Theater And The Absurd

When the whole world seems nuts–when every morning we wake to some bit of news that causes us to shake our heads and mutter “What the f**k are they thinking??”–the arts become even more essential than they are in more normal times.

(And they’re pretty darn essential in normal times. Assuming there really are normal times, rather than times that are simply a bit less harrowing than others.)

I share this bit of non-wisdom as an introduction to a new theater venture in Indianapolis, where I live.

Indianapolis is already home to a thriving arts community, including performing arts;  this new theater company  (full disclosure: I have joined its Board of Directors) will add a distinctive perspective–a feminist point of view.

Summit Performance Indianapolis was established by two supremely talented young women who are determined to produce top quality theatre exploring the lives and experiences of women.

Summit’s focus is threefold: to employ women of diverse backgrounds as playwrights, theatrical designers, artisans, actors, and staff; to create high quality theatre productions centered on social issues of the moment; and to use these productions as springboards to inspire an ongoing dialogue about those issues in the Indianapolis community through performance talk-backs, guest speakers, and town hall discussions.

The company will be housed in the Phoenix Theatre’s brand new, state-of-the-art facility on  the Glick Peace Walk (a key stretch of the city’s widely-lauded Cultural Trail).  Its two founders are among central Indiana’s most experienced theatre artists: Georgeanna Smith Wade and Lauren Briggeman.  Its goals are lofty: Summit Performance Indianapolis not only aspires to be a pillar of quality entertainment and a cultural hub, but also, in the wake of #metoo and #timesup, to serve as a necessary forum for women’s voices.

If you are curious, you can find more information on the theater’s Facebook Page.

Tumultuous times tend to produce new, exploratory arts outlets. Whether that art is visual,  musical or theatrical, it satisfies a very human need to engage with the social changes we are experiencing, and to understand the disruption that comes with the uprooting of the tried and true. The arts are a way we come to terms with the ever-changing world we inhabit; they help us recognize the truths and passions of others–and perhaps more importantly, of ourselves.

At some point–assuming our insane “Commander in Chief” doesn’t start a nuclear war–Americans will become more comfortable with the reality that women and men are just human beings with different plumbing, who should be seen as the individuals we are. Women’s voices, after all, are human voices, some pathetic, some strong, some profound, some wise, some not.

Until very recently, social structures have ensured that females of the species would have very different life experiences than their male peers. Theater is an ideal place to explore those differences and remind us all that–in the wider scheme of things–they were imposed upon humans whose actual differences are pretty superficial. Theater is a place to listen to, and learn from each other–and to internalize those messages.

It will be fascinating to see how Summit Performance develops. To those of you in Central Indiana, I say–stay tuned!


  1. To quote Arte Johnson on “Laugh-In”; “Veeery interesting!” I will forward the site to my writer, producer, director, political activist friend in the San Francisco area who years ago was part of a popular production, “A Glitch In The Glamour” with many requested performances. It dealt with the dangers of women’s fashions through the years; today the accusations that the way women and girls dress invites sexual assaults and rapes point to different dangers; maybe it is time for Ruth and Georgie to update their production. Thanks for this, Sheila.

  2. Well for my part, not being female, even so I found it rather interesting I had been thinking to myself how Art was somehow missing in all this! – we have Satire, we have commentary – but where are the Muralistas? The deep Counter-culture and the art they need to produce? Not just Media via TV, Phone or computer… but face to up in your face ART>? My business was Silver Spider Forge – did a diversity of metalworks practical and artistic – but my foundation was graphic arts – printed of any variety of style – political most definitely and bent on getting the point across. My latest application is putting ‘Trump & Co. for Guantanimo in 2018!’ anywhere I can! not to be a troll, but to provide an artistic comeback to the fascism I see being displayed by my government. The Arts are the heart of revolution! I wish your theatrical enterprise only the best! – Manuel

  3. The Whitehouse and Capitol theater of the absurd has set a very high bar for mostly male centric absurdity.

    Can the women keep up?

  4. Someone should tell Trump that but for a single chromosome and its effects, there is no difference between the male and female of the specie and that such a minor distinction is hardly grounds for discrimination, political, economic, social or for any other such artificiality. My now deceased university professor wife was a big fan of the theater and even performed when younger. Indeed when we retired we considered moving to Ashland, Oregon, home of Southern Oregon University and Globe-like Shakespearean theaters. Theater has had its own civilizing effects upon our human adventure. What would the world be but for the efforts of William Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw et al.? (contra – Lincoln at the Ford Theater in April, 1865).

  5. When I read:

    “Summit Performance Indianapolis was established by two
    supremely talented young women who are determined to produce top quality theatre exploring the lives and experiences of women.”

    this immediately came to mind: the competition from sports, the opiate epidemic of Hoosiers, is often too much for the arts. Our brilliant, world class Indianapolis Symphony usually has empty seats at the Circle Theater. This condition is exacerbated when team games are being played downtown.

    Or, try the Indianapolis Museum of Art and compare its programs with Cincinnati or Toledo. The entry fee here is prohibitively high hence the halls are empty or frequented only by staff or an occasional visitor and there are few or no organized community educational programs as were available in past forgotten times.

    Now these two examples of outreach failure will be joined by Summit Performance quality theatre “exploring the lives and experiences of women.”

    “exploring the lives and experiences of women.”? What about men and children? Visited the Children’s Museum lately? The most captivating eye candy is bursting out of the exterior walls.

  6. I am sooo glad this is happening. I hope you will review Ibsen and make use of his prophetic plays. In fact, I have been dreaming “Ibsen Festival” for decades now but have found no fertile ground to unleash my dream on, ’til now. Good luck!

  7. There once was a time in Indianapolis when the masses (the working class and the poor) had free access to the Art Museum and, during the summer, the Symphony through a program called Symphony in the Parks. People without the means and sometimes without the inclination were exposed to the rich culture the city was once known for. Now it is all about the money, one’s social status and, of course, keeping “those” people out.

    The divisions in this country began at home when so-called civic leaders turned the reigns over to the elites of Meridian Hills and Hamilton County. Shame on them.

  8. “The arts are a way we come to terms with the ever-changing world we inhabit…”

    That is so true when by arts you mean common, ordinary, everyday art. To characterize great art the statement would have to be amended to read something like:

    Art is the way that great artists lead the world we inhabit.

    Here is a brief outline of the explanation why that is so.

    One: Great artists provide the visual hints that lead philosophers to new movements.

    Two: Philosophers lead academia to spread the word of new movements.

    Three: Academia leads society’s leaders to put movements into practical use.

    Four: Society’s leaders shepherd the rest of us in adapting ourselves and our institutions to the new movement…until the next round of movements is initiated by the great artist.

    Note: The lag between initiation (step one) and completion of the cycle (step four) may sometimes be a century or more.

    Example: Picasso unveiled the first full paradigm of cubism, which is visual art’s complete model of the theory of relativity, “Les Demoiselles d’Avignonin”, in 1907. Einstein, a philosopher of science, introduced academia to his theory of relativity in 1910. And it is easy to see the sequence play from there, and to see that relativity’s completion of the fourth step is still a long way away.

    Abstract expressionism, became an influence on philosophers between the two world wars. Its image of being rebellious, anarchic, highly idiosyncratic, emotional, and, some feel, nihilistic inspired movements in music, psychiatry and government. The Me-first generation is a philosophical direct descendant of Jackson Pollock, as is Dr. Spock and his baby book, as is also former Representative and Presidential Candidate Ron Paul.

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