Archive for category Boston Theatre Experience

Theatre Hero Joyce Kulhawik Loves Boston

I LOVE BOSTON and have ever since I first arrived  here at age 17 to attend Simmons College. The only city I ever really knew before then was NYC. So I’ll never forget driving into Copley Square with my parents, looking around, and saying, “This is cute- where’s the city?” And they said, “You’re in it.” Little did I know that this small but resonant place would reveal itself to me in rich layers over the years. My whole professional life has grown as has the cultural life of this complex town. You might say we grew up together.

The first production I ever reviewed on television was MY FAIR LADY at the METROPOLITAN CENTER (now THE WANG) starring Rex Harrison in 1981!  And of course there were a handful of homegrown shows– SHEAR MADNESS at the CHARLES PLAYHOUSE welcomed me onto their stage and I raced back to the station barely making my nightly deadline. I remember THE LYRIC STAGE when it was tucked into an attic on Charles Street, so cramped a space, our camera and crew could barely fit without becoming part of the show. There was the beginning of the AMERICAN REPERTORY THEATER and its new Artistic Director–fresh from Yale and his famous student Meryl Streep– Robert Brustein; he invited all the critics for lunch at THE HARVEST in Cambridge to get acquainted and welcome us into what would become one of the foremost regional theaters in the country. THE HARTMAN THEATER hosted Jane Alexander and Tammy Grimes as they played Ibsen and Saw respectively; shortly thereafter, the witty Michael Maso arrived with the wonderful HUNTINGTON THEATRE CO.

I am amazed at how many people in this community have stayed close to those roots like me: Karen McDonald who sprang from THE NEXT MOVE and later blossomed at the A.R.T. Spiro Veloudos who roamed the ramparts of THE PUBLICK THEATRE and landed at the now-expanded LYRIC STAGE; Sandra Shipley whom I first saw at BOSTON SHAKESPEARE CO. back in 1981, who continues to resurface, most recently at the BCA.

We now have, despite the harsh climate (even harsher after Obama’s latest budget cuts) a thriving, variegated, homegrown theater scene with companies large, small, grand, modest, fringe and experimental fleshing out every corner of the city. I am so excited by the new Calderwood Pavilion, the Paramount, The Modern, and The Opera House which I remember when it was still encrusted with scary things and haunted with possibility. And I am still intrigued by the tiny, mysterious spaces where companies like WHISTLER IN THE DARK spin theater out of thin air.  Spring is in the air, and yes, I am still here looking toward the sun, very happy to take my seat in the dark waiting for something to sprout.

To learn more about Joyce Kulhawik visit her blog Spontaneous Acts of Joyce

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What is a Successful Boston

By Daniel Berger-Jones
I envision achieving success like reaching the top of a giant mountain. Let’s call it Mt. Everest, since I’m prone to hyperbole anyway. The goal is the Top. But in this business, if you succeed wildly and fly to the Top, you lose your personal life and any hope of being normal again. Or possibly, you OD on a fistful of pills you needed just to sleep because you’ve driven yourself insane. That’s if you succeed. And if you fail, you feel like you’ve been rejected and you suck. So, I have to ask myself constantly “What the hell am I climbing towards, here?”
Some of us are in this business for recognition. Some of us even hope for fame. Whether we’d like to admit it or not, the need to be paid attention to is probably a driving factor behind almost every artist (you, dear reader, being the exception).
Some of us can’t figure out how else to express themselves. Some need an escape.Some of us are just geeks, in it for the stories, the possibility of being King Arthur one night, and Claudius the next. Some are hoping for the commercial that goes nationally viral and earns us the kind of financial security we’ve always dreamed of. But how does Boston fit in for anyone’s path to their personal Top?
There are certainly bigger markets, so in my mountain metaphor, Boston should be, what?  Base Camp 3? The place where people who almost made it to the top of Everest look up at the peak longingly, setting back down the mountain to nurse their frost bite? This is certainly one way of looking at our city. I have a different way to look at it.
First, that we are not on the same mountain as the larger markets. We are K2. We are a different mountain, with different, sometimes harder obstacles. We are fewer. Which means every show must count. Our audience must be blown away, or they will leave, and so will our good artists. The only way to keep good artists here is to offer a higher quality of art than the markets with more to offer fiscally. That leaves it up to us as a community to push each other to make better art. Not just better–the best.
We’ve accepted mediocrity in our theatre for too long. Our standards are just now beginning to rise to the level required of a theatrically reputed city. It is our job as a theatre community to evaluate everything, our own work as well as that of others, with a constructively critical eye. If something is good, but not perfect, let’s try it again, and do it better. With one misstep on a mountain like K2, you tumble towards a pummeling death. Mediocrity, for me, is the pummeling death of theatre. Boston, marvelously, is beginning to aim for perfect, not just good.
Until we achieve perfection, though, and have Grade A product to offer, one possibly difficult truth to swallow is that we are not a financially profitable theatrical town. A company hoping to make money in this town should move to Mt. Everest. We cannot gamble with the ratio of price to good quality art. We cannot skimp on actor, designer, or producer salaries. We cannot skimp on rehearsal periods, or costumes, or props. We’re not a big enough town yet. We need to be a family.
Every company working together can make the intelligent, young, eager population of this town crescendo into a proud theatrical community, and not just another town with several spattered audiences for one theatre at a time. If the price of better theatre is fewer productions with longer rehearsals and more expensive tickets, we have to eat the losses in the name of a greater cause. Someone has to stop thinking about money and start pushing for emotional, gut-punching, change-my-life-in-a-second theatre. Once we do, the audiences will give money of their own accord, just to see more. Theatre funded purely by donation, free of admission charge, can be the future if the product is perfect every time.
I think that the acting community in Boston is already aware of all of this, and is slowly figuring out how to evolve into K2, Mt. Everest’s bad-ass counterpart. The really gut-wrenching tragedy and side-splitting laughter is poking its nose through the snow.  I see at least one production a year these days that does it to me. We are close, and I will stay on this mountain until I can look down and see a brand new view of the world below.
Daniel Berger-Jones is an actor and founding member of Orfeo Group

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Whistler In The Dark’s Meg Taintor Talks About Community

I talk about community a lot. About getting artists and lovers of art together and starting conversations about the work that we’re doing: how it is, what it needs, how it could be better.

In fact, last summer, I was being interviewed for a preview piece in the Globe about the Small Theatre Alliance of Boston‘s upcoming FeverFest and the reporter interrupted me at one point to tell me that all my talk of “getting the community together” and “getting the conversation going” wasn’t actually going to make it into the final piece that she would run, because it felt too touchy-feely. Which is odd, right? That the idea of community-building and talking about the work being done in that community has the faint smell of patchouli attached.

I didn’t end up giving her that much more to work with, because what has always excited me about FeverFest and what excites me about the Alliance itself is that very idea: that something crucially important happens when people who make art in a city come together in a room to talk about and support the art being made. And that the conversation that starts in that room continues into other rooms and other theatres and takes on a life of its own.

True to her word, not a sentence about that idea made it into her article.

But I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. I grew up outside Boston, coming to shows in the city throughout my childhood and teenage years, but I hadn’t lived in the area since high school. So when I moved back to the city and founded Whistler in the Dark Theatre six years ago, I had no community here: I didn’t really know anyone. And I’m kind of pathologically shy about meeting new people, so finding a way into the community that was here was daunting.

So, I took a different approach. If I didn’t know the people making the art, I could at least familiarize myself with the art. So I went to dozens of plays – not nearly as many as Larry and Barry, but a lot – and I got to know Boston through the work that was being done. And then, slowly, I started asking people whose work I respected out for coffee, to talk about the work and the city and the community that I was discovering. Those conversations helped shaped the niche that Whistler carved for itself – our place in the ongoing artistic conversation became clear through watching and listening to what the other companies were choosing to present, and how they were choosing to work.

The process that I went through, of meeting this city’s artists through the work that they do, is what our audiences do every time they walk into one of our theatres. And from my experience of our audiences at Whistler, if we give those audiences the chance to deepen that moment of meeting, they will. Our audiences are generally smarter and more curious than we give them credit for being – if we can find a way to include them into our work beyond simply sitting back and appreciating it, they will.

So we, like many of the other theatres in the city, have been doing just that: a more approachable presence online with Facebook and our blog (we’re still figuring out what that whole Twitter-thing is about…); Friday and Saturday night post-show receptions in the theatre where we encourage the audience to stay and share a snack and a drink with us and talk about the show; semi-monthly new-work readings followed by moderated discussions between the playwright and the audience. And now, when I greet our patrons in pre-show, or talk with them after the performance, or respond to the emails I get in the mornings after shows, I feel like my community of collaborators has expanded out one more circle to touch all the people who choose to spend an evening with us in the theatre, working with us to understand the play we’re presenting.

The next step, the one I’m so curious about now, is how to make that conversation one that our audience wants to continue long after they’ve left the theatre – one that expands out not only to bring in more audience, but that sends our audience members on the same journey I went on – of exploring the full range of Boson theatres in an expanding circle of knowledge. I know my audiences will and do see shows by our close collaborators, companies like imaginary beasts or Mill 6, and often shows by other companies in the Alliance, thanks to our new cross-promotional program insert, but how do we engage in the audience on a city-wide level, not just theatre by theatre?

This is an exciting time to be in Boston. The emergence of so many new small and fringe companies, and the growth and development of our midsize theatres mean that we have more artists working and more artists engaged in the process of making this town a more exciting place to be. The Small Theatre Alliance of Boston is fostering conversation and collaboration among the emerging artists in the city. And the Boston Theatre Conference aims at focusing our attention on continuing to open up the conversation to include and empower our audiences.

I so look forward to getting in the room with you all in February, and talking about art, and life, and collaborations.

Meg Taintor is the Artistic Director of Whistler in the Dark Theatre. She is also a proud founding member and the President of the Board of the Small Theatre Alliance of Boston, an organization dedicated to fostering the growth of small theatres and emerging artists in the Boston theatre community.

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Getting Lively, Lush & Local With: Jason Slavick

Who are you? Jason Slavick

What do you do? Artistic Director of The Performance LAB

Where are you from originally? New Jersey

How long have you been working in Boston? since ’99

Why do you stay? It’s now my home.

What’s your earliest theatre memory? A Christmas Carol at the Annenberg at Philly

What’s your first theatre memory in Boston? Ubu Rock at the ART in ’96

What was your first job in theatre? Assistant to the Director at The Philadelphia Theatre Company

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had before a show? French Cusine at Odeon in Philly before Waiting for Godot in ’94

What’s your favorite rehearsal snack? baby carrots

Do you eat before you go on stage or do you wait until after your performance to eat? Have to wait until after my shows – but then it’s all about sushi.

If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be? Break down barriers between different types of theatre – it’s all just performance/entertainment/art

What kind of theater excites you? Right now I want to see theatre that’s pushing boundaries. Surprise me. Find a new way to tell it.

What advice do you have for artists just starting out? Find your voice and really develop it.

The Boston Theatre Conference is focusing on the lively, lush and local aspects of our theatre community. What do you think? The more the better! More Lively! More Local! Make it right here – don’t import it!

YOUR TURN! Write to us here!

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Getting Lively, Lush & Local With: Matt Chapuran

Who are you? Matt Chapuran

What do you do? I’m a producer

Where are you from originally? Pittsford, New York

How long have you been working in Boston? 15 years

What’s your earliest theatre memory? Yelling “Shazam” in 6th grade on stage

What’s your first theatre memory in Boston? Performing improv as part of My Mother’s Fleabag at Boston College

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had before a show? I don’t eat before shows.

What’s your favorite rehearsal snack? Anything Wonkaish

Do you eat before you go on stage or do you wait until after your performance to eat? After!

The Boston Theatre Conference is focusing on the lively, lush and local aspects of our theatre community. What do you think? Lush.

YOUR TURN! Write to us here!

 

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Getting Lively, Lush & Local With: Marc Miller

Who are you? Marc Miller

What do you do? write, edit, produce/direct

Where are you from originally? NY

How long have you been working in Boston? 40 years

What’s your earliest theatre memory? Mikado in about 1960

What’s your first theatre memory in Boston? Assistant Directing a show with a student who later made it big in Hollywood.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had before a show? Who eats?

What’s your favorite rehearsal snack? hot dogs

Do you eat before you go on stage or do you wait until after your performance to eat? Light food before. Starved after.


YOUR TURN! Write to us here!

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Getting Lively, Lush & Local With: John Greiner-Ferris

Who are you? John Greiner-Ferris

What do you do? playwright (grad student at BU) and an actor

Where are you from originally? Southern Ohio

How long have you been working in Boston? Six years

What’s your earliest theatre memory? The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, Ohio University Theater production…blew me away…

What’s your first theatre memory in Boston? I played Dr. Stone in A Few Good Men at the old ICA.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had before a show? I traditionally eat spaghetti.

What’s your favorite rehearsal snack? Twizzlers

Do you eat before you go on stage or do you wait until after your performance to eat? I learned that I need to eat before going on after my blood sugar dropped and I almost fainted a few times…

The Boston Theatre Conference is focusing on the lively, lush and local aspects of our theatre community. What do you think? Sounds good, I like lively and local…not sure what you mean by lush though…

YOUR TURN! Write to us here!

 

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