Archive for category Why I Stay in Boston

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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Happy to call Boston home.

Boston has always been my home. I grew up in Lincoln and developed a love for theatre when I was very young thanks to theatre-loving parents, Waltham’s Reagle Players (now the Reagle Music Theatre), and Emerson College radio’s “Standing Room Only.” Unlike so many of my non-theatre friends, I was fortunate to find my passion – theatrical producing – when I was still in high school. Not long after that, I determined that rather than move to New York, I wanted to plant my roots, develop my craft, and contribute to the theatre scene in my hometown.

I love so many things about being a part of this community: our passionate, diverse, creative, and extremely talented members; our broad spectrum of organizations who are staging such high-quality productions, developing new work, and pushing the boundaries of our art form in innovative and thrilling ways; and the audience that supports us and engages in conversation with us.

Those of us who choose to work in our field in our city are a special breed. To outsiders, we sometimes feel we need to defend our choice to be here, but among each other, no explanation is needed. Each of us understands our collective commitment to our community, our desire to achieve a work-life balance, and our pride in the home-grown.

In the more than ten years I’ve now been working professionally in our community, I’ve come to know so many kindred spirits who share my values. The Slow Food Movement celebrates the local identity of a region’s food, the connections between food and the many other aspects of life, and the knowledge of ingredients’ sources.

In a community of our size, don’t we operate this way, too? When I attend a show at one of our local companies, I take such joy in seeing work by someone whose career I’ve been following during my time in Boston. I consider how is this most recent role/design/direction/play is different from what I’ve seen from this artist previously. How are they growing as an artist? How has revisiting a collaboration with other artists strengthened their work, or embarking on collaboration comprised of entirely new artists changed it? Repertory companies are almost a lost construct in our community, and yet, without even being invited to join, we are a part of Boston’s.

I, for one, am happy to be a company member. Happy to be a part of this community, to build my career, my friendships, and my family here. And happy to call Boston home.

Rebecca Curtiss is the Communications Manager for The Huntington Theatre Company

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Why Boston?

by Bridget Kathleen O’Leary

When Stage Source’s Stage Page comes out, I get giddy.  I have this ritual of first circling all of the things I know I want to see and then I open my calendar and make my plan for the next 2 months or so.  This quarterly practice of mine isn’t just about keeping my schedule up to date – it actually pumps me up for the months ahead.  Since graduating from BU in 2008 and joining the staff at New Rep, I have had the privilege to attend many different kinds of theater in many different venues.  There’s a certain amount of theater that I see because “I should.”  Don’t get me wrong, I can get excited about obligatory theater too, but the majority of what I see is because I love theater, and specifically I love the theater here in Boston.  I am constantly inspired by other people’s work.  I have watched actors, designers and directors grow and change over the last several years and there is something thrilling about that.  During New Rep’s General auditions I can sometimes forget I’m there in some kind of “official” capacity and just get wrapped up in the work happening in front of me.  It is truly a wonderful experience.  I am still in awe when I run into people like John Kuntz, Anne Gottlieb, Scott Edminston, Ronan Noone, Kate Snodgrass, Will Lebow, Ben Evett, Nancy Carol, Karen MacDonald, Paula Plum and many others.  Their work has such an impact on me.

We have so many amazing and talented people that have chosen to make Boston their artistic home and this number continues to grow.  During the Stage Source auditions, my favorite moment is  when a brand new, just moved to town, actor shows up, totally nails the audition, and you feel the joint excitement in the room – like we all know the next “get me…” person has just arrived.  It’s happened every summer I’ve been here.

Over the last year I have tried to challenge myself to get off the beaten path and see more fringe work.  Sometimes the bigger our subscriber base and budgets get, the more afraid we can be to take the kind of risks that some of the fringe companies are taking to uncover all kinds of important, powerful stories.  Whistler in the Dark is flying this year!  How awesome is that?

I do what I do because I have to.  Quality people exist everywhere.  So, really for me, the “where” in what I do has to do with where I want to make my life, and who I want my community to be.    I stay here because this area is big enough to continue to surprise me yet small enough to still feel like my home.

Bridget Kathleen O’Leary received her MFA in Directing from Boston University.  She is the Artistic and Education Associate at New Repertory Theatre and lives in Watertown with her husband Chris.

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Choices

by Marie Polizzano

When it came time for me to graduate from the Boston University School of Theatre in May 2007, it seemed like the only question to be answered was, “New York City or Los Angeles?” Most of my classmates were dividing themselves between those 2 cities to pursue their acting careers. LA for those interested in film/TV, and NYC for those interested in theatre.  It seemed like there were no other options. The idea of staying here hadn’t even entered my brain as a possibility.  Until one day in late August, when I had started packing up my apartment in preparation for moving to NYC in September with most of my other classmates. On this day, I got a call from the New Repertory Theatre, who offered me a part in their “On Tour” production of The Crucible.  I had auditioned for them earlier in the summer.  “Ok!” I said, “I’ll do it!”  I accepted the job and was thrust into rehearsals at the end of September.  We were touring schools by the second week in October, and it was an incredibly rewarding experience from which I learned so much. I got to work with an fantastic ensemble of talented actors, I was learning so much from the dialogue we had with our young audiences, and the gig paid well!

By the time The Crucible closed, my “network” of theatre people in Boston had grown tremendously. I had met and worked with many talented actors, and as a result met a lot of their fellow Boston actor/director/producer-friends.  I already felt like I was a part of a community.  One job led to another, which led to another, and before I knew it I had performed in 3 touring shows with New Rep, auditioned for at least a dozen other companies in town, and formed lots of close relationships with fellow actors, directors, administrators.  Because Boston is a smaller community of artists, I found it easy to build a network here. Everyone is so supportive of each other’s work, and you start to see the same faces at auditions time and time again. I loved how quickly I was able to feel integrated into the community of such talented artists here. And I am proud to say that I am a Boston actor.  In the 3 years since graduating, I’ve had the experience of working with vastly different companies on very diverse shows, I’ve earned both my SAG and AEA cards, and I feel very inspired and challenged by the work I’m able to do.

The fact that we are talking about a Slow Arts Movement is so exciting to me, and is already something that we are starting to do here in Boston without even realizing it, I think.  The Slow Arts Movement is a way for us to reach out to the community and help develop cultural taste and appreciation.  How can we create art that is sustainable,local, and accessible? How can we inform our citizens of why doing so is essential to our well-being?  I hope that by coming together to consciously implement this awareness in our city, we can deepen and make even more rich and lasting the wonderful arts community that is already here.

About Marie Polizzano

Marie is currently working with the Huntington Theatre Company through November 14th, performing in Circle Mirror Transformation as a part of the “Shirley, VT Plays Festival.” When that closes, she’ll have a short break before beginning rehearsals with Whistler in the Dark Theatre on The Europeans, which will open in February.

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