This past weekend I had the opportunity it participate in something truly incredible. Indianapolis hosted the American Theatre Critics Association Conference (ACTA) and critics from all over the country made their way to our fine city. From San Francisco, CA to New Haven, CT the critics came; many had never been to Indiana before and had no idea that we had such a wide variety of cultural events available. This conference was a chance to widen perceptions about how our city is viewed throughout the country.
The driving force behind this event was Indianapolis Business Journal, led by Arts and Entertainment editor Lou Harry. A lot of work went into pitching and organizing this conference. Every detail from the food to the transportation had to be worked out and dozens of schedules had to be juggled to fit in as much as possible, but the result was a smashing success. Attendees enjoyed local food from Yats, Ralston’s Draft House, Shapiro’s and the Rathskeller. They traveled from Mass Ave to the Pyramids and from Carmel to Fountain Square. In the span of only four days the critics had the opportunity to drink their fill of Indianapolis and despite a strange spring blizzard; even critics from South Carolina hung around for the final events on Sunday night.
One of my favorite aspects of the weekend was watching the different organizations and theatres work together to accommodate everyone. There was a sense of camaraderie as Indy put its best face forward. There was a huge and varied selection of events offered to the conference attendees; including plays performed by the Phoenix Theatre, HART, Acting Up Productions, NoExit Performance and Indiana Repertory Theatre, musicals by Beef & Boards and Actors Theatre of Indiana and a concert at the Palladium. There were panel discussions at the Indiana Historical Society and a modern dance performance by Dance Kaleidoscope. There were trips to the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library and the Eiteljorg Museum and so much more.
(Fringe Panel at IndyFringe)
Between all of the events there were a myriad of questions raised and discussed. One of the most interesting: why do Broadway-caliber performers and set/costume/lighting designers choose to live and work in Indiana? A panel featuring notable Hoosiers in the arts responded, illuminating the issue with their personal experiences. Each one had unique reasons, but a common theme was trying to find balance in their lives. Living and working in Indiana allowed them to spend time with their families and enjoy their community while at the same time finding creative fulfillment. They also agreed that there are joys and challenges to being an artist that you will find no matter where you’re working. With the wonderful work available in regional theatre, you don’t have to go to New York City to find a great role.
One conclusion that was unanimously reached was that the Indianapolis community does support the arts and the artists in its midst. From the money raised to save the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra to donors who sponsor individual artists, Hoosiers are willing to step up and put their money where their mouths are. It will always be a struggle and the arts remain underfunded. To maintain such diverse offerings of cultural events we have to get out and buy tickets or attend exhibits to show our support.
(The Lyons at the Phoenix Theatre)
I think people in Indianapolis often don’t realize the immense number of options available at any given time. Sometimes tickets are $50, but other times there are $10 matinee tickets or cheap seat night, etc. You just have to be willing to look for them. Theatre groups like IndyFringe are breaking new ground by providing a home for original theatre in Indianapolis and there’s always something interesting on its schedule!
On the right side of this blog there is a long list of theatres in the Indianapolis area. If you haven’t heard of one or just haven’t checked it out in a while I would encourage you to visit a few of the sites. Don’t assume you can’t afford tickets or that there isn’t much going on. If we don’t support these organizations then they won’t be around for long.
I hope it’s a reminder to all of my fellow Hoosiers to make sure you get out and enjoy the city as much as possible. If people are willing to fly here from all over the country to see a show, then it’s certainly worth you making a trip downtown to do the same!
Photos Courtesy of Crowe's Eye Photography, the IBJ, Zach Rosing and Melissa Hall