Big Damn Heroes

The Illiterite Theatre Manifesto

The rumors are true.  Theatre is dying.  Do not let the optimists tell you different.  Theatre was lured into a dark ally, shot, beaten, robbed and left to… well, die.  And as it fights for every wheezing breath and bleeds from every orifice; playwrights, actors and artistic directors watch their audiences shrivel away and ask:  “Who can save us now?”


We are the Illiterite Theater.

We’re here to help.

But who’s killing Theatre?  Is it film?  Internet pornography?  Television?

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, it is true that my client has been called the idiot box and the boob tube, and maybe it causes myopia and will turn your brains to mush, but is it a crime to be entertaining?  No, ladies and gentlemen, if Theatre is dying; if television and film and pornography are enjoying a greater market share of people’s leisure time it is because those things are entertaining.

Rather than responding to television’s hilarious sitcoms with even funnier plays, Theatre has given us a whole genre set around kitchen sinks, recreating our parents’ shouting matches that we escaped through television.  Where television gave us stories—both short episodes and long serial epics—theatre has fed us plotless slop cooked by too many chefs focused more on process than on product.  Where television writers come back every week with something new and exciting, theatre submits its writers to a long development process wasting years milling the same play through endless workshops and readings until it’s an overworked piece of white bread inoffensive and unexciting to all who taste it.

Theatre has built a shrine to itself and expects its adherents to uproot and migrate there for legitimacy.  Television is everywhere for everyone.  Television engages all of society.  Theatre engages an in-the-know few.

That’s right!  Theatre is killing itself!

“Well, if you like television so much, why don’t you go make television?”

Because we don’t like to drive, you jackass!

More than that, we believe theatre can do all the things television does and one thing more:


Awesome as TV is, it’s just a box, a recording, a moving painting with a good plot.  It doesn’t interact with you.  Television doesn’t love you.

Theatre loves you, baby!

The Illiterite Theatre wants you to be its one and only.  We want to see you in the third row with your video camera ready for our big solo at the middle school non-religious holiday concert.  We want to blow you a kiss after we’ve ripped the tiara off the pageant queen’s head.  We want to take you to the bathroom stall and have our way with you after we close at the Beachland Ballroom.  We want to entertain you and we want you to entertain us.

The Illiterite Theatre believes in the word PLAYWRIGHT.  Play: to have fun.  Wright: a builder.  We are fun builders.

We want to play with different kinds of stories from silly comedies to sci-fi operas and try out different kinds of live entertainments like quiz shows and news-based comedy and we want to mix and match those different genres, piling on the fun like sprinkles and brownie chunks (but no raisins!) at a FroYo stand.  We want to create plays fast and messy so that when our audience comes back next week there will be something new and exciting for them to see.

If that sounds like a good time to you, then we hope to see you soon.  If not, then we hope you enjoy Donevan Victrola’s stage reading of his kind of new play–he wrote it three years ago and it went over really well at the Lost Tribe Theatre Conference in 2010 and had a workshop production at Neverland Theatre’s Tiny Box Festival and he’s really proud of it–The Importance of a Long Day’s Journey into Blaaaaaaaaaaa.

We are the Illiterite Theatre Company.  We’re here to save American Theatre … or kill it trying.

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