Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The moon is down

Minneapolis's Theatre de la Jeune Lune is officially out of business. Those of us who suffered through their last productions at the A.R.T. are hardly surprised, since without an academic clique like the one at Harvard, there's just not a large enough audience to support their kind of boringly dated "avant" work. It turns out that for years the company had been quietly accumulating a seven-figure debt; last year they produced no new work, but filled out their season (and the ART's) with repeats of earlier productions. There were also the usual purges and internal feuds usually found in these kinds of troupes. The bad news is that Dominique Serrand and Steven Epp are still exploring "ways to reinvent an agile, nomadic, entrepreneurial theatre with a new name that will create essential and innovative art for today’s changing audience.” Yikes.


  1. I'm so disappointed to read your biting take on Jeune Lune's demise. I grew up in Minneapolis and have continued to really value their work as I've grown up. I realize I use the word "value", and I suppose it really does come down to personal taste, but your post leaves me feeling like you've taken a stab at a theatre company built by artists who while might occasionally verge on the hubristic, have still made an active commitment to creating theatre that they believe in. Is that a bad thing? I certainly believe in them, even if some of their productions don't manage to inspire me.

    It seems that some plays work, and many don't. But why on earth would I keep going to the theatre if I didn't believe that something remarkable might happen? I have to offer that hope.

    I'm so glad that Serrand and Epp will continue to work towards building a new home, even if it's one without a building. Maybe something fantastic will happen. And maybe it won't. But why so negative?

    Jeune Lune board chairman Bruce Neary has spoken about the company's collapse and has invoked the poem which inspired the company's name saying: "It's terrible, but if we go back to the Brecht poem, maybe the new moon got old and maybe it's time for a new moon."

    I believe in that. Why not throw a little bit of faith their way? Would it cost you so much?

  2. No, I was not a fan of Jeune Lune. From what I saw of three or four productions, I found them cold, derivative, and overbearingly brandishing a politics that graded rather obviously into narcissism. Their style seemed to be a superannuated variation on what Peter Brook was doing forty years ago, which was itself a variation on what Brecht had been doing twenty years before that. And I simply can't agree that our culture should be replicating the stances of half a century ago; that would be like becoming a member of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, or the ART (which at least has as its excuse that it's promulgating the ossified theories of the academy). So, yes, I'm glad to see it admitted that the Jeune Lune didn't really have that much of a following; it doesn't mean, I don't think, that our local academic avatars will re-align their missions; but it does mean that they've been painted into an ever so slightly smaller theoretical corner. And that's still something.

  3. In the 30 years in which Theatre de la Jeune Lune existed, they supported, respected, and nurtured over 2,000 artists internationally who continue to create challenging, ephemeral, and deeply, profoundly beautiful art.

    They (just like Peter Brook or Bertolt Brecht) believed in a theatre of evolution, of constant change and adaption to the emotional subtleties and cultural mythology of their era.

    They were up against all the financial, systemic, and political pressures to which all idealistic arts orgainization fall prey.

    The founders, who had nurtured the company since graduating from college, had given 30 years of their lives to this ensemble and were ready to move on.

    It has now been a year since Jeune Lune closed and the Minneapolis theatre community has greatly mourned their loss. Many artists who wanted to be a part of what was being created at Jeune Lune now realize that this opportunity is lost forever and that it is now their responsibility to apply what they learned from watching this company's productions to their own interpretations of the theatre.

    I was an intern at Jeune Lune the year before they closed and being a part of their company was without a doubt the most stunningly beautiful experience of my entire life. The ensemble (specifically Steven Epp and Dominique Serrand), completely allowed me into their world; I learned so much about movement and space and timing just from watching them create their art.

    This October, Steve and Dominique are fulfilling their promise of an "agile, nomadic, entrepreneurial theatre" that creates "essential and innovative art for today’s changing audience".

    They will be creating a show at the Southern Theatre in Minneapolis which will weave an epic journey in search of a future into the poetry and lyricism of a single individual onstage. I still don't know how they'll do it. But I can't wait to find out!

    The new moon rises once again.