By Robyn Linden
Boston is wonderfully saturated with arts organizations, as well as with diverse and dedicated students across many theatre arts collegiate programs. From Cambridge to Jamaica Plain, our town is buzzing with productions, events and education. As a recent graduate of Emerson (December 2008), I have felt continuously inspired and exhilarated by the sheer amount of theatre happening around me. However, I have found the chasm between being a student in a theatre program and being a graduate and new member of the professional community to be quite wide. Many of Boston’s local theatre companies have had years to grow and take shape and, for a new young professional, the experience of encountering these lauded organizations can feel much like standing at the entrance to the Prudential Center looking up, up, up. A flood of questions arises: How do I get in? Where do I start? Will they even notice me? Where do I fit in amongst these established organizations?
Happily, the small theatre scene is largely comprised of young professionals volunteering time and talents to produce, produce, produce. Doing Marketing work with 11:11 Theatre Company and the Small Theatre Alliance of Boston has allowed me to play an active part in the presence and energy of small theatre all over town. Busy as we fringe companies may be, though, it’s hard to ignore the divide between our work and that of the bigger companies’. We hope they’re aware of what we’re up to, but we have a hard time actually connecting to them without applying what little time we have left to volunteer as interns and ushers.
Enter: the Boston Theatre Conference. In years past the conference has been held in August a little ways out of town. This year, though, the conference will be held in February right beside Boston Common, making the event more highly accessible. The conference committee’s efforts to begin the conversation months ahead of time through the Boston Theatre Conference blog represents an open invitation for practitioners of all backgrounds and levels of experience to share in the exploration of home grown theatre. I know I’ll be attending the event to listen, learn, and count myself in as a member of our lively, local community. I do hope to see other students and young professionals participate as well. We may not have years of experience producing professional theatre, but what better way to continue a theatre education than to explore the growth of our community alongside those who have steered it for many decades? Unless, of course, the conversation stops there.
While I look forward to the event, I hope it won’t be the only catalyst for deepening the relationship between companies of all sizes and individual artists of varying levels of experience. Can we use the momentum of the conference to create opportunities beyond February to partner and learn from one another? SpeakEasy is printing their history piece by piece throughout their programs this season, illustrating their evolution over time and proving that fledgling Boston artists can cross the great divide to achieve professional standing. How can we smaller groups learn more from the trials and tribulations of our larger, more seasoned colleagues? By attending open rehearsals and seeing how their productions are born? By taking seminars on budgeting and scaling up logistically? By inviting the movers and shapers to our industry night performances (hoping they have the time to come) and asking for constructive feedback?
I hope the upcoming conversations about our home grown theatre scene will lead to new opportunities for communication and discovery. I hope to see the possibility of mentor/mentee relationships between the folks who have fought hard for seasons and those of use who are desperate for the chance. If we’re truly home grown, we have to work together to sow and nurture the seeds of our art.
About Robyn Linden:
Robyn will be directing the upcoming world premiere of Her Red Umbrella for 11:11 Theatre Company. You can follow Robyn’s blog at, Arts Marketing A-Musings.