Blogging With Brendan
I’ve been drawn, magnetically, to Quincy Community Theatre, and I believe it’s due to the scope of its vision for what a “community theatre” can be: far-reaching, ambitious, elemental, wholly convinced of the power of arts participation to educate and edify. To me, it hearkens back to the foundation of this nation’s regional theatres when it became a federal project— one of national importance— to create hubs of artistic creativity, civic engagement and experimentation. It was in the wake of the Great Depression that the first regional theatres were created to be democratic, populist institutions— a far cry from the elite (perhaps elitist) palaces of live theatre where a single ticket was out of reach of the common man, and a place “at the table” even further away. Your local theatre was your artistic home, and your neighbor’s, too.
I grew up in New England and, prior to becoming a bona fide Midwesterner, worked for many years (and in several different capacities) at the American Repertory Theater at Harvard University. The A.R.T. was my artistic home, and it was a place that never failed to surprise and inspire me each time I visited as a boy. In graduate school and within my career at the A.R.T, I was fortunate enough to have diverse opportunities to express myself as an artist and theater professional– as a playwright, as a dramaturg, as a grant writer, as a stand-in for a child actor (I was 23 at the time). Eventually, I found myself faced with the rather daunting task of developing and leading the A.R.T.’s first education department in its 35-year history. Though I admit I didn’t start my career in theatre by decreeing that “I, Brendan Shea, will one day be an ARTS EDUCATOR,” I quickly discovered that this work is my life’s vocation. To work as an educator in theatre is to inspire and foster, ever so delicately, new artists young and old; it is to guide diverse ensembles to achieve a common artistic goal, one greater than the sum of its parts; it is, most importantly, to unlock an individual’s creative spirit, to encourage it and to value it. There is a fulfilling artistry in that.
As the contemporary regional theatre has grown, transformed and, in some cases, drifted from its populist roots, we now look to the community theatre as the new bastion of truly community-driven creativity. As an artist and educator particularly fascinated by the frontiers of “engagement” in live theatre, it is here that I can explore to my heart’s content; it is at QCT that the proverbial “table” is not only full of community members of all stripes, but it’s built by them, too. Each time I stand in front of a crowd here at QCT, I make a point to address just how blown away I have been by Quincy’s enduring and enthusiastic support for the arts. It’s a testament to how consistently QCT has lived up to its vision of inclusion, participation and the celebration of volunteerism. And yet, our work is never over— and my part has only just begun. As I (attempt) to fulfill the legacy of QCT’s highly-regarded education programming, I look forward to pushing the boundaries of community participation in our artistic work; there is much to explore, and I hope you will join me.
“If you’re going to create a space of vision…of something to move forward towards and something to move forward with, that’s what artists do. That’s our job description. That’s why I think this is the most important time to be an artist.” -Peter Sellars
Head of Education/Director of Student Theatre