Decomposition Instead of Collapse: A Response from Jacob Padrón

Editor’s note: This essay series is by and for the theater community, and hopes to offer regenerative, communal thinking in the face of industry changes. We are providing a brave space for artists and administrators to focus on creating present and future solutions out of, or beyond our past [perceived] failures. This series builds upon Annalisa Dias’ essay Decomposition Instead of Collapse: Dear Theater Leaders Be Like Soil, originally curated and published by Rescripted and Nothing for the Group. To mirror the mycelial intent of this series, we decided to expand our collaboration and partner with 3Views, amplifying this content on multiple platforms. All editing for this series is done on a voluntary basis, and we offer a small honorarium to our writers for their perspectives. We encourage you to support/donate to our platforms so we can continue this important work. Thank you to Stephanie Ybarra, Lauren Halvorsen, and Annalisa Dias for being originating thought partners in this work. [This series is published in a commons with 3Views on Theater, Rescripted and Nothing for the Group, and you can read this content on any of our platforms for maximum amplification.] 

A Response to Annalisa Dias from Jacob Padrón, Artistic Director of Long Wharf Theatre:

I’m writing to share my deepest gratitude for your recent article in response to the  challenges we’re facing as a theatre community. I’m grateful for your invitation to adopt new “lenses” that allow us to think about this time in our history as one of new  beginnings, new discoveries, and new sunrises. To let go of fear, is to make room for  imagination. I wish more of us could illuminate this collective journey – the transformation of the culture of our organizations – with more questions than answers. When we lead with courage, we create a theatre of possibility, and we make better art. We must keep centering the thing we do best: building worlds, bringing people together, and telling essential stories. 

Long Wharf Theatre was recently interviewed for a national news story about our new  chapter. The reporter sat down with me and Kit Ingui (our Managing Director) and one of the first questions he asked was how we were managing the “crisis.” He pushed us hard on this, crisis this and crisis that. I pivoted and shared: the American theatre is facing a crisis if we’re trying to maintain the status quo, but we’re in a time of evolution if we’re imagining a new collective future. 

Your powerful essay offers us a new way forward with clarity, optimism, and possibility. When Long Wharf Theatre made the bold decision to leave our building and embrace  our new model, the resistance we felt from the community at large was swift and intense. The press reframed the narrative, and some blamed me personally for the challenges we faced, ignoring that many of those challenges were inherited. I’m sad to report that many people, including some of our most loyal supporters, have left us. I don’t want to be a savior, nor do I want to be crucified. I want to be in partnership with my community, city and region, to strengthen a Long Wharf Theatre company for all. I’m left with these questions:

Can we strengthen a theatre company that makes boundary-breaking art?

Can we strengthen a theatre company that makes room for the next generation?

Can we strengthen a theatre company that inspires, deeply, day in and day out?

Can we refashion our relationship to failure?

Can we embrace the unknown?

I want us to say to each other: I see you, keep going.

To manifest this vision, to your point Annalisa, we need everyone! 

More than anything, I want our community here in New Haven to give Long Wharf Theatre a chance. A real chance to do something new that builds on our history of innovation. 

What if a theatre company is the place where you come to be a “world builder,” where you get to practice how to be in relationship with others who are different from you, and imagine a better world together? 

I implore everyone to come on this journey with us. We are not letting go of what came before. We honor that legacy, and we make room for new legacies, new ideas, new ways of working, and new stories to tell. As I’ve said many times to those who have been coming to LWT for years: this can still be your “home.” Please join me in creating bridges to those who never felt welcomed. 

We must let go, breathe new air, let the rain bring renewal, and center an abundance mentality without fear.

I hope others pick up your call, Annalisa, with wide open hearts and minds. At Long Wharf Theatre, we continue our path forward with the hope that people will join us for a once-in-a-lifetime journey. 

With admiration, 

Jacob Padrón
Artistic Director
Long Wharf Theatre

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