Monday, April 11, 2016

Ensemble Diaries:
TSP Artistic Director Brandon Walker

The Seeing Place Theater is thrilled to announce its 2016 Fundraising Initiative. As a part of the initiative we want you to give you a chance to get to know our members, so we gave them a little challenge. To start, the Seeing Place asked each of its members 3 questions which they could answer via text or video:

1) What is your hometown?
2) What is your dream role?
3) When was the last time you contributed to a campaign and how did it make you feel?

We then asked them to craft a little blog post about what brought them to The Seeing Place and why it means so much to them. We hope you enjoy getting to know our ensemble!


I always wanted to call a theatre company "The Seeing Place" - ever since I learned the origin of the name in a theatre history class I took in college. That's the literal definition of the Greek word, "Theatron." And in society, it was the place that people could go to relate, to see themselves, their own lives, and feel a sense of connection to their humanity. Unfortunately, it would be many years until I actually got to truly see myself on stage when I went to the see a play. Too many times, we leave the theatre impressed, rather than touched. "Entertainment" used to include a sort of catharsis in the early definition of the word. Nowadays, we are left with only the thrill of a good night. In a world where we are taught to be suspicious of others, I want to leave the theatre feeling connected. Theatre provides a necessary empathy to the world. 

Brandon Walker
The first time I felt the impact of humanity in performance was at a New Village Arts' production of A LIE OF THE MIND in San Diego. It was a curious evening. I was strangely unimpressed, and yet I believed everything I watched - the whole ensemble. Nobody stole the show. The actors did not seem to be acting. They seemed to be living. I'd read about this phenomenon with The Group Theatre, but have rarely seen it. And I got to really understand the full story being told. 

I saw a few more plays of theirs and then acted with them a couple of times. Eventually, I began studying with their (then) Artistic Director, and then I moved to NYC to study with his teacher, David Gideon. I expected to find more work like theirs along the way. Certainly, Chicago boasts of some great ensemble work, but it still wasn't the same for me as what I experienced at New Village Arts. And in New York, although I've been privileged to see a lot of wonderful performances and great production values, I've only seen a full production come together a handful of times in my nine years here, and none of those happened with the same group of people. At a certain point, Erin and I knew that if we wanted to have the kind of theatre we loved in this city, we would need to build it. 

Brandon as Hamlet in TSP's HAMLET (2013)
I am privileged to be working with some of the most committed artists in the world. We have an artistic home where we can really play and stretch and do our work. Though it is important to us to share stories and make an impact with audiences, it's not our sole mission. First and foremost, we feed our own creative spirits. We take our time. We challenge one another. We make sure that every actor is there to tell a story that matters to them, and that directly affects our behavior in performance. We work hard in the rehearsal room. And we play hard on stage. We allow actors the freedom to discover how the play is going to unfold every night. The lines are the same. But the behavior is different every night. It's not a wild change. We are telling the same story, the same way. We are sharing what we learned in rehearsal and building on it. But the moments are different. 

Many of our patrons have become numb to the pizzazz of commercial theatre ventures and speak of being refreshed by our work. Our audiences frequently comment that they feel like they lived through something real that was authentically happening right along with us. That's an accomplishment I'm very proud of. What's even better is that those comments frequently turn into deeper conversations about the lives of the people that come to share in our work. Making that kind of an impact is everything. 

As hard as it is to keep a theatre alive in this economy, there is a cultural need that our work fulfills in the world. The average donation to Bernie Sanders is $27. Some people can't afford that and spread the word instead. We are also a grassroots campaign. Any kind of contribution makes a major difference. We don't need backers. We need everyday people that want to celebrate their humanity together with us. Thank you for your time in reading this. And thank you for being a part of our community.


To help create new work with Brandon and The Seeing Place by contributing to our campaign, visit

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