So you’re interested in finding out more About Us, eh? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Below you will find all kinds of fun information about our mission, our history, and where the name “Filament” comes from. If you have any questions, comments, or want to tell us a little bit About You, please don’t hesitate to contact us!
The Filament Theatre Ensemble creates theatre in a folk tradition, emphasizing community, imagination, and sustainability.
A Note About “Theatre in a Folk Tradition”
In the words of William Brooke, “The telling of a tale links you with everyone who has told it before. There are no new tales, only new tellers in their own way, and if you listen closely you can hear the voice of everyone who ever told the tale.” Drawing upon these age-old tenets of storytelling, the Filament Theatre Ensemble seeks to tell tales that speak to universal human truths, while celebrating the individual. We strive to listen to those who have told the tale before, celebrate those who tell it now, and reach out to those who will tell it later.
Folk art over time has provided the bones on which different tellers, different eras, different cultures overlay the skin. Whether it is a folk song, folk tale, or another piece of art entirely – it is passed from generation to generation, with each teller leaving his own mark while still honoring the true core of the piece of art itself. The Filament Theatre Ensemble strives to celebrate this culture of folk art in the way we make theatre. We seek stories that celebrate the universal human experience, and allow the influence of the individual artist and our current audiences to shape that story, illuminating what unites us and what makes us unique.
Throughout history, we have used stories as a way to understand ourselves and the world around us; to express the way things were, the way things are, and the way things could be; to share history, culture, and imagination, to spread beliefs and ideas, to build and strengthen our communities. With the continual developments of technology in a ever growing media-driven society, we as a culture are becoming less and less rooted in these oral traditions. Theatre is and always was oral tradition of storytelling for a modern age. It is by nature an entirely human, collaborative art form – a way to share stories in the oral tradition within a modern context. We strive to honor that human connection and collaboration in all the work we do, from inception to production, both in form and in content. To honor these traditions of storytelling, we remain rooted in the traditions of theatre (the use of music, storytelling, commedia dell’arte, Shakespeare, clowning, etc.), but in the context of our current world.
Like Whitman’s spider, tirelessly speeding those gossamer threads until the bridge it needs is formed, we strive to connect with that which came before and that which is around us, so that we may all together be strong and connected as we move into the future.
A Note About Community, Imagination, and Sustainability
These three ideas are inextricably linked to both each other and to the values of the Filament Theatre Ensemble. One cannot build community without celebrating the unique imaginations of the individuals who make that community. Communities are enriched when consumers support locally owned businesses, which is an important aspect of sustainability. We strive to make theatre a sustainable lifestyle for our community of artists, and always provide monetary compensation for their extraordinary and imaginative work. Producing a show in an environmentally responsible and sustainable way demands a great deal of imagination and non-traditional approaches. With all the work we do – whether during a production, audition, meeting, or outreach event – we strive to make an investment in our audiences, our artists, and our world. Through building and strengthening community, engaging and challenging the imagination, and the use of sustainable business practices, we endeavor to leave the world a little better than the way we found it.
Sustainability is a particularly tricky word, and one that gets tossed around a lot these days, so we’re going to take an extra moment here to focus on that word as we mean it. There are a couple definitions in particular that strike a chord with the Filament Theatre Ensemble. The United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development describes sustainability as “meeting the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” and the Center for Sustainable Communities says that “sustainability emphasizes relationships rather than pieces in isolation.”
The Filament Theatre Ensemble ceaselessly ventures to connect with and explore the vast world around us. We value and honor this interconnected web that makes up our relationships with each other and with our world. By emhasizing community, imagination, and sustainability in all our work, we strive to make choices that have a long-lasting positive impact across a broad spectrum, and not just “pieces in isolation.”
As a company that explores personal and theatrical roots, the question of “where we came from” is a difficult one for the Filament Theatre Ensemble. It could be said that none of us would be where we are without the commedia troupes of the sixteenth century or the folks with guitars sharing stories and songs around campfires on the Appalachian trails. But we’re guessing that’s not quite what you meant…
The Filament Theatre Ensemble was unofficially founded in 2006 when then-Northwestern students Mark Barna, Julie Ritchey, Christian Libonati and Reggie Gowland collaborated on a production of A Muse in Love, an original adaptation of Shakespeare love scenes performed outdoors on the Lake Michigan lakefront. The four decided to make their collaboration official and (joined by a fifth founding member, Rebecca Kling) we incorporated as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit company in spring of 2007.
Since then, we have produced five tours, five world premiers, three musicals, and a workshop, and a staged reading. The ensemble has retained four of the five original founders, and has expanded to include an exciting conglomeration of multi-talented artists from all backgrounds and experiences. We are learning new things every day, and look forward to having you along on this journey!
Our Inspiration and Namesake
A noiseless, patient spider,
I mark’d, where, on a little promontory, it stood, isolated;
Mark’d how, to explore the vacant, vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself;
Ever unreeling them–ever tirelessly speeding them.
And you, O my Soul, where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing,–seeking the spheres, to connect them;
Till the bridge you will need, be form’d–till the ductile anchor hold;
Till the gossamer thread you fling, catch somewhere, O my Soul.
-Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass