Wednesday, May 31, 2006

mid-week thoughts

Working like a lunatic this week, two shows opening at PS 122 next week (both of which every one of you will come to early with nine friends in tow, I trust) and beginning work on the stage adaptation of Midnight Cowboy which I just got hired to direct at the Edinburgh Fringe in August. Hot, frantic, strange few days.

A few thoughts on this League:

Some folks have talked about a physical site being important, a venue with rehearsal space, maybe a place with more than one stage. I like the idea, naturally, but every physical space eventually evolves into a clubhouse with some people on the inside and others knocking at the door. No way around that. So I think a physical location is important, in fact, some actual office space at the very least is essential, but thinking broadly, how about an organization that as part of its mission works to create new spaces, working with realtors, donors, merchants and politicians? Organized sweat equity, long-term neighborhood preservation or neighborhood development, etc. That's one concrete thing the League could work towards that no other organization I'm aware of has as a stated goal. And it's something that makes success verifiable, at the end of a year you could say this much square footage was created or acquired for small theatre artists, these many new affordable rehearsal halls were built, this many performance spaces were found.

Riffing off someone else's idea in one of the comments, how about an organization that works with local colleges and universities to train and place administrative, technical and creative interns with small theatres? So it's not just the random eager or not-so-eager kid hanging around getting in the way, it's someone who's gone through a process familiarizing her with the environment and even the particular Off-Off or indie theater she'll be working in. Same wing of the League could work to organize those sought-after group sales with a theater class that can make an iffy early Wednesday show into a solid, rowdy audience.

And another goal is to work consistently and ferociously with the local, state and federal government to preserve the cultural eco-system of which we are the key. Simple recognition of that fact and recognition that it's an organized community, not just a lot of individual artists, is the first step towards financial support of that community.

What do you think?

Come see the shows. Midnight Cowboy onstage, that's pretty strange, right? And most importantly, who's got free rehearsal space for me on Friday and Saturday afternoon? And a couch for Americana Absurdum.


Scott Walters said...

Working with colleges to create internships: love it! Absolutely. Get somebody to donate an apartment or two for them to live in, and it gets even better.

Office space: sure, an actual space delivers legitimacy, in some way, but given the price of real estate, is it necessary? With Web 2.0 in full swing, with blogs, wikis, podcasts, and Skype, why not have a virtual office? Have an on-line staff, fully wired, all over town. In addition, have an on-line think tank drawn from crazy thinkers from around the US, all coming up with schemes.

Good luck with the shows -- wish I could see them!

John said...

Virtual office certainly makes sense on a financial level. I'm really intrigued by the second part, an online think tank, where field studios, position papers and the like could be generated.

Tim Errickson said...

John, in terms of space, it seems like two orgs might be of interest to you: chashama and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Both have programs in place to take unused space and make it available to artists.

Break legs with the shows

JR Hooker said...

So, obviously, this whole space idea is great. That's what's needed. Rehearsal space is a wopping part of anybody's budget. As far as I'm concerned, performance space comes with a whole host of problems and there are available spaces in the city to perform. Sure, they're expensive, but if you cut costs by keeping rehearsal costs down and you find a space that minimized the head aches that comes with having your own space...

So, rehearsal space. LMCC and Chashama are great, but they're not the answer. They are by application, temporary and nether are exactly ideal working conditions. What John's talking about I think is far more grassroots and has to do with dealing with the Real Estate world directly, and bipassing the not-for-profit sector. If this is a possibility, I think that's a must for this League.

The company I work for, Big Dance Theater, had free rehearsal space for years from Jed Wolentas, Duke of DUMBO. It was great, but also nerve-wracking because he could kick us out at any time. And he eventually did, with about a week and half notice. But it shows that it's at least an option. I, however, don't have a clue as to how to get that particular ball rollling.

I also really like the idea of banding together to prove the collective worth of the independent theater community to local, city and state agencies.

Virtual office space? Cool idea. We all do it to some degree, I think, but I'm not sure it solves any practical producing problems. I love me a think tank, of course, but I think this League should be more about the practical issues facing independent theater artists in New York City.

Ann said...

I'm thinking that instead of focusing soley on college theater programs for interns/ volunteers/ administrative folk,we should open it up to other theater-friendly areas. I think the cross-pollination of ideas alone would be worth it, would open up new perspectives and really act as a shot in the arm. That's the joy in creating this from the ground up - we can design it to look like nothing else ever has, which makes sense because we want it to work differently than anything that has come before it.

So the interns don't necessarily have to be 20 year old theater students - although they would of course be welcome, and, in fact, neccessary. I think we might find support from some untapped areas - perhaps adult creative writing classes, or art studios...even book readings and, of course, theater audiences. We need to put the word out that this organization is being formed, and that word needs to reach people with an artistic bent - people who support and thrive on the arts, and may not ever have realized that they could be part of making live theater happen until we showed them how.

IdWizard said...


Don't have any free space but can get you cheap if you need it.

As far as working to get this thing off the ground - I'm in. Also, something else to mention...

Fractured Atlas, the fiscal sponsorship umbrella org, and I have working to get that Arts lottery/raffle thing off the ground. We plan to announce it soon with the first drawing in November at their annual benefit. More on this as it develops, but this might be something to include in this thing.

And Scott - How are ya? Long time no talk...

Ann said...'s another thought:

We could approach a school - I'll use SUNY Purchase as an example - and explain our organization, mission and business plan, and let them know we're looking for interns to assist. But rather than a small internship program focused on theater students only, we would also be looking for interns from other disciplines:

Business school students to assist with administrative duties, marketing and theater management.

Journalism and English students to assist with press releases and public relations.

Political science majors to work on granting and agency relations.

you get the idea...

And the benefit to the school is not only that their students are gaining concrete experience, but that the theater community itself is being strengthened, which in turn creates more opportunity for the theater students who graduate from their conservatory program.

And don't even get me started on the synergy prospects that exist if a relationship with a school allows us to tap into their corporate supporters, their alumni, the parents of current students...

Jamespeak said...

Sounds priddy cool. Good luck with the shows...not sure if I can see them (up to my eyeballs in preprod with Nosedive right now), but I'll try.

Now if only I could find 9 people to say they'd be friends with me. Sigh...

John said...

I agree with Mr. Hooker there that the primary focus should be on practical improvements of the field, but I also think Ann's impulse to begin a conversation with a university could prove extremely fruitful. And to keep it focused, might be smart to start with one school, build the model and then reach out to other schools.

The think tank idea doesn't solve any immediate problems, but it's sticking in my head. It's a way of keeping a focused conversation going on a national level and there's a particular value to something that doesn't operate under a deadline. An organized dream-catcher, an idea bank, a scheme farm where little schemes can quietly grow.

brent said...

This may or may not be wildly off-topic, but as an example of how I've seen it work in another discipline, check out
the Brooklyn Artists Gym

It is geared more exclusively towards the visual arts, but I think that the founder, Peter Wallace (an old theater prof of mine, actually), is coming from a place similar to that of the proposed League.

brent said...

This may or may not be wildly off-topic, but as an example of how I've seen it work in another discipline, check out
the Brooklyn Artists Gym

It is geared more exclusively towards the visual arts, but I think that the founder, Peter Wallace (an old theater prof of mine, actually), is coming from a place similar to that of the proposed League.

brent said...

Inadvertent double post. Go Blogger go.

Anonymous said...

Brent, Nan here.
Unfortunately your could not be found.

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