During times like these, when the value of everything from mortgages to barrels of oil is in question, it is natural for a person like me, who works in the arts, to question the worth of my efforts and the impact of my field as a whole. Certain age-old ironies are not lost on me. For instance, during prosperous times, when we are flush and comfortable, and have more leisure to appreciate our cultural heritage, and more resources to invest in expanding the boundaries of thought and possibility, it seems hard for many of us to imagine that the arts will really change our lives much, if at all. And when the Dow Jones drops and we can really use some inspiration and a little help readjusting to societal realities, along with fiscal ones, when words like “hope” and “vision” abound and the arts regains its footing as a window to truth and a foothold for innovation, we begin to take our investment in them more seriously, despite the fact that resources are scarcer.
As 2008 ends and we look ahead at what will clearly prove to be both an historic and challenging year in 2009, I am profoundly gratified by what the Lark has been able to accomplish in its 15 years of existence—supporting unheard voices and underrepresented perspectives, in the most basic and effective ways, in boom and bust—and proud beyond measure of our team, the impressive and diverse community of artists we serve, and the citizens with whom we engage in our audience. At this critical moment, as we leap together into an unknown future, I hope you join me in feeling good about the Lark’s efforts to encourage artists’ creativity and to dive deeper into new realms of human experience and humanity.
As we look to the future, we are recommitting ourselves to the core values in our mission—creating space for unheard voices and new ideas and preserving a nurturing environment of trust and respect—while turning new attention to promoting innovative partnerships and collaborations here in New York and beyond. With our core mission values at the center of our efforts, we have begun to turn our attention towards connecting the success of the artists we support to the world beyond our intimate community. Because we have established a successful platform for free expression by playwrights, we are increasingly focused on creating a safe and effective space for theater decision-makers to come together in different configurations and form multilateral partnerships that advance playwrights and their plays into a reinvigorated repertoire.
There are two ways we are doing this that I’d like to share with you. First, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded us $500,000 to “create a movement” around three Lark-developed plays: the first is Lloyd Suh’s AMERICAN HWANGAP, with scheduled productions at three U.S. and one foreign theater. Secondly, Lark’s was one of seven proposals selected for Round I of the NEA/Arena New Play Development Program: together with Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis, InterAct in Philadelphia, and Fourth World Theater Lab in Bulgaria, we will commission a work by early-career playwright Aditi Kapil whose LOVE PERSON—also developed at Lark—is a nominee for the Pulitzer.
We are proud of the increased role we are playing in providing access to the arts for artists and the communities they serve, for the space we give our artists within which to grown and thrive, and the impact we are having on society—both through the new repertoire we are helping to develop and through the grassroots engagement of non-theater folks in important “surround” conversations that accompany the development of new work at the Lark. Whether you are a playwright, a theater artist of some other stripe, or a person in another field entirely, we welcome you into our community and hope that you will spend as much time as you can with us in the New Year!
John Clinton Eisner