Getting Lively, Lush & Local With: Robyn Linden

Who are you? Robyn Linden

What do you do? I’m the Vice President and Marketing Chair of the Small Theatre Alliance of Boston, and freelance marketer currently collaborating with New Exhibition Room, Vaquero Playground and Exquisite Corps Theatre.

Where are you from originally? Cleveland, Ohio

How long have you been working in Boston? Moved here summer of ’07 to transfer into Emerson, been active in the theatre scene since ’09.

Why do you stay? I have a lot of Boston pride, even if I refuse to root for the sports teams. There’s just so much to uncover in this town, from the history to the people to the arts and cultural events springing up all over the place.

What is your earliest theatre memory? I was in a summer camp production of Oliver in the 3rd grade. I was a pickpocket and got to sing the line “Would you rob a shop?” Not pretty in a midwestern accent…

What’s your first theatre memory in Boston? Say what you will about the subway in the winter, but cheap, easy access to Logan airport is a wonderful thing. On my first visit to Boston I got off the plane, hit the Blue Line, switched to Green at Goverment Center, and finally emerged at street level at Boylston. Straight ahead were signs saying “Theatre District.” I knew I’d be staying.

What was your first job in theatre? I grew up doing musicals. So, rehearsing.

What’s your favorite rehearsal snack? My preferences change with each process. Depends on the local vending machine or convenience store. Lately I’m into Pretzel M&Ms. Where have those been all my life?!

If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be? I want more “non-theatre-people” to walk in the door. There’s something for everyone in our local theatres, and I hope our audiences will expand so the work can reach farther and deeper into Boston.

What kind of theater excites you? I love the kind of theatre that requires me to take a deep breath. It can come from actors really listening to one another or from a specific and beautiful design element. The breath is cleansing and thrilling and unlike any other.

What advice do you have for artists just starting out? Connect. Don’t be afraid to say hello, reach out to someone online, have an informational coffee. We all have stories to share and have probably felt the same kinds of fear and timidity. If you want to get involved just speak up.

The Boston Theatre Conference is focusing on the lively, lush and local aspects of our theatre community. What do you think? I find the sheer number of passionate theatre artists in our community totally thrilling. I hope the conference will start a conversation that will continue for a long time to come, fostering communication, collaboration and inspiration. We have a lot to talk about, and I’m very much looking forward to it!

YOUR TURN! Write to us here!

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Me, Inc.

by Jeremy Johnson

I’ve always considered myself a bit of a Luddite.  I used to state this proudly but I’ve grown to feel a bit uneasy with this mindset as I look at the rapidly changing world around me.   Ironically, I got some quick background on the original tem by Googling it and reading up on the Wikipedia entry; “Luddites were a social movement of British textile artisans in the 19th century who protested, often by destroying mechanized looms, against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution, which they felt were leaving them without work and changing their way of life.”

I know how they feel.

As much as I struggle to incorporate new technologies into my life, I find I have just as difficult time translating these new forms and resources into my career as a theatre artist.   I’m not completely lost in the cyber world; I enjoy having a Facebook account and I finally learned to text a while back.  I have never blogged or Tweeted anything and I don’t know what an App is.  I feel somewhat stuck in the middle of this new technological revolution; interested in some of the advancements but slow to follow the crowd and unsure of its uses.

I am currently reading Crush It! Cash in on Your Passion by Gary Vaynerchuk and while the macho, frat-boy,  cyber-slang (“biz-dev” and “he’s totally killing it with his awesome content!”) make me a bit nauseous, the author still has some interesting points to make.    This is not the first book to tell me that I need to consider myself, my passions and my ideas as my own “personal brand”.  As distasteful as I find this idea I am attempting to let go of my judgments and preconceived notions while I absorb the reasoning.   Vaynerchuk posits that becoming an expert in your field and using every available form of social media can potentially lead to attracting the attention of those that can hire you and give you additional opportunities to “strengthen your brand equity.”

Thinking of myself in the same terms as a Nike sneaker or a bottle of Gatorade is a disturbing thought.  It feels as if there is an inordinate amount of focus on the packaging or exterior when dealing with ourselves in this way.   Have we moved from self-improvement to self-packaging?  Although the author stresses authenticity is that really possible with this approach?  At what point am I boxing myself in so that I’m only thought of as directing a certain type of play?  How does the artist use these forms of social media to support their career without oversimplifying their identity down to 140 characters?

As you can tell, I’ve struggled through this book, however I hit a paragraph that chilled me and is forcing me to reexamine my point of view; “If you’re not using Twitter because you’re in the camp that believes it’s stupid, you’re going to lose out.  It doesn’t matter if you think it’s stupid, it’s free communication.  That in and of itself has value and you should take advantage of it.”  It is easy for me to judge the communication and think it worthless or superficial but I am in a business that relies on communication of all kinds.

I am the first to admit that I have grown to love following my friends’ lives and careers through social media and I have seen many theatre companies embrace these tools as well.  I have read stories of artists documenting their work and reaching potential donors through YouTube.    In coming to terms with this new and intimidating technology I’ve decided that the best approach should be the creative one.  Rather than looking down my nose at these changes, how can I use these various tools in the ways that I choose to use them?  We are in an exciting and new landscape of no rules.  There is no “one way” to do anything and as artists it’s our responsibility to learn the new technologies in order to expand what they can do.   Up until now, I’ve feared that I have to change myself to meet the technology rather than change the technology to meet my own individual needs.

A quick look back at my predecessors is enough to get me thinking.   In 1813 in York, England three Luddites continued to fight progress and after killing a mill-owner were hanged in the public square.

Excuse me, I’m going to go check out that Tumblr website again.

About the author

Jeremy Johnson is a director living in Boston, MA.

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Getting Lively, Lush & Local With: Kenny Steven Fuentes

Who are you? Kenny Steven Fuentes

What do you do? Act, direct, produce, blog and write plays. When I get bored, I found theatre companies.

Where are you from originally? Down South…of Boston. Brockton, MA to be exact. We killed Sacco and Vanzetti.

How long have you been working in Boston? 2.5 years.

Why do you stay? I’m a wanted man. I have the death sentence on twelve systems.

What is your earliest theatre memory? As a child, watching Charlotte’s Web from backstage at Wheelock Family Theatre.T

What’s your first theatre memory in Boston? Technically the above, but I remember my first memory in Boston as an actor is of totally bombing at an audition for an Equity theatre. A month later, they called me and asked me to keep in touch. That meant a lot to me.

What was your first job in theatre? My first gig out of college was a small part at Wheelock, which seemed fitting. I looked like a smurf.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had before a show? Turkey Reuben at Francesca’s.

What’s your favorite rehearsal snack? Beer. I mean… Not beer…

Do you eat before you go on stage or do you wait until after your performance to eat? I try to have light meals. I eat as one would before competing in a sporting event.

If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be? Bring down the price of a ticket. Even fringe theaters charge a lot.

What kind of theater excites you? I love watching a show where the actors are terrified and okay with it. That’s really the only truly honest acting.

What advice do you have for artists just starting out? If it scares the living crap out of you, you’re probably on the right track.

The Boston Theatre Conference is focusing on the lively, lush and local aspects of our theatre community. What do you think? That’s one of the reasons I stay here. I really appreciate our focus on fostering growth of local art. Also, I have the death sentence on 12 systems.

YOUR TURN! Write to us here!

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Getting Lively, Lush & Local With: Steve Smith

Who are you? Steve Smith

What do you do? I am the co-founder and administrative czar of CBACT, the Consortium of Boston-Area Children’s Theatres

Where are you from originally? Philadelphia

How long have you been working in Boston? 21 years

Why do you stay? Exciting city, great culture, the Sox…oh, and close to both ocean and mountains

What’s your earliest theatre memory? Falling asleep while watching the original Broadway production of Camelot….

What’s your first theatre memory in Boston? Seeing Shakespeare at the ART.

What was your first job in theatre? Techie-stage crew

What kind of theater excites you? Anything original and thought-provoking.

The Boston Theatre Conference is focusing on the lively, lush and local aspects of our theatre community. What do you think? I think it’s great. I’m looking forward to hearing from all of the many voices in the Boston theatre community.

YOUR TURN! Write to us here!

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The Regulars Part 2

by Marco Paulo Carneiro

How well are we doing at knowing our patrons? Many of them were with us the week before, and they’re back to see our show a second or third time, this time with friends. Are we doing enough to remember them, and truly say thank you for their support? Are we recognizing their continued contributions and applause, their commitment to our work through the good and bad times? Some of them are what allow us to exist (especially for we Fringe-ers).

There is so much (necessary) talk about what we can do to create an interactive experience for our audience. But how far can this go if the audience doesn’t feel they could comfortably fit in with us at a mixer, post-show talk or even in a piece of interactive theater? We should know our regulars. Remember their faces, remember their “orders,” try to remember their name and make sure they know who you are. Find out what their needs are, what would make for a better patron experience. Invite their thoughts in person. Online forums and discussion boards are invaluable, but I guarantee they will feel like they are literally part of our team if you take some time –make some time- to get their views right there in the theater. And feeling like a team member leads to dedicated patrons who are just as excited for the next production as you are. They might not be the hotshot reviewer you want to impress, but their insight and opinions -especially when they start contrasting past, current and future plans for repertoire, facilities, etc- are incredible ways of knowing if what we’re doing is clear and consistent with our mission and vision; their opinion is a way of knowing if we’re having an affect at all. They wield incredible sway power within their own communities and can help make or break the public success of our work, even if the success isn’t what we’re after. They help keep us grounded so that we don’t overlook the basics. And all of that makes for the beginnings of a great foundation for dialogue-driven community.

In the end, knowing our patrons is all about the community we’re all building together with each passing day of readings, productions, exhibitions and conversations. Knowing them gives us feedback, provides us with loyal support, and allows us to keep growing in our Boston community. The more we know our patrons, the more they’ll want to know us. So please, take some time to remember who gets the extra-toasted bagel. It could be the best thing you’ll ever do to help keep the homegrown movement alive.

 

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Getting Lively, Lush & Local With: Meri Jenkins

Who are you? Meri Jenkins

What do you do? Program Manager, Massachusetts Cultural Council

Where are you from originally? London, UK

How long have you been working in Boston? 20 years

Why do you stay? Cultural life, of course! (and family…)

What’s your earliest theatre memory? A theatre in education troupe that came to my school when I was about eight years old, and I can still see, smell and feel that performance.

What’s your first theatre memory in Boston? I worked on the original production of Vinegar Tom by Caryl Churchill in London, and when I moved here, there happened to be a production of the play – I wanted my partner to see it. It was a much smaller production!

What was your first job in theatre? Having left drama school, I joined a group of people rehabbing a warehouse space on the River Thames for live/work space for artists on the upper floors, and performance space on the first floor. We presented and produced, and did everything involved between us.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had before a show? Curry.

What’s your favorite rehearsal snack? Nuts.

Do you eat before you go on stage or do you wait until after your performance to eat? After the performance – always. No one wants you to upchuck when you step into the footlights.

If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be? Locally? Have the guts to do the work you want to do at a scale you can do it…

What kind of theater excites you? Physical, unconventional, well written, performed with care, directed with attention to detail, and with lots of heart.

What advice do you have for artists just starting out? Just do it. Don’t wait. Find like minded people. Work hard. Don’t complain. And the work will get better.

The Boston Theatre Conference is focusing on the lively, lush and local aspects of our theatre community. What do you think? It is lively if you ignore the local spin, it is lush in that there is a lot of it in the region to choose from, and it is blessedly local, which translates into being accessible.

YOUR TURN! Write to us here!

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Getting Lively, Lush & Local With: Beth Peters

Who are you? Beth Peters

What do you do? Theatre Educator, Director, and New-Media Consulatant

Where are you from originally? Chicago

How long have you been working in Boston? 7 years

Why do you stay? There is a greater amount of drama education work here.

What’s your earliest theatre memory? Being in a music-show in 3rd grade, in which I played a Bee. My best friend had the “lead” and she forgot all her lines and was crying. I helped her remember all of her lines.

What was your first job in theatre? Development Assistant for the Court Theatre, Chicago. Prior to that, acting and ASMing around town.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had before a show? This might not be a popular choice, but I like to eat a big steak, since I probably won’t eat again for like 6 hours.

What’s your favorite rehearsal snack? Trail mix, baby!

Do you eat before you go on stage or do you wait until after your performance to eat? I eat about 2 hours before curtain and only water until after the show.

If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be? It would be diverse without a constant worry and argument about the word “diverse.”

What kind of theater excites you? New plays that reflect our new culture in America…whatever that might mean.

What advice do you have for artists just starting out? “If you know what you want, then you go, and you find it, and you GET IT.” – Into the Woods. In other words, be tireless. Be shameless. Go get the work and do well at your job and don’t worry about the money starting out.

The Boston Theatre Conference is focusing on the lively, lush and local aspects of our theatre community. What do you think? I think Boston has a lot to celebrate within itself, but should be open to young or new-to-Boston artists.

YOUR TURN! Write to us here!

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