguided.  Me and the internet like lists so I'll make a bunch of vaguely outlandish claims and then support them with my experience or logic.  
(First let me make a distinction between what Broadway is/should be doing vs. nearly everywhere else. Broadway is a behemoth, high cost, high risk market, and what they're doing has little to do with what I'm talking about.  Broadway is largely (but not entirely) a tourist trap where only the shows that are known commodities and which have a very wide appeal will ever be successful.  I'm not really talking about those theatres.  They are in a trap of producing the Big Macs of theatre, and they can't really do much else.  It's not their fault. Blaming them for playing it safe would be like blaming a tight-rope walker for concentrating on balance.) 
1. Theatre doesn't need saving.   
During many periods in history, theatre was the popular form of entertainment.  It no longer is. Let it go.  The dominant form of entertainment will always be 1. the most convenient and 2. the broadest and least challenging thematically.  "Ease of access" and "lacking in substance" will always be the recipe for WIDE appeal.  Examples: McDonald's, Candy Crush, YouTube videos of cats in your FB feed.  It's right there, and it takes no investment of time, money, or thinking.  Theatre used to fill some of those needs, but it is no longer the easiest to access and it's rarely vapid in content.   
Happily, theatre doesn't have to be for the masses. Because things made for the masses are dumb and often bad for the masses.  I am suspicious of any work of art that everybody likes.  It usually means it's too easy to be profound, and too socially reiterative (read: the way things are now, is the way they should be).   
The truth is, theatre has found its place on the artistic landscape.  Poetry, dance, symphony orchestras, and studio art aren't trying to produce the next Marvel superhero movie, so why is theatre looking so hard to be something everybody likes?  Not everyone will love theatre and that's ok.   
Don't get me wrong, I have a considerable evangelical zeal for the art form.  I have spent most of my adult life introducing people to theatre and trying to get them to engage as audiences or artists.  I have just learned to stop bemoaning the fact that I dedicate countless hours to the production and promotion of a play, and most people would rather just watch Netflix.   
But theatre is not going anywhere.  It may not be as popular as it has been, the market may shrink, and there are certainly drawbacks for the artform as a result.  But history has shown us again and again that humanity longs to enflesh its beliefs, big questions, and demands for justice in a communal setting.   
2. The internet and cellphones are neither the destroyers or saviors of theatre.   

It's funny to me that many theatre people forget the words of Shakespeare: "There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so."  The internet falls into this category as well.   
There are those who bemoan its impact on the brains and attention spans of audiences. These are some of the doomsayers who think that there's no way we can make theatre work in a world where people want to check their phones every ten minutes.   
Then, on the other end of the spectrum are those who want to make theatre more like the internet to appeal to the digital generation.  I've seen productions that encourage people to Tweet about the production with a hashtag during the performance and they even project the tweets on a screen throughout the show.  And of course, smart theatre promoters have been able to utilize social media. 
I don't believe that smart phones and Facebook have made us dumber.  I believe that this generation has been brought up to read, process, and synthesize at a much more rapid rate that other generations.  Some would argue that they can't just sit down and read a book well, and that's true for some.  But the kind of "reading" people are doing today is just a different kind than that of the past.  Creators of theatre can certainly take this into consideration, but I think it's a mistake to think that all theatre now needs to feel like 140 character tweets, or 2-minute cat videos.   
As a side note, I think playwrights, directors, and designers will be wrestling for sometime with staging the internet.  It's not something we need to do to stay sexy, but it is necessary because the internet is a locus of culture.  People meet, fall in love, create and destroy on the internet.  We can't ignore it.  But staging it presents an interesting challenge.  I've seen some plays do this well, including dark play or stories for boys and Water by the Spoonful.  It will be interesting to see how future plays take it on.   
3.  It's okay if your audience is nearly dead, as long as your theatre isn't

I see a lot of people bemoaning theatres doing 50-year-old musicals and Neil Simon plays in an effort to get the blue-hair crowd.  And I understand the commercial necessities of producing plays that will fill seats.  The truth is, people just don't come to shows they don't know.  I am a HUGE fan of new work, and would dedicate my work entirely to it if I could. But a theatre without an audience isn't a theatre at all.
So, it's fine to do older plays occasionally, or plays that will appeal to an older audience sometimes, but it must always be ALIVE!  I simply mean, that doing Arsenic and Old Lace exactly as it has been done for the last 60 years might please your blue hairs (and it might not), but it will kill your theatre.  
We must never lose sight of what makes theatre unique and powerful.  We must never be reduced to doing a play that would be just as successful as a movie.  This has a lot to do with how we tell the story, staging, audience arrangement, etc.  How can we make the "aliveness" of the work, the urgency of live theatre, conspicuous and meaningful?  
The best plays, the ones I want to see and direct are the ones that demand to be live theatre.  I want people to walk out of performances I direct saying, "That HAD to be a live experience".  If you could video tape my play and get a pretty good idea of the experience, I have failed.  
Once audiences, new and old, come to trust the work of your company, they'll trust you enough to come see a newer or lesser-known work.
So, do "A Christmas Carol" if you must, but figure out how to make it something special for the people who decided to see your version. Or next Christmas you can bet they'll just watch it on Netflix.  
4.  Let there be theatre on Earth, and let it begin with me.   

For as many conversations as I've had about "the future of theatre" on a national or international scale, exactly zero of those conversations have been with the director of the NEA, or program directors for major theatres like the Steppenwolf or the Arena Stage.  So why are we playing armchair commander, when we are foot soldiers, at best?  Our job is to make theatre, support theatre, and see theatre (oh, and probably to bring our friends). Period.   
Nothing will transform people into theatre-lovers like them giving them the chance to love theatre.   
The future patrons of theatre are in middle schools, high schools, and universities right now.  And I'm not talking about those kids that are destined for the stage.  I'm talking about the DABBLERS!  Dabblers are the future.  I know lots of theatre educators and what I hope they are doing for the majority of kids is giving them the love of theatre. That's it.  Be infectious with your love of the thing.  People will go see a play as adults if they were in that show in middle school, or they read it in high school and loved it.  I know far too many theatre teachers who think they need to be tyrants in order to get hard work and good productions out of their unskilled casts.  I'd rather high schoolers do terrible productions and love theatre, then do great shows but be resentful about their treatment during rehearsals.  
So we need to teach people how awesome this thing is.  Here are a few tips on theatre evangelism:
  • One-on-one outreach works the best. Invite along a friend to a show, especially someone who doesn't consider themselves "a theatre person".  Guilt your friends and family into seeing the shows you are in.  
  • Kids get and enjoy more theatre than you think. Bring them to grown up plays, not just children's theatre.  Most people who love plays were exposed to them early on.
  • Be mindful of "Gateway" theatre.  Don't bring a staunch conservative to a showing of Hair. Don't bring a first time theatre person to a high minded, avant-garde work about suicide.  DO bring people to improv shows to get them exposed to live performance, then follow it up with a scripted comedy.  Then they might be ready for something heavier.  DO start people off with a very fun stuff, or straight-forward stories. Remember for most non-Theatre people STORY matters the absolute most.  If you have become fond of unresolved endings or non-linear plays, you might want to leave your "beginners" at home for those.  
  • Get involved in bad stuff.  No one was a brilliant playwright, director, or actor in their first production. We get better by doing it more, but if beginners keep having doors shut in their face, or being judged as poor quality, they will leave the artform defeated.  So help the local community theatre, give the aspiring playwright feedback on his script. And remember that you sucked once too.  
I'm certain there will be people who disagree with me on a lot of this.  And that's okay.  I have been fighting the fight for theatre for a long time, and these lessons are earned through some success and a lot of failure.  But there's a lot of wild speculation in there as well. Feel free to take me to task on those.  :)