I am enchanted. And from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for giving us this piece.
—Evan Katz, Playwrights Horizons Theater School student
Studying a Civilians play for class? This section contains ARTICLES about the company and our shows, a list of RESOURCES that can help you investigate the subjects of our plays. We’ve also put together information about our working methods.
We’ve put together some of the articles written about The Civilians and our plays. If you want critical reviews of our productions, click here, or visit individual show pages. These articles focus on the way we make work, and on the work itself.
• About.com: "Investigating the Human Condition—then Putting it Onstage: The Civilians’ Steve Cosson," by Angela Mitchell. April 14, 2011.
• The Drama Review: "Discovering What We Don’t Know: An Interview with Steve Cosson of the Civilians," by Sarah Kozinn. Volume 54, Number 4, Winter 2010.
• Stage Directions: "Social Work," by Garrett Eisler. September 8, 2008.
• Theater Communications Group National Conference 2007: "Artistry in a New Century: Creating and Producing the New American Musical Theater." Transcript (video also available) of a panel discussion featuring Steve Cosson and Michael Friedman, among others. 2007.
• American Theater Magazine: "Hot, Hip and on the Verge," by Nicole Estvanik. December 2004.
• The Civilians Anthology: Introduction, by Steve Cosson
• The Civilians Anthology: Foreward, by Oskar Eustis
• The Civilians Anthology: Introduction to Canard, Canard, Goose? by Steve Cosson
• The Civilians Anthology: Introduction to (I Am) Nobody's Lunch, by Steve Cosson
• American Theatre Magazine: "Acting in Good Faith," by Mark Blankenship. July/August 2007.
• WYNC’ Culture Page:The Civilians has partnered with WNYC to create a number of web episodes with material related to Tales from My Parents’ Divorce.
• Sarah Lawrence College, News: The Civilians worked with Sarah Lawrence students while in residency at the college.
• EMC Arts: "The Innovation Lab for the Performing Arts: The Civilians." This is a report from The Civilians participation in the 2010 EMC Innovation Lab. It provides insight into the kind of strategic thinking we've engaged in as we continue to grow. 2010.
• The Civilians Anthology: Introduction to Paris Commune, by Steve Cosson
• New York Times: "When News Events Are Retold Onstage," by Jason Zinoman. December 7, 2010.
Interested in keeping with any of the topics we’ve covered in our shows? Here are some blogs, books and other resources from people writing about the issues.
• La Commune Photographiée: [Ouvrage Publ. à L'Occasion De L'Exposition La Commune Photographiée, Présentée Au Musée D'Orsay Du 14 Mars Au 11 Juin 2000], by Quentin Bajac. Paris: Éd. De La Réunion Des Musées Nationaux, 2000.
• Paris Babylon: The Story of the Paris Commune, by Rupert Christiansen. New York, NY: Penguin, 1996.
• Paris During the Commune., by William Gibson and Helen W. Gibson. London: Methodist Book Room, 1985
• Pages from the Goncourt Journal, by Edmond de Goncourt and Jules de Goncourt. Tranlated and edited by Robert Baldick. London: Folio Society, 1980.
• Revolution and Reaction the Paris Commune 1871, edited by John R. Hicks and Robert Tucker. Amherst, MA: Univ. of Massachussetts, 1973
• The Red Virgin: Memoirs of Louise Michel, by Louise Michel and Bullitt Lowry. Edited by Elizabeth Ellington Gunter. University, Ala.: University of Alabama, 1981.
• ¡Satiristas!: Comedians, Contrarians, Raconteurs & Vulgarians, by Paul Provenza and Dan Dion. New York: It, 2010.
• Paris Incendié, 21-28 Mai 1871: Exposition-dossier Sur Les Incendies De La Semaine Sanglante Réalisée à Partir Des Fonds De La Commune De Paris, by Didier Rolland, Laurence Goux and Sylvie Gonzalez. Saint-Denis, France: Musée D'art Et D'histoire, 2002.
• The French Revolution of 1870-1871, by Roger Lawrence Williams. New York: Norton, 1969.
• The Atlantic Yards Report: Norman Oder’s watchdog blog provides commentary and analysis on The Atlantic Yards development.
• Brownstoner reports on Brooklyn real estate, renovation, and other tangentially-related topics.
• The Campaign for Community-Based Planning blogs here. They discuss issues related to planning, decision-making, equity, social justice, and public participation.
• Curbed NY: Real estate blog.
• Develop Don’t Destroy is a coalition of community organizations opposed to the Atlanic Yards development.
• Gowanus Lounge is a Brooklyn-based blog about anything at all. They often cover real estate and other topics.
• No Land Grab: More reporting on the Atlantic Yards project, plus a great list of other blogs about the issues around the development.
• New York for Sale: Community Planning Confronts Global Real Estate, by Thomas Angotti. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2008.
• Brooklyn Was Mine, essays by Emily Barton, Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Lethem, Dinaw Mengestu, Darin Strauss, and others. Edited by Chris Knutsen and Valerie Steiker. New York: Riverhead, 2008.
• New York Calling: from Blackout to Bloomberg, edited by Marshall Merman and Brian Berger. London: Reaktion, 2007.
• Brooklyn by Name: How the Neighborhoods, Streets, Parks, Bridges, and More Got Their Names, by Leonard Bernando and Jennifer Weiss. New York: New York UP, 2006. • Block by Block: Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York, by Timothy Mennel, Jo Steffens, and Christopher Klemek. New York: Municipal Art Society of New York, 2007.
• Making the Invisible Visible: A Multicultural Planning History, by Leonie Sandercock. Berkeley: University of California, 1998.
• Norman Street: Poverty and Politics in an Urban Neighborhood, by Ida Susser. New York U.S.A.: Oxford Univ., 1982.
• The Incorporation of America: Culture and Society in the Gilded Age, by Alan Trachtenberg. New York: Hill & Wang, 1991.
• A Covenant with Color: Race and Social Power in Brooklyn, by Craig Steven Wilder. New York: Columbia UP, 2000.
• The Rough Guide to Climate Change, by Robert Henson. London: Rough Guides, 2011.
• The End of Nature, by Bill McKibben. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2006.
• Millennium, Messiahs, and Mayhem: Contemporary Apocalyptic Movements, by Thomas Robbins and Susan J. Palmer. New York: Routledge, 1997.
• The Tapir's Morning Bath: Mysteries of the Tropical Rain Forest and the Scientists Who Are Trying to Solve Them, by Elizabeth Royte. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002.
HOW WE WORK /
The method we use was derived from an interview method originating with the Joint Stock Theater Company in London, taught to the company by Joint Stock Member, director Les Waters. The method has evolved a lot since the company first started working, but a lot of the practices at its heart have been consistent through the years and the different projects.
If you’re starting from scratch, it’s important to find a topic that is really intriguing to you: people are saying lots of different things about one issue, or reacting to a particular event in a lot of different ways, or behaving in a way that seems surprising to you. Ask them about it! Ask lots of people about it!
Originally, our artists would interview people, not write anything down, and then take notes about what they remembered from the interview later. This forced a close listening from the interview subject as they also took in personality and broader mannerisms. Interviewers had to catch on to the heart of what the interviewee was saying in order to recreate it later on. However, for more recent shows (beginning with This Beautiful City), artists began tape recording the interviews as the subject matters involved enough controversy that an exact replication of a person’s words (and the recorded backup to prove it) became necessary.
People are talking in lots of places on blogs, tv, in the paper be sure to follow the current conversations that are happening about whatever topic you’re working with; there may be something you can use there (with any necessary permission, of course)!
Here are some tips for the interviewing process:
Come up with a specific set of beginning questions for each interview: When asking everyone you interview the exact same set of questions, you inherently develop a cohesiveness to all of your material. After this initial set of questions, the interview can and should wander far and wide, but you have immediate comparison material. For instance, with This Beautiful City, every interview began with, “what is an Evangelical?”
Be very clear and polite. Tell your interviewee in advance what you’re working on and what it is about them or their experience that has made you want to talk to them. Always thank them for their time and for sharing with you!
Try and ask open ended questions. Something that will lead to a story, rather than a yes or no answer.
Let the answers lead the questions, which is also to say, practice active listening! If someone says something you don’t understand, ask them more about it. If something seems weird or wrong to you, try to get more information sometimes if it seems wrong at first, it’ll have some greater insight at the heart of it.
Resist the temptation to verbally react to what they’re saying. Let the interviewee go on and on if they want to. We’ve found the longer people talk, the more likely they are to reveal something new and unexpected.
Be respectful. What people are saying might be different or even opposed to things you might believe in, but don’t fight with them! The goal is to gain a better understanding of those differences, and is not at all to convince them of something you know, you think, or you think you know.
Don’t feel like you have to get the whole story. If there’s stuff you feel like you’ve missed, you can always ask them again later; you may get a completely new story.
And finally, don’t forget to test your recorder.Click here to download a PDF of this article.
READ OUR PLAYS /
There are a number of ways to get copies of Civilians shows. You (or your school library) can order a copy of our anthology from our store. The score of Gone Missing is also available as part of the independently published version of the script.
Just need a sample? We’ve provided script excerpts you can download.
If you are interested in performing a Civilians show, you must first acquire the rights.
We’ve explained it all here.