Posts Tagged Shirley

What Do We Have Against Community?

By John J King

Say the words “Community Theatre” to a theatre professional and you’ll often get a Pavlovian eye-roll. For some, there are stereotypes associated with the phrase and most of them aren’t good.

In the midst of starting my own company, thinking in terms of marketing, I found myself thinking, “I want to sell this as a community theatre, but without using those words!”

But what’s wrong with Community Theatre?

At a workshop I attended, Marsha Norman said something that has stuck with me ever since: “A play is a community; every night, the act of theatre creates a community between the story, the artists, and the audience.”

That sense of communion, of theatre as a social act, is what excites me most about the art. It is a shared experience with others, and shared experiences are what blur the differences between people, erasing sects and creating communities.

In light of the Slow Food theme of the upcoming Boston Theatre Conference, how do we embrace the virtue of Community Theatre? A few thoughts that I feel particularly match up with the analogous slow food movement:

  • a theatre in San Francisco involved their audience in the selection of an upcoming season. The company picked 10 plays, each of which were given public readings throughout the year. At the end of the season the audience voted, and the top four plays were selected for the company’s next season. Not only did the audience feel engaged with the work, but the theatre had a chunk of eager audience ready to purchase tickets!
  • We talk about the student diaspora of Boston, with many fleeing to NYC and L.A. We need to “cultivate taste for locally grown” theatre while these young artists are here so they have reasons to stay. How? Internships, workshops, readings at the schools, open rehearsals just for students: all of these are free and relatively easy to coordinate.
  • Collaborations between groups give audiences new and different ways to engage with local theatre. Good examples that have already taken place: FeverFest; The Shirley, VT Festival; Emerging America Festival; Orfeo Group’s COMPLETE WOWS(A) which incorporated local bands and performers as opening acts.

To me, “Community Theatre” is the highest ideal one can strive for. At worst, the phrase may be redundant, because theatre is community. There is no theatre without community.

What excites me about the Slow Arts theme of the Boston Theatre Conference is its implicit assumption that Boston has everything it needs. We do! The Slow Arts movement encourages us to celebrate and better share with our communities what is already here, to create more opportunities for the shared experiences that enrich, deepen, and build communities.

I look forward to the many possibilities of communion that the Boston Theatre Conference will bring.

John J King is a Boston-based playwright who’s work has been produced by New Exhibition Room, Mill 6 Collaborative, and the Orfeo Group.  His new full-length BEAR PATROL will premiere at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, March 3 – 20, 2011.  www.J-RexPlays.com

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Getting Lively, Lush & Local With: Robin Allen LaPlante

Who are you? Robin Allen LaPlante

What do you do? Marketing & Development Associate at The Lyric Stage Company

Where are you from originally? Marietta, GA

How long have you been working in Boston? 5 years

What’s your earliest theatre memory? Seeing Carol Channing in Hello Dolly at The Atlanta Fox Theatre

What’s your first theatre memory in Boston? The 39 Steps at The Huntington

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

What’s your favorite rehearsal snack? hummus and pita and celery

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

The Boston Theatre Conference is focusing on the lively, lush and local aspects of our theatre community. What do you think? Boston Theatre is more alive than ever, with projects happening all over the place that are huge undertakings. The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby is one, but also: The Shirley, VT play festival, and The two Henrys at Actor’s Shakespeare Project, and the two Shakespeare plays in rep at Huntington at the end of the season. It is an amazing place to be right now.

YOUR TURN! Write to us here!

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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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