Morgan Green + Milo Cramer
Theater artists Morgan Green and Milo Cramer (NYC) will cross-examine the jury selection process, in which strangers are exposed to communal scrutiny towards an unknown fate in JURY DUTY, a celebration of our most theatrical democratic ritual. In this stuffy room sans electronics, the execution of justice is tied to your own personal myth, your experiences, your biases, and the sincerity with which you confront them. It’s long; bring a snack.
BAC Space Resident Artist
Morgan Green is a theater director and co-founder of the Brooklyn-based company, New Saloon Theater Company. Recent credits include The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe (Marin Theatre Company), Cute Activist by Milo Cramer (The Bushwick Starr), The Music Man by Meredith Wilson (Sharon Playhouse), Far Away by Caryl Churchill (Sharon Playhouse), and Minor Character: Six Translations of Uncle Vanya at the Same Time (The Public Theater).
Morgan was the Associate Director for Amelie, A New Musical on Broadway, directed by Pam MacKinnon. She is a New Georges Affiliated Artist, an alum of the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab and Williamstown Theater Festival Directing Core, and a 2014-2015 Bob Moss Directing Resident at Playwrights Horizons. She received the New York Innovative Theater Award for Outstanding Directing in 2017.
Milo Cramer is a playwright and co-founder of New Saloon Theater Company. His plays include Cute Activist (The Bushwick Starr/Clubbed Thumb), Apology Circle (Ars Nova PlayGroup), Business Ideas (Mabou Mines Resident Artist Program), William Shakespeare's Mom (The Brick, Ars Nova AntFest), I'm Miserable but Change Scares Me (Lincoln Center Directors Lab, The Brick), and Barnes and Noble Open Mic (developed at SPACE on Ryder Farm).
With New Saloon, Milo co-created Minor Character: Six Translations of Uncle Vanya at the Same Time (The Public Theater, The Sharon Playhouse, The Invisible Dog). Milo is an alum of the SoHo Rep Writer/Director Lab, and under commission from Playwrights Horizons.
BAC Story by Elliot B. Quick
Morgan Green + Milo Cramer
January 9, 2018
Every day in courthouses across the country, thousands of potential jurors are asked a similar litany of questions. Transcriptions of the process pass from court stenographer to an online database, and into the hands of Morgan Green and Milo Cramer, two Brooklyn-based theater artists.
Green and Cramer spend three weeks in a rehearsal studio collaging those words and recording their own performances of the transformed texts. On one November afternoon in that same studio, those recordings are played into the ears of actors, who speak the text in front of an audience. Performance. Transmission. Transformation. Performance.
In the American justice system, voir dire (French for “to see to speak”) is the process by which a judge interrogates a jury pool in order to learn of their potential biases. Green was fascinated by the process when she was called for jury duty and sat for voir dire, watching a room full of strangers share some version of themselves in an experience that is mandatory, coldly bureaucratic, and intimate all at once. Though she wasn’t selected for the jury, she describes the experience as life-affirming: “I felt like an individual. I felt like a citizen.”
Cramer was similarly excited by the inherent drama of voir dire. He describes it as like striking “formal gold,” providing the pair with a compelling, prefabricated structure through which to interrogate both the ideals of the American judicial system and its failings. What’s remarkable about their work thus far is how much voir dire rhymes with the act of making theater: a process of truth-seeking in which individuals perform themselves in miniature in a high stakes environment.
In their workshop presentation, Robert Johanson stands at a table, speaking the text of the judge: “No one is here to judge anyone as a person,” he says directly to the audience, arousing that often-divisive dread that this might be one of those Audience Participation Shows. Eventually, LaToya Lewis, who sits in the front row while her face is live-streamed onto a television, begins to speak the collaged text of all the potential jurors, preserving the inaccuracies and failures of the transcription process: “I think that the inaudible. I think it all comes down to high inaudible.” Though the presentation is simple, faithful to the voir dire process, whatever truth was revealed in the original courtroom may be just out of reach.
On the other side of their residency, Green and Cramer point to the balance of audience participation as their most pressing decision point. They both admit that they tend to hate audience participation: “Your defense mechanisms go up,” says Cramer. In one of their presentations, Green describes watching an audience member sitting behind Lewis who saw his face appear in the live video feed and slowly shifted in his seat until he moved out of frame.
And yet the questions they’re asking about how audience participation works its way into their piece also most clearly parallel the questions they’re asking about the justice system: To what extent is participation mandatory? What is at stake when one participates? What are we honest about and what do we hide when we perform ourselves to a room full of strangers? “Maybe what my preferences and tastes are in theater go against what this piece needs to be,” says Green. “We’re open to that.”
Elliot B. Quick is a dramaturg, producer, director, and educator who received an MFA in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism from the Yale School of Drama. He has worked as a Literary Associate with Playwrights Horizons, Yale Rep, and Page 73, and as an Editorial Associate for The Civilians’ Extended Play. As a freelance dramaturg and director, his work has been seen at the Sharon Playhouse, the Under the Radar Festival, the Invisible Dog, Ojai Playwrights Conference, The Access Theater, The Fisher Center at Bard College, and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. He currently teaches at the Maggie Flanigan Studio and at SUNY Purchase College.
Photos: Maria Baranova, Diana Mino