Indiana Repertory Theatre producer Janet Allen's enthusiasm is contagious, especially when it comes to the upcoming bicentennial extravaganza Finding Home
— a play written by 29 Indiana writers.
"Many years ago, we began commissioning and producing plays that were in some way related to Indiana — be it history, setting, or Indiana writers, for only a few examples. We knew the bicentennial would soon be on the horizon and so we wanted a truly special, memorable event," says Allen.
is the culmination of numerous collaborations and interactions with others — and while we wanted to do something theatrically, we knew how much work it was going to be — so we really went for it," says Allen. "We knew asking only one writer would be a folly, so we approached 50 writers and Finding Home showcases at least 30 of those talented, unique voices."
The writers themselves are not necessarily playwrights either, according to Allen. They are creative writers, poets, journalists, historians, academics, to name just a few types — so it is this "rich soup of folks" Allen says, that forms the foundation of this anthology and brings in something for everyone.
"While the writing is a large part of this show, the music is also a major component," says Allen. Actor and musician Tim Grimm, along with his Family Band, is part of the nightly high-energy-boost, live-performance aspect of Finding Home
. Grimm's brand of whimsy, folksy Americana in the vein of Woody Guthrie includes 12 songs. "It's not just biographies, but there is
a political base and social commentary to Grimm's work, too," Allen says. Grimm's musical topics run the gamut from sweet corn and Ernie Pyle to The Fall Creek Massacre and Indianapolis 500.
It's variety like this that is the secret ingredient to Finding Home
. Allen and others are quite pleased with this. As is Finding Home's curator James Still, who was on the front lines of the production, helping the IRT find their way through the anthology. "James helped us sequence this multilayered quilt, showed how pieces connected, how threads were woven through and how contrast was also apparent," Allen says.
actually has two versions showing at the IRT — the blue production and the gold production. Each version tells different stories and 70 percent of the show is unique to that production. Viewers don't have to see them in sequence, each is a self-contained storyline.
"This isn't sanitized Indiana history, nor is this just an encyclopedia of facts," says Allen. "We asked writers to respond to burning questions of Indiana culture, heritage
and history, and we got it. For example, certain pieces are race-based and even discuss the Klan history and presence. We wanted strong viewpoints from our writers in order to provoke real conversations, so real people can have real discussions. We don't stop there, either. We talk about placement, displacement, immigration, culture, preservation and decimation of natural resources."
The writers took well-known icons and gave them new life, looked at them from a fresh angle; and still, other writers took pieces of the unknown and turned them into revelations.
"We didn't tell our writers how to write about the topics they chose," says Allen. "For example, writer Tom Horan took on the Indianapolis 500 arena and decided to write about Janet Guthrie — the first female driver. Characters, conversation starters and deep reflection is the name of the game during and after Finding Home
According to Allen, much of Finding Home
is a "joyous celebration and other parts are truly hard-hitting insights" meant to surprise and provoke critical thought and responses.