This fall we produced the New York premiere of On the Shore of the Wide World that the New York Times raved “is a stealth heartbreaker that has shaped itself into patterns of profound poetry…”
This holiday season, playwright Simon Stephens reflects on what makes Atlantic special to him.
There is no more important room in New York City, in my opinion, than the hall of an old Parish House on West 20th between 8th and 9th. It was built in 1871 for St. Peter’s Church. Since 1991 this gothic testimony to the grace and age of Chelsea and the Meatpacking District has been the home of the Atlantic Theater Company and the stage for hundreds of new plays. And just down the road is its gorgeous Stage 2 Theater and, in my opinion, this is the second most important room in New York.
Some people may consider these claims to be outlandish. I think they’re wrong. Some people may consider new plays to be an indulgence in this city. I think they are its lifeblood. In a time of difficulty some may consider drama to be a distraction. I think drama is a compass, a means of navigating through unfathomable difficulty.
It is no coincidence, I think, that the culture that first gave us democracy and law also first gave us drama. The Ancient Greeks realised that both law and democracy were built upon certainty. It is not possible to vote a little or for something to be a bit illegal. But to be human is to be defined by contradiction. The Greeks realised that there needed to be a public space to explore and examine the mess and the contradiction of being human. For the Greeks, and for every civilisation for the past two thousand years, this space has been the theater. Without the theater, the Ancient Greeks believed, it was impossible for democracy to thrive. Without drama democracy atrophies. If we don’t commit to telling our stories as truthfully as possible the stories will be told by the liars.
Now, more than ever we need spaces to explore what it is to be human. More than ever we need to engage in that exploration together with other people, people we may have never met before or have little apparently in common with, people we may even disagree with, and we need to look in the same direction as each other.
There is no theater company in New York, in my experience, with a stronger commitment to tell stories that are honest and truthful and explore, fearlessly the contradictions and chaos of humanity than Atlantic. In my experience of making theatre in New York, they are quite unique. Over the past five years, in their productions of Bluebird, Harper Regan and On the Shore of the Wide World they have made me feel like I have found a home in the city. New York City needs Atlantic Theater Company and Atlantic needs your support. No art form has ever thrived without the support of patrons. From the Renaissance through the Dutch Golden Age to the explorations of modernity no artist has been able to tell the truth fully when dependent on the vicissitudes of the market. Artists need to be able to take risks. Because telling the truth is risky.
If Atlantic is to continue telling the truth as fully as it dares it needs to be able to work in an environment that allows it to take risks. Those risks are impossible without patronage. So as our year comes to an end and the Festive season comes upon us I am writing you a letter from a pen pal across the Ocean to ask you to consider making a donation to Atlantic. Your donation will empower the company to continue to risk telling the truth and continue the risk of supporting the writers most committed to that ancient exploration of what it is to be human. It matters. I think it matters very much indeed.
– or –
Call Anna Frenkel at 646.216.1087 to make a gift by phone.
Mail a check to:
Atlantic Theater Company
Attn: Development Department
76 Ninth Avenue, Suite 537
New York, NY 10011
Pictured: Artistic Director Neil Pepe and Simon Stephens at the first rehearsal of On the Shore of the Wide World. Photo by Ahron R. Foster.