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A Place to Put Your Pretzels

Equity in the Arts

video by Jacob Wilhelmi

Last week, The Lark kicked off the 2015-16 season with our annual Potluck event, which gathered many of our core artists and community members to hear about what we will be bringing to the table in the coming year.  The group heard from a number of speakers, including staff, board members, community partners, and playwrights in residence, about their exciting and upcoming work.

First among the presenters was The Lark’s own Andrea Hiebler, Director of Scouting and Submissions, who spoke about our upcoming Playwrights’ Week festival, which features seven plays selected through Lark’s Open Access Program from a record breaking 1,300 submissions. 

Following Andrea was Keith Josef Adkins, playwright and Artistic Director of The New Black Fest, who we partnered with last year on plays that, in Keith’s words, “support complexity, diversity, authenticity.”  We could not be more thrilled to announce the continuation of a partnership with TNBF this season. 

No less exciting was our collaboration with The Apothetae, a theater company dedicated to the exploration and illumination of the “Disabled Experience,” and its Artistic Director, Gregg Mozgala, who stood next to speak about his hope to create a multi-year fellowship focused on the promotion and development of disabled writers.

Finally, Bill Martin, co-chair of the Global Exchange Task Force, spoke about the importance of the Global Exchange Programs at The Lark, and why collaboration across borders is essential to the artistic community.  “Cultures are going to communicate whether they want to or not, and what the world needs more of is the skill of communicating,” said Bill.  “It’s all about artists…what they’ve experienced and how the rest of the world can experience it.”

But before the toasts and speeches, of course, came the food, and our guests proved to be just as talented in the culinary arts as in the theatrical.  The spread bordered on metaphorical in its abundance and diversity, piled high with guacamole, plantains, fried chicken, sushi, pizza, and even a box of Insomnia Cookies.  It’s possible the truth would outweigh the schmaltz in the statement the table was a testament to the kind of good that can come from collaboration.

But the highlight of this year’s Potluck, outshining even Arthur Kopit’s olive bread, was the sense of inclusion felt around the room.  At the top of our program, when Lark Managing Director, Michael Robertson, noticed a couple of latecomers hovering in the doorway, he immediately sprang up and started pulling extra chairs from behind the studio’s big red curtains.

“This is the Lark!” he shouted, “Everyone’s in the circle.”  And they were.  Playwrights, actors, the odd architect, directors and audience members alike were represented.  Even Baxter, the nighttime doorman for the building, snuck in for a piece of cherry cheesecake.   

As Mary Hamilton, recipient of the Jerome New York Fellowship for 2015-17, rose in front of the impressive group to speak about her role at The Lark, she expressed a playful annoyance towards Lloyd Suh, Lark’s Director of Artistic Programs, who had asked her to say a few words at a “small, intimate potluck dinner.”  But while Mary may feel she had been misled, Lloyd had at least been right about the intimacy of the event.  Despite the size of the crowd, the group was entirely familiar in their passion for new and vital work by unheard voices.  As Michael put it, “There are no strangers here.”

Perhaps the speaker who best articulated what it’s like to engage in the space and community at The Lark, was Hansol Jung, a past participant in Playwrights’ Week, and one of this year’s Rita Goldberg Playwrights’ Workshop Fellows.

“I like, live here,” she said, as she shifted next to her chair in a white sweatshirt that read “Awesome.” Hansol praised our “nappable” couch and our set of lockers (a repurposed prop from our BareBones staging of Dominique Morrisseau’s Skeleton Crew in 2014).  “It’s really nice to have a place to put your pretzels.”

That sense of comfort, of feeling at home, is the feeling that we want everyone who enters our space to have.  Throughout the 2015-16 Season, Equity, Access and Inclusion will continue to be at the center of our mission here at The Lark, and in that spirit, we invite and encourage you all to come see a reading this year!