Turkey Lurkey, Goosey Poosey

You know what I'm thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day...? A whole shitload of stuff...

I'm thankful for all the amazing artists I get to work with show after show, the smart, talented, fearless, humble artists who follow me into one ridiculous adventure after another. Sometimes I wonder why it is that our actors trust me as much as they do. I think it's partly that New Line is 23 years old and I'm almost 50, so I've sort of "earned" it. But it's also because I think our actors know that I have their back. They can tell how much I believe in them, how much I love watching them work, how much they are the center of our work.

You can do a show without sets or lights, but not without actors.

But I also get to work with some amazing designers who do wonderful work for us, show after show, and amazing musicians, who handle some of of the most complex music ever written for the stage, and I'm very thankful for all of them. It thrills me every day that our art form is evolving and changing, but that also means that playing the Next to Normal score is about thirty times harder than any Rodgers & Hammerstein score. Thank god we work with first-rate musicians.

I'm thankful beyond words for New Line's audiences. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to put together wild, weird, mind-blowing musicals for audiences who will rise to any challenge we throw at them, who go on one adventure after another with us, who trust us, who come back season after season, even if they don't love a particular show, because they know we'll always give them a hell of a ride. I recently posted on our Facebook page a question asking "What's your favorite show you've ever seen at New Line?" To my great surprise, we got about 25 responses, naming about 20 different shows. If that many different shows are people's favorites, that means we're really doing something right. It means our work really speaks to and connects with our audience. It's so thrilling to see an entire audience leaning forward during Night of the Living Dead, or hear an entire audience burst into laughter during "Girl, Can I Kiss You with Tongue" in Cry-Baby.

I'm so thankful for all the institutions that keep us afloat: Washington University for letting us use this theatre space for ridiculously low rent; and our funders, the Regional Arts Commission, the Missouri Arts Council, and the Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation, among others.

And I'm deeply thankful for all the people who donate to New Line, who believe so much in our work and our philosophy that they're willing to give us their hard-earned money, to invest in our work. These people know how important art and storytelling are to our culture, and they genuinely believe in us. It's humbling.

Maybe most of all, I am sooooo thankful to all the brilliant musical theatre artists who write these brilliant, fearless musicals we produce. We're so lucky to be able to work on shows like Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Next to Normal, Bukowsical, Night of the Living Dead, Passing Strange, High Fidelity, Cry-Baby, bare, Spelling Bee, Love Kills, and so many others.

If I step back and look at the Big Picture, what I'm most thankful for is that the experiment that is New Line Theatre has worked. We prove every season that our art form really is more adventurous, more fearless, and more exciting than it's ever been before. We prove that art doesn't have to be bland or "commercial" to connect with audiences. We prove that musical theatre is as serious and as versatile an art form as any other. We prove that audiences love being challenged, that they like surprises, that they don't just want to see the same shows they've been seeing for the last fifty years, that in the end what audiences want most is not to be placated or reassured or coddled but to feel a connection.

Everything that I argue in my books and here on this blog, about this new Golden Age of musical theatre we're in the midst of, about the end of the last remnants of the Rodgers & Hammerstein era, about why today's work is so much cooler and more exciting than what came before, all of that is being proven true season after season by New Line and its audiences. I'm truly grateful that I live right now, in this amazing, thrilling period in our art form, in this incredibly pivotal moment in our national history, and that I get to see all this happening from the inside.

I think it was just a happy accident that my artistic life and this new era in musical theatre lined up so perfectly, that I was itching for more at the same moment that some of the art forms greatest artists felt that same wanderlust. We started New Line in 1991 and this new Golden Age arguably started that same year, with Sondheim's Assassins. We don't get any credit for this fundamental paradigm shift in our art form, but we were in on the ground floor.

Every once in a while, when I'm having a bad day, or I'm worried over New Line's bank balance, I stop and remind myself that I have the best job I could have ever imagined. I get to collaborate with artists at the very forefront of our art form, the men and women pushing us forward, taking us to whole new worlds of musical storytelling. Back in 1991, could any of us have imagined a show like Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson or Floyd Collins or Passing Strange or Hedwig and the Angry Inch?

The people writing all these incredible, original new shows are my heroes, and I am so very, very thankful that they live in this time and place and that they make great art for us New Liners to work on.

Happy Thanksgiving! And thank you, St. Louis!