Updated: Jun 13
Monument was born of a specific vision for not only what we believe theatre should be, but also how it should be done. It is our goal to create substantial theatre that is impactful, relevant, and thought-provoking. We believe in the pursuit of excellence and intend to leverage new works and classic stories together and make it accessible to a new, broader audience, thereby returning theatre to its rightful place in the heart of society. We demand representation - from ourselves as well as our counterparts. We demand quality and seek to create stories that will stand the test of time. And, lastly, we demand honesty in our work - confront the world as it is, with all its warts and wonders. That is the only way we can progress, heal, and connect.
This season we did try to strike a theme, but this won't happen every year. For what we're calling our "first full season" it was important to us that we introduce ourselves to Indianapolis with stories that displayed who we are and what we stand for. In this case, stories that grapple with humanity and oppressive systems, both individually and intertwined. Why did you need to tell these stories, you ask? Because they tell the stories of the world we're living in. The beauty of theatre is its ability to transcend experience, background, culture, and even language to deliver understanding and unity amongst mankind. If that isn't what our productions are doing then we are wasting the opportunity theatre presents.
1984 by George Orwell
"The worst thing in the world is not the rats, Winston. It’s opening that last door in your mind and standing naked before yourself, seeing yourself as you really are."
This is America, a nation founded in response to tyranny. A nation that prides itself in the ideals of liberty, justice, and freedom. Corruption has been ever-present, and it's become increasingly visible in the last few decades.
But now our country has to decide what we stand for, what we will allow ourselves to be, and whether or not we will face the existential threats before us. This is not the speech of a Democrat or Republican, we're far beyond that. Each individual in our nation has to confront what government may be heading toward, and Monument believes that leading with 1984 was exactly the introduction to Indianapolis we needed to make.
With each passing day we encounter growing skepticism on reality. With each passing day we become further insulated and distrusting of those outside us.
Michael Gene Sullivan presented a weaving of past and present that forced us to be immersed in the circumstances of the play. Sometimes that proximity was uncomfortable. The discomfort is because we were facing something so close to the truth.
David Ian Lee was phenomenal in his handling of difficult circumstances as we navigated the various hurdles that come from being new and underfunded. He brought out performances that were as provocative as they were necessary and the audience responded with resounding enthusiasm.
It was an honor enough to have the chance to present 1984 to Indianapolis, but it was overwhelming to see the award nominations for Kim Egan and company member Michael R. Tingley - especially when Kim brought home the win for Best Leading Actress.
"Don't make the mistake, through some irresponsible surge of Christian charity, of talking too much about the advantages of Western rationalism, or the great intellectual legacy of the white man."
A revolutionary piece of theatre if there ever was one, Amiri Baraka's Dutchman is a legendary work that more need to be familiar with. This highly symbolic story confronts in no uncertain terms what it means to be black in this country.
Baraka's ferocious depiction of race relations (in this case, a black man and a white woman) is a clear display of how white society manipulates and shapes the "angry black male," only to persecute him for becoming just that.
Baraka wanted to inflame. He wanted to upset. But more than anything else he wanted us to understand. Without painting the clearest picture of what this system is there isn't a way to identify and truly comprehend it. He needed us to know that the only people capable of fighting and removing systemic racism and injustice are the ones who benefit from it.
Jamaal McCray and Dani Gibbs were remarkable and undaunted by their task. They brought Baraka's bombastic poetry to life with honesty and courage, and we couldn't have been more lucky to have them onboard.
Shawn Whitsell guided this ship with unrelenting grace and a clear vision - without which this play could not have thrived. He also leapt at the opportunities to lead our talkbacks with the audience, a conversation that desperately needs to accompany this piece.
Theatre-goers are mostly white, and while this needs to change, the point was to show them the ways the system works and the ways that they're culpable within it. People of color have been telling us for hundreds of years that they need our help and we've never listened. If they could do something about prejudice they wouldn't still be dealing with it. White people have to take a stand. White people have to know what our role is so we can lead the way in fighting the institution that so unfairly targets our black and brown brothers and sisters.
"As ridiculously, incredibly and unfathomably crazy as it may seem, this is inspired by true events."
Lewis Morrow was an accomplished, successful employee in his field. One day he shows up for work and his boss, a newly promoted white woman, acknowledges his work and importance to the team. To show her gratitude she asked him to lead the office presentation for the visit from their new CEO. The presentation? Lewis was tasked with putting on a chicken suit and "clucking around a bit."
I don't need to explain why racism is relevant. But the above quote is necessary in understanding that this actually happens to human beings. Amiri Baraka wanted to expose the system, but made little attempt flesh out actual human beings. Morrow creates an honest, direct play with characters that possess an entire world within them. He knows why they feel what they feel and understands it. If Dutchman was symbolic, Elephant is human.
If you had the chance to see both we encourage you to think about these two plays as being in conversation with each other. With Max Andrew McCreary taking the reins as Director and company member Kiara Dowell assisting his direction, our team is comprised of local talent that will make their presence felt in a big way. Lewis Morrow has put us in a position to create a moment instrumental in establishing not only this company but the future of theatre in Indianapolis.
Why this season? Because it is important that you know who we are. We need it to be clear both what we are for and what we are against. The stories we tell will share the voices and perspectives of people we need to hear. We hope you will join us in our Revolution.
(Note: Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has afflicted all walks of life in more ways than we could have possibly imaged. Theatre is not immune to this and Monument is no exception. We had no choice but to put the safety of our creative team and audience before all else and cancel our season finale.)