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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

More Q&A with Synchronicity's Rachel May

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Rachel May, artistic director and, for the moment, sole full-time employee of Synchronicity Theatre, continues a discussion about the company's mission and its current hard times.

What do you think has been Synchronicity’s most controversial show so far?

Probably My Name is Rachel Corrie. She’s such a flashpoint. It’s interesting that people can be so violent in their response to her. Even if you don’t agree with her going to Gaza, she did so out of a sense of right and good. In the new production, it’s interesting to see her refracted through the experience of Beth, and how one woman’s experience is refracted through the community. I think we handled it in a way that engaged the Jewish community and the Jewish press, so we were ahead of the controversy. We had talkbacks every night. I remember one night, we had two Israelis in the house, one pro-occupation and one anti-occupation – that was intense.

Why have you revisited Women + War?

The goal of Women + War was always to take it on tour. We’ve been working toward that goal for five years. When knew it was too long and unwieldy for that in 2005, but the first time was so much about getting it done and open. We didn’t have as much time to refine it. Two years ago, got a grant from the GA Council of Arts to rewrite it., and then a grant from the NEA for this launch and touring production. In process of setting up the tour when the recession hit, so we had a lot of potential places drop out, but we may do some this spring and hope to do more in the fall.

Do you think Synchronicity’s hard times are typical for theaters in the current economic climate?

I think it’s extremely typical. I don’t know anyone who’s not going through similar stuff. I don’t want to speak for others, but I’ve had conversations with other Ads who have similar experiences. Funders are pulling back; but others are stepping up, even though they have less money to give. Nobody knows is if the Georgia Council of the Arts is going to be there. Some individual donors remain unscathed, most haven’t.

Frequently people equate theaters with their productions, but a lot of times that’s just the tip of the iceberg. How much of Synchronicity’s work is plays, and how much is classes, community outreach and that sort of thing?

I’d say 75% of our time and effort is producing shows, and 25% is engagement, but now that we’re producing less, it’s more like 60/40. For example, currently we’re working on a symposium of everyone we can find who works with youth, so we can create a placement program for girls we work with in Playmaking for Girls. There are a lot of groups who work with girls, but not much coordination between them. We want to create an easy-to-use network so we can say, “Hey, we have a girl who wants to create a drama program in East Cobb,” and find people who can help her. We’re also holding workshops about how to deepen people’s theatrical experiences. I want to get out to target communities and talk them, to ask “What do you need?” I’m interested in the place where art and activisim and ‘social work’ come together.

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