Tectonic Theater Project
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Tectonic Theater Project is an award-winning company whose plays have been performed around the world. The company is dedicated to developing innovative works that explore theatrical language and form, fostering an artistic dialogue with audiences on the social, political, and human issues that affect us all. In service to this goal, Tectonic supports readings, workshops, and full theatrical productions, as well as training for students around the country in our play-making techniques.
Tectonic Theater Project was founded in 1991 by Moisés Kaufman and Jeffrey LaHoste. Tectonic refers to the art and science of structure and was chosen to emphasize the company's interest in construction — how things are made, and how they might be made differently.
Its plays, The Laramie Project, Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, and I Am My Own Wife among others have sparked national discourse and have inspired artists and audiences worldwide.
In the early years of Tectonic, the company staged works by writers who were testing the boundaries of the theatrical form: Samuel Beckett, Franz Xaver Kroetz, Sophie Treadwell, and Naomi Iizuka. In time, however, Kaufman realized that in order to be rigorous about exploring theatrical form, the company had to deal with the issue of text. Thus, he set about writing his first play, Gross Indecency, based on transcripts, biographies, letters, and other found materials about the life and work of Oscar Wilde.
One month after the murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, Kaufman and ten company members traveled to Laramie, Wyoming to interview people in the town torn apart by the crime. The play forged from these interviews was created collaboratively by the members of the company over a long workshop process in which participants were encouraged to operate outside their area of specialization: actors and designers became writers and dramaturgs, directors became designers and actors, and the company uncovered a new way of creating a theatrical event in the form of The Laramie Project.
Tectonic continues to employ these techniques in creating some of the most unusual and innovative works on the American stage.
In April 1895 Oscar Wilde brought a libel suit against the Marquess of Queensberry, the father of his youthful lover, who publicly maligned him as a sodomite. In doing so, England’s reigning man of letters set in motion a series of events that would culminate in his ruin and imprisonment. For within a year the bewildered Wilde himself was on trial for acts of “gross indecency” and-implicitly-for a vision of art that outraged Victorian propriety.
In this smash Off-Broadway hit, Moisés Kaufman turns the trials of Oscar Wilde into a riveting human and intellectual drama. Expertly interweaving courtroom testimony with excerpts from Wilde’s writings and words of his contemporaries, Gross Indecency unveils its subject in all his genius and human frailty, his age in all its complacency and repression.
The Laramie Project
On October 6 of 1998 Matthew Shepard was beaten and left to die tied to a fence in the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming. He died 6 days later. His torture and murder became a watershed historical moment in America that highlighted many of the fault lines in our culture.
A month after the murder the members of Tectonic Theater Project traveled to Laramie and conducted interviews with the people of the town. From these interviews they wrote the play The Laramie Project. The piece has been seen by more than 30 million people around the country.
I Am My Own Wife
Winner of the 2004 Tony Award for Best Play and Best Actor (Jefferson Mays), I Am My Own Wife is the true story of Charlotte Von Mahlsdorf, Berlin’s most famous transvestite, who survived two of the most oppressive regimes of the 20th century, the Nazis and the Communists, in a dress. The play was written by Doug Wright (author of Quills) after gathering hundreds of hours of interviews with Charlotte in the early 90s.
Directed by Moisés Kaufman and created using Tectonic’s devised theater technique, Moment Work, the play was workshopped at Sundance Theater Lab then transferred to Playwrights Horizons and finally to Broadway. I Am My Own Wife is the recipient of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
In 1819, fledgling publisher Anton Diabelli commissioned 50 composers to write a variation on a waltz he had created. Beethoven rejected the invitation, dismissing Diabelli’s waltz as ordinary. He then changed his mind and created not one but 33 variations on Diabelli’s theme.
Why? Why would a composer at the height of his powers become obsessed with such an insignificant little waltz, and build a major work on it? Kaufman’s play weaves Beethoven’s artistic journey with that of Katherine, a contemporary musicologist wrestling to pin down the source of the composer’s fascination with the simple waltz. Deciphering clues left behind in Beethoven’s notebooks and letters, Katherine delves into his compositional process and daily life, finding even greater insight into her own obsession with genius.
Based on Tennessee Williams’ unproduced screenplay of his own classic short, this adaptation from Moisés Kaufman follows Ollie, A young farm boy who joins the Navy and becomes the lightweight boxing champion of the Pacific Fleet. Soon after, he loses his arm in a car accident, and he turns to hustling to survive. One of Tennessee Williams’ most searing character studies, One Arm takes us through Ollie’s Odyssey in a disenfranchised American underworld before the Second World War.
The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later
In 2008, the members of Tectonic Theater Project returned to Laramie, Wyoming to explore how the town had changed since the murder of Matthew Shepard. What they found defied their expectations. The result was a new play about how we construct our own history. This is the continuing story of an American town.
El Gato Con Botas
Gotham Chamber Opera and Tectonic Theater Project joined forces in 2010 to present the United States premiere of Xavier Montsalvatge’s El Gato con Botas (Puss in Boots). In this joyful 70-minute opera, based on the beloved Perrault fable, a sage cat introduces a poor miller’s son to the limitless possibilities of the imagination — and changes his life forever. With its magical score, El Gato con Botas is sure to please children, sophisticated musicians, and everyone in between.
The Tallest Tree In The Forest
The Tallest Tree in the Forest is a play about the life of one of the most dynamic figures in American History – Paul Robeson. Robeson was a scholar, an athlete, an activist, a vocalist, attorney of law, and a celebrated actor of stage and screen. Born the son of a slave, he rose to the heights of fame then saw it all crumble during the McCarthy era as questions of his communist involvement arose. Employing multi-character transformation, monologues, narrative scenes, heightened poetry, and video footage of the era, this theatrical work explores the evolution of Paul Robeson as an artist/activist, his humanity, his courage, his contradictions, and why many call him The Tallest Tree in the Forest.
In Other Media
Tectonic Theater Project collaborated with HBO to make the film based on the play. It starred Peter Fonda, Laura Linney, Christina Ricci, and Steve Buscemi among others. It opened the 2002 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for four Emmys.