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Thursday, April 15, 2010


I have recently been enjoying the 1970's BBC series The Good Life (later re-broadcast in the U.S. under the title Good Neighbors.) In fact I just finished watching the fourth series, including the Christmas special and command performance before the Queen. (I just earned a new slacker merit badge.)
For those of you who are not familiar with the show, the premise is this: On his fortieth birthday, Tom Good (Richard Briers) decides to exit the corporate rat race and focus on becoming totally self-sufficient. He and his plucky wife Barbara (played by the adorable Felicity Kendal) dig up their backyard to plant vegetables and begin keeping livestock - much to the consternation of their good friends and next door neighbors played by Penelope Keith and Paul Eddington. Over the course of the series, Tom and Barbara grow their own food (with a bit of surplus to sell for things like water rates and tractor petrol), make their own clothes and even generate their own electricity - all to great comic effect. (You should really see it. It's all available for streaming on Netflix.)
Funny, then that - just hours after watching the final episode - I should come across this project on the Theatre Communications Group website about an equally plucky theatre company that also looked to the agricultural industry for a new way of life.
Borrowing an idea from Community Supported Agricultural organizations, in which an advance investment is made in return for crops at harvest, patrons are able to financially support the cultivation of a new play in Stolen Chair Theatre Company's season, complete with periodic previews and progress reports (in the form of elbow-rubbing social events.)
While nowhere near the level of self-sufficiency that Tom and Barbara Good could boast, it is certainly an intriguing idea and a new way of thinking about community involvement. It certainly offers something more to patrons than just their name on the back page of a program from yet another all-too-familiar production.

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