Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Money for nothing and your rehearsal space for free?

Over the last year Connor and I have been engaged in research with the Austin theater community with a focus on resource sharing. We divided our areas of research up into: stuff, space, and staff (or people, things, and places). With each area we did interviews and surveys and national research on other models of sharing that we may be able to borrow ideas from.

In our “space” research I talked to people around the nation, to find out what everyone else was up to, and Connor surveyed the Austin community to find out what peoples needs and wants were here in our home town.

Connor discovered that people primarily felt that the community needed more rehearsal space above all else, but it wasn’t just rehearsal space people wanted. They wanted free rehearsal space, with air conditioning, sprung floors, mirrors, space to leave your belongs, etc etc etc… the list of rehearsal space desires was quite long. As Connor shared the list with me I thought, “Yes, yes, yes, I want these things and need these things too! Rehearsal space is a nightmare to find in Austin! We need to do something about this.” Simultaneously, as an administrator who runs a venue, I found myself questioning why people think they should get this space for free?

There seems to be this sense of entitlement amongst artists in my community. I do believe, hence the Scenic Co-op, in sharing resource. I do believe, also the proof is in the pudding with the Co-op, in affordable resources. However, I may set myself apart from the larger community in that I don’t think free is a feasible option.

My admin brain wanders to questions like “who will pay to build or refurbish this rehearsal space? And who will then take care of it? And schedule it? And clean it? And shouldn’t we pay the person who helps to keep the place nice? How do we find that money? How do we pay to keep the lights on and the A.C. working?” I think that this money has to be found amongst the people who are using the space. This sort of entitlement goes beyond the rehearsal space conundrum, and when I was in my early twenties nurturing my own fledgling company I also thought “you want me to pay what for that?” about pretty much anything from performance venue to costumes and on and on and on… as I have grown up, my understanding of how expense producing theater is has grown up as well.

All that to say, there are a lot of young and inspiring artists in Austin and these artists are poor AND these artists are bringing some of the most exciting work to our city. Scratch that, these artists are bringing some of the most exciting theatrical work to our entire field, on a national level. So where is the balance? How much should these artists have to pay for a rehearsal space? Especially if that cost ends up being a deterrent to the creation of the work?

Currently Connor and I are launching a membership system for the Scenic Co-op. Participating companies will be expected to pay a low annual rate and in exchange they will have access to the full Co-op stock. So far, we have had a lot of companies interested in signing up but no one is jumping up and down about it. Primarily because up until this year the Co-op has been 100% free for a large amount of Austin area new works theater companies. In the long run though, we need a little give back from these companies if the Co-op is going to sustain. We need to pay staff. We need to keep the tools working and in top shape and to keep our stock up to date and in good condition.

I don’t write this because I have answers, I only have questions… how do you get your money for nothing and your rehearsal space for free?

Jenny Larson

Salvage Vanguard Theater

Scenic Co-op

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Connecting to Writing through Theater

Having been in the New Orleans school system for a number of years now I know that students struggle with one thing more than any other: writing. Many low-income students in charter schools here just don’t have much experience writing, and feel intimidated by the process. It’s tough. It’s especially tough to get students to write creatively and openly when they feel unsure about their skills. As we know, the creative process is hard if you feel worried and nervous about how you’re going to be judged.

For YO NOLA, I’ve been having my students try out their hands at some playwriting, and they have really taken to it. A few of the students went home to continue the writing process there, and returned later in the week with freshly written work. It’s nice to see them connect to writing, and I think part of the reason for their enthusiasm is dialogue. They hear all sorts of interesting dialogue at home between parents, at school between peers, in the classroom, etc. Playwriting is a way for them to record this dialogue and to be creative with it. I have a full pile of plays about cell phones, bad classroom behavior, missed assignments, bad clothing, and on and on.

However, I really want them to go further, and here’s where the struggle comes in. Saying to a student, “use your imagination” has proved to be useless in my experience. It hardly ever results in a more imaginative product; just students feeling like they’re doing something wrong but unsure how to fix it. Like any artist, students need some fodder from which to be imaginative. As part of this quest to add to their writing repertoire, I’ve introduced something called “See, Think, Wonder.” Students look at a photograph, and have to write down three categories of things:

-Things in the photo they see and can point to.

-Something they think might be happening in the photo

-What do they wonder about? What questions doe they have about the photo?

Once students have brainstormed a whole bunch of see, thinks, wonders, they circle a question or thought of particular interest. This thought then inspires a short play. It’s an interesting process, and one that I’ve found creates some fun plays. Here’s the first few lines of a play by Sabria, who was inspired by a photo of a fog covered bridge I brought in. Her ‘wonder’ question was, “I wonder if there are birds on that bridge.” Then she wrote this:

Crow 1: Look, there is bird seed on that bridge.

Crow 2: Let’s go get some.

Crow 1: This is great.

Crow 2: Let’s tell the others.

Crow 1: Okay.

Crow 2: Our feet are stuck!

Crow 1: Wait, no they’re not. (tries to remove feet) Okay we’re stuck!

Crow 2: I knew it we’re going to die. Whoa is me, why , why!

Crow 1: Zip it earl.

Okay, that’s it for now. Happy Holidays all!

Chris Kaminstein

YO NOLA Teacher

Southern Rep Theater

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Engaging Boys in Theatre

As we enter our second year at Fairview South School with Northlight on Campus (NOC), we have heavily considered the issue of connecting young boys with theatre.  We have a wealth of female participation, however boys remain a struggle to engage.  Last year, we started NOC with four boys, but over the course of the school year, lost all of them to other activities or a sense of pressure in being the only boys.  This year, we have four boys again to begin the program and already we have seen some apprehension. On the first day of NOC, one of our 6th grade boys stood in the hallway looking in as we began working. As we coaxed him in, he nervously asked if there were other boys, when we told him ‘yes,’ he made the choice to come in and join the group.

The hesitation of boys to participate in theatre is a pervasive pattern that we notice in many of our theatre education programs. Curious about why male involvement in theatre (especially in the junior high grades) seems taboo, even in 2011, we asked some men in the theatre for their thoughts.
 Northlight’s Artistic Director, BJ Jones, recalled a story about a nun at his Catholic elementary school, who humiliated him, at the age of ten, in front of his peers when she found him carrying a play in his pocket. “She waited for the whole class to get seated, and then announced to everyone ‘Mr. Jones is a thespian.’  I didn’t know what the word even meant, but I knew it was demeaning.  Any boy who thought he might ask me about what I did on the weekends and after school in theatre classes was never going to ask me now.”  Northlight Teaching Artist Michael Leon had a similar experience growing up in a Cuban family.  “My opinion is that boys and men are raised and expected to be unexpressive and non-emotional. The way they present themselves to others should be strong and contained. This may be an old fashioned way of looking at things but I feel that a lot of parents still raise their kids like this.”

Philip Dawkins- a Chicago playwright, currently writing an original work, Rodeo, for NOC at Fairview- talks about gender expectations by comparing young adult literature for males and females. “Look at YA reader romance geared toward girls. Lots of story. Lots of relationships. Drama.  Look at the YA reader romances geared toward boys…  There are none… While young girls are reading Sweet Valley High, young boys (even young soon-to-be-gay boys) are searching under their fathers' beds for back issues of Playboy…A group of people who get together and act out long-winded scenarios about relationships and wants and desires?  Sounds more geared toward people whose fantasies were fueled by Sweet Valley High.  The hustle and bustle of the basketball court, competition, physical contact, rage, immediate gratification or disappointment:  Playboy.”

In our quest to engage boys in theatre, we have seen amazing support from the male teachers at Fairview. One 8th grade teacher, told an assembled audience of 7th-8th graders a story about being a male in high school theatre. Even though he was an athlete, one of the best experiences he had in high school was acting in a school play. He auditioned in order to impress a girl, but once he got cast, and she didn’t, he decided to stick with it and said it was one of his greatest memories of high school.

BJ Jones recognizes what participating in theatre meant to him as a young boy: “There is a stereotype, but it saved my life. I would have never left Cleveland, would probably be sitting at a neighborhood bar next to my uncles.  Instead, theatre got me out.” 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Short term and long term goals!

Connor and I had a great meeting a couple of weeks ago and talked about our short term goals and long term goals.

In the short term, our first step is to hold a work day in December to get the storage space looking sharp and to make the scene shop space a safer and cleaner environment. These work days become necessary at least twice a year. With so many different companies in and out of our facilities and renting and return the set pieces, it becomes a bit of a mess. With a small army and a little grunt work we will make it sparkly again.

Next, we are going to create a thorough on-line database of our inventory. The inventory is constantly expanding and we no longer have an up to date list of all that we have in stock. After that list is completed, we are excited about getting the membership program rolling and getting the Co-op up on the website. As all of this is happening we are also going to start keeping regularly scheduled Co-op hours. These are the hours that our two other staff members, Jeannine and Eliot, will dedicate to being at the space ready to assist people and ready to check them in and out with their Co-op rentals.

And finally, we have discovered that people in the community want more information on local designers. So we are planning on creating a designers database that will have information on local designers and what their rates are. This list will also include running crew and stage manager information.

In the long term (within 5 years), we are hoping to expand our space and create bigger shop and storage space. We are hoping to expand to provide delivery and pick-up services. We are also interested in continuing to expand our services to include lights, costumes, and sound equipment. The trick right now, is that we don't want the artist who need to make money from renting their goods (lights, costumes, etc) to lose any business. Our plan right now is to try to find a way to subsidize those rentals. We think this will be a way to ensure that the artists who are renting their goods are still making a decent rate and simultaneously provide Co-op members a little discount.

In the meantime, the Co-op is still as busy as ever and providing sets and tools and shop space to companies all over Austin.

Jenny Larson
Salvage Vanguard Theater
Scenic Co-op

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Wooster Group - video blog talk show

Why is the current dialog about theater artists and their work directed and controlled by journalists, academics, producers, and publicists -- who approach the work from their own perspectives -- as opposed to the artists themselves?

Our A-ha! project here at The Wooster Group is to institute an ongoing video series patterned after a talk show in miniature, in which artists across mediums will discuss with other artists, and the public, vital topics including their work, recent news events, current trends in the arts, as well as more expansive cultural and political issues. These discussions will be fully generated and guided by the artists themselves, and the videos will be posted on a new web destination. The platform for this discussion will grow as an extension of The Wooster Group's daily video blog, on which we have been posting a new short video piece every workday since September 2010 about various aspects of our company’s life and work.

Wooster Group member Kate Valk will lead the series, which will borrow elements from talk shows, documentaries, town-hall meetings, and others in an attempt to create a new rubric for the artist interview. By utilizing the immediacy of production the internet allows, we hope to be able to respond quickly to particular cultural events or moments, and we will take advantage of the project’s freedom from editorial oversight to ask potentially controversial questions, such as those about financing, producer-artist relationships, and more (have a suggestion for one? Post a comment below!) Our aim is to not only host an expansive civic dialogue, but also to provide an opportunity for people around the world to have access to some of the artists we interact with. The videos will feature theater artists as well as artists in other mediums to inspire cross-disciplinary dialogues and cross-pollinate fan bases, introducing the work of Mark Morris to fans of Young Jean Lee, for instance, or that of Butch Morris to fans of Joan Jonas.

Don’t touch that dial.

--Jamie Poskin, The Wooster Group

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Think It in Skagway (population 862)

On Monday, September 19, Art Rotch, the artistic director of Perseverance Theatre, and I boarded the six-seat plane that makes the 80-mile trip northwest from Juneau to Skagway. It was the typical Southeast Alaska day: windy, rainy and cold. Once in the air, luckily, the clouds were high enough that we could see the many glaciers of the Juneau Icefield. Feeling relaxed and thinking of all the things we could possibly “think,” I saw Skagway in the distance and the plane began to descend. And then for the next five minutes, I feared for our lives. Art and I have both been on our share of scary flights. It’s actually just part of living in Alaska, but this particular landing in Skagway definitely ranked among the scariest. After a terribly long five minutes, we made it safely to the ground. The rest of the flights that day in and out of Skagway were cancelled.

Armed with big, sticky sheets of paper, Sharpies, yellow tablets and a slideshow about Perseverance Theatre, Art and I walked through the town of Skagway on our way to the first Think It meeting at the Eagles Hall. Skagway has a few performance spaces, with the best one being in the Eagles Hall where The Days of ’98 show performs. A booming tourist town, Skagway makes most of its money on summer tourism. Running since 1925, The Days of ’98 is a historical summer musical about the Gold Rush and the legendary con man Soapy Smith. The artistic director of The Days of ‘98 Jonathan Baldwin was kind enough to let us use the space for the meeting. Margeaux Heaton, a longtime Skagweyian and head madam at the former brothel-turned-restaurant The Red Onion Saloon, helped get the word out about the convening.

The meeting began with three actor/singers, a producer, a director and a member of the Skagway Arts Council.

Having worked as a teaching artist and theatre educator for my entire professional career, I must admit that this was the hardest “curriculum” I’ve ever had to create. Art and I talked for a long time about how to shape this meeting. How do you ask questions that are open-ended enough for the group of artists to have a good, big-sky think, and at the same time, be pointed enough to serve the needs of our organization? Interestingly, we did find our way back to TCG’s 2011 conference theme “What if…” and it proved to be very useful. Mainly, we asked participants to dream big. What does Alaskan theatre look like? What do artists need to make Alaskan theatre more viable? What if Perseverance Theatre created a statewide artistic company? What is that? Who is it? What’s your role?

The folks in Skagway had so much to say. I learned a lot about their community and how, really, only a handful of people in the town are responsible for creating a whole lot of theatre. People in Skagway also felt that a larger statewide theatre conference, and ultimately, a community, would be useful. They expressed a real desire to know all the players in Alaska. The word “isolated” came up time and time again.

I left Skagway thinking about theatre, isolation, and Alaska. It’s true: Our entire state has only 600,000 people and an enormous 586,000 square miles. We’re extremely isolated from each other, and from the lower 48. The people in our state like it that way. The pioneering, creative, and adventurous individual thrives here. So, how do we build a company and a community of artists, and at the same time, draw heavily on the strengths of the individual?

Next up, Sitka. Population 8,889.

Thinking It,
Shona Strauser
Artistic Associate & Director of Education
Perseverance Theatre

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

How can you think in new ways about old problems?

At Curious Theatre Company in Denver, Colorado we like to live up to our name. Now in our 14th season, we are Denver’s only mid-size theatre company and our mission is to engage the community in important contemporary issues through provocative modern theatre. And we have become increasingly curious about two big questions:

How can we re-center artists within our organization to release their potential as primary organizational members?

How can one create a more effective staffing structure for mid-sized organizations operating in the field today?

We’ve explored both of these challenges through separate but corollary innovation processes anchored in the work of EMC Arts, Inc. -- whose conceit is that traditional models of growth capacity may now be replaced with the need for highly adaptive organizational capacity; or in Evans’ own words: “One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore.” Yup – we are talking about that scary world called “Change.”

So first, EMC Arts “New Pathways Program” brought together board, staff members, “great thinkers” from across the community to participate in this program designed to provide Curious a framework to explore and accelerate the design and testing of innovative change strategies.

Second, with the generous assistance of the MetLife/TCG A-ha! Think It program, a selected core team of 6 Curious artistic company members (including me!) spent last year exploring a reinvention of resident artistic company model for the 21st Century American Theatre through scrutinizing our own company, as well as exploring alternative practices and models across the field. We conducted interviews, traveled for site visits, brought in experts, created prototypes and conducted focus groups.

We entered the final phase of our process with three distinct options for new artistic company models, and as a result of the feedback received, created a new, hybrid model that we believe to be responsive and innovative, discontinuous from previous practice while inclusive of our past best practices and unique “organizational DNA,” providing an exciting new pathway to fulfilling our mission.

It was a challenging and exciting year of thinking – in fact my brain is still a little sore from it all. And now we get to do it!

With the generous assistance of the MetLife/TCG A-ha! Do It program, we are implementing artistic and staffing structural realignments at Curious, which move us from a primarily administrative model to a more integrated and holistic producing-based model. In overly simplistic terms, the “traditional” administrative model can be described as static, territorial, goal-focused and separated from the artistic work that is at the heart of our mission. Conversely, it is our belief that a producing-based model can be described as nimble, responsive, integrated, collaborative, and project-based. This new model would realign the traditional vertical organizational hierarchy with a more seamless, horizontal orientation, creating opportunities for shared leadership across both the artistic company and organizational staff.

How will it all work out? Keep checking back in!

Christy Montour-Larson, Producer in Residence

Curious Theatre Company

Denver, CO

Monday, October 31, 2011

How can we create sustainable resource sharing and green theater practices?

The Scenic Co-op, through Salvage Vanguard Theater, is committed to creating more sustainable and green theater practices. The Co-op is a set-share program. Our main focus is the reuse and recycling of set pieces, tools, flats, etc etc. We are thrilled to be receiving the Do It grant this year. The grant from TCG will enable us to move into the next phase of the Co-op. We will begin "phase 2" in earnest in November! This next era of the Co-op will be the era of "paid staff." This is very exciting to us. For the past few years the Co-op has been 100% volunteer run, and this is frankly not sustainable. Long term volunteers quickly burn out. Thanks to the Met-life/TCG Ah Ha Do It! we will be able to pay a part time coordinator, a part time office administrator, and two technicians for the day to day rentals and upkeep of our stock. In November the first step for us will be to start creating really clear systems and structures for the Co-op and start to push our on-line presence. Hand in hand with pushing our online presence is the desire to build our membership programs. The memberships to the Co-op will ultimately help it become a more sustainable program.
In the meantime, Connor (Co-op leader and coordinator) and I have been thinking about the question "how can we create sustainable resource sharing and green theater practices beyond shared scenic elements?" For the past year we have been gathering information about what the Austin community needs and what resource sharing ideas other theater and arts organizations around the nation are practicing.
We have gathered quite an extensive amount of information and have lots of ideas on what the community needs are and what steps we can take to begin to fill these needs. In mid-November we will be going to a community retreat to talk about our research findings and to decide which ideas to move forward with. Some ideas include, developing systems for shared space, shared law services, and shared book-keeping...
This fall will be a productive and exciting time for the Co-op. We are very much looking forward to building stronger and more sustainable systems of sharing resources and staying green.
-Jenny Larson, Co-op leader and administrator, Salvage Vanguard Theater

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Education and Ensemble

Well, we’re done with our first week of classes as part of our YO NOLA (Youth Onstage New Orleans) program down here in the Big Easy and I feel invigorated about the 4th and 5th grade students we have in class. They seem to be imaginative, thoughtful, interested in theater, and totally insanely fun people.

This year YO NOLA is working with Success Preparatory Academy, which is in the Treme-Lafitte area of the city. Like so many charter schools in New Orleans, Success has taken on as its mission to improve student achievement, test scores, school behavior, intellectual ability, nutrition, world outlook, etc. etc. And in fact they’ve been having a tremendous amount of (ahem) success; the students are thriving in the school environment. However, partly because of budget limitations, there is only so much art that can be offered, and here’s where YO NOLA comes in: a theater program, run by a local professional theater, for a school that lacks one.

The usual craziness of the first week happened here: setting up norms, figuring out where to go for class (the room we thought we were going to use is no longer available for said use which means now we need to use a different room, namely the cafeteria), giving students a (super) basic understanding of the history and tradition of theater, and making sure they don’t eat their cheetos during class. By the way, a real life exchange:

Me: “Lionel, stop eating cheetos out of your pocket. Save them for later.”

Lionel: (holding up his orange-tipped fingers in protest) “I’m not eating cheetos.”

The nice thing is that I have students with incredibly active imaginations. Wednesday, they all made tableauxs with their bodies of a pirate ship; all of the groups interesting, all of them different. Kaytlin’s group decided they would stand over her as if she were the prow of the boat. Potential titles for this tableaux: “The Pirates Three”, “Redbeard takes over the world”, and “The KB’s” (so named for Kaitlyn’s initials).

Perhaps most importantly, I want to give the students an understanding of what it means to be part of an ensemble. How do yoau work together? How do you decide on one idea when there are many ideas in the room? How do you gracefully allow someone else to shine? These are difficult concepts, and yet key parts of being in a theater group. Scratch that. These are key parts of being human.

Looking forward to continuing to update you all on my adventures in the land of YO NOLA.

-chris kaminstein, YO NOLA leader, Southern Rep Theater

Thursday, October 20, 2011

An Introduction to Perseverance Theatre

Since this is our first blog post on the Aha! Think It, Do It blog, it seemed appropriate that it be more of an introduction to Perseverance Theatre and our project.

Perseverance Theatre was founded in 1979 by Molly Smith (now of Arena Stage fame) in Juneau, Alaska, the state’s capital (and third largest city) at a population just over 31,000. The name comes from one of the gold mines that defined Juneau's early history, but it is also an apt name for a non-profit arts organization. It is important to note that there are no roads in and out of Juneau, it is only accessible by boat or plane.

Now in our 33rd season, Perseverance is the state’s flagship professional theatre with an operating budget around $1million, and this year we are launching a new initiative to help us serve more of our vast state. Starting in the winter of 2012, Perseverance will produce a second season in Anchorage. We envision a model in which productions originate in Juneau and transfer to Anchorage – 700 miles from Juneau as the crow (or Alaska Airlines) flies – for a second run, allowing us to not only spread costs across a larger audience base, but Anchorage’s location on the road system makes it an access point to the rest of the state.

This raised the question: What if we are able to use the economic engine of multi-city operations to support a statewide company of artists? Is it sustainable, and will it strengthen the artistic and financial health of Alaskan Theatre artists?

Over the next year Perseverance Theatre will hold a series of conversations with stakeholders across the state. In these conversations we will examine specific questions including: How do we identify potential statewide company members? What skills will a statewide company member have and how do they differ from our current Juneau company? How do we continuously engage artists throughout the year both remotely and in person? What types of training are desired? How would they develop a collective identity? How would they be compensated? These conversations will take place in 6-10 Alaskan cities ranging from the more urban areas like Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau, to the more rural and bush communities such as Homer, Nome, and Kodiak.

From these conversations, Perseverance Theatre will identify up to 10 representatives from various cities in Alaska and bring them to Juneau for a 2 day retreat. At this point we will present a digest of our findings from the statewide meetings. These will serve as the springboard for a more in depth discussion around the economics of the company, how many artists would be involved, how they would be identified, and how Perseverance would serve them through job opportunities and training.

Artistic Director Art Rotch and Director of Education Shona Strauser recently held the first of these conversations in Skagway (just up the Alaska Marine Highway from Juneau), but we will cover that in our next post.

We look forward to sharing our experience over the next year with you!

-Ruth Kostik, Producing Director

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Starting Year Two!

There is so much to talk about as we start year two of our Northlight On Campus education program at Fairview South School.  We have done a ton of analysis on the first year of programming including student surveys, teaching artist surveys, analyzing assessment forms from the year, discussions with the school principal, etc.  Many of the structural components we implemented worked well last year, but there are still some that need adjusting. But more on that next month!

In this post, I want to focus on one of the most exciting NEW components of Year Two…a playwright commission! This year, we will be producing a fully-staged show at Fairview with students who have never had a school play.  Not only that, but it will be a World Premiere commissioned for our Fairview students.  We decided to do a city-wide search for a play/playwright. Here is the call we sent out:

Northlight Theatre’s Education Department is seeking commission proposals for a play for young actors.  Northlight, in collaboration with Fairview South School, is embarking on its second year of the new Northlight On Campus program which engages middle school students in theatre arts after school.  We are seeking proposals from playwrights to adapt a classic story for young adults into a stage play for performance at Fairview South School in spring 2012.  We are seeking a playwright who is interested not just in writing a script for students, but also interested in working with those students and actively participating with them on developing the play.

Playwrights should have some familiarity with teaching, though no previous experience writing for young actors is necessary. Playwrights must be willing to work with Northlight Education Director and Northlight Teaching Artists on script revisions as well as spend time with students in rehearsals on occasion. 

Project Description:
Northlight On Campus brings theatre to Fairview South Middle School for the first time in fifteen years.  Northlight’s mission is to expose students to theatre arts through a variety of programs that allow students to see professional theatre, perform in theatre on campus, study theatre in academic classes and work behind the scenes.  In its second year, Northlight On Campus will add a full production for middle school students to its roster of activities.  Students will audition for the production that will be commissioned expressly for the students.  Students will be able to interact with the playwright and perform the world premiere of the play in April 2012.

We are looking for playwrights to suggest a novel, legend, or fairytale that can be adapted freely by the playwright. Please consider that the play should be no longer than 60 minutes in performance, will have only minimal design elements (mostly built by students) and should be able to accommodate 20-25 student actors.

We received a number of thoughtful and engaging proposals.  Clearly, the playwrights who put their name in the hat were serious about the idea of getting to write for students who had never done theatre before.  Here is the proposal we chose!

Show Description:
In RODEO, a young, spunky girl, Cody, wants to ride rodeo with the fellas.  Of course, she's laughed out of the ring.  No one knows she can ride just as swell as any boy cowpoke.  She doesn't quite fit in with all the young ladies of the town, and the cowboys hardly see her as a girl.  This makes it difficult for Cody since she is madly head over spurs smitten with Cab, the lead bull rider in the ring. But Cab is already smitten with the lovely Maimie who teaches first through sixth grade at the local make-shift school house.  So, Cody sets out to win the respect of the town and the affections of Cab by winning the major events in the county Rodeo, sponsored by her town.   She'll have to do it disguised as a boy, which makes it a mite difficult to flirt with Cab, but she finds unexpected encouragement from her family, good friends, her mule, and even Maimie.  What happens when the best cowboy in town .. is a cowgirl?

Playwright Bio:
Philip Dawkins is a Chicago playwright and educator. His play Yes To Everything! has been performed in Chicago, California, DC, New York, and Arkansas. Philip Dawkins’s previous plays for Northlight Theatre’s Education programming, EDGAR AND ELLEN:  BAD SEEDS and THE SKOKIE DETECTIVE CHARTER SCHOOL have both been published by Playscripts Inc ( and have now been performed all over Illinois, The United States, Canada, and Niagara Falls! Other plays include: You Gonna Eat That? (Healthworks), Ugly Baby (Chicago Vanguard / Strawdog Theatre Company), A Still Life in Color (T.U.T.A. Company), The Man with a Shattered World (Ethington Theatre), Saguaro(Estrogen Fest, Chicago; Estrogenius Festival, NY; 16th Street Theatre, Berwyn, Illinois; Painted Filly, Dublin); Perfect (The Side Project, Chicago), and Cast of Characters (Theatre III, Long Island),Dead Letter Office (Dog and Pony Theatre Co.), and The Homosexuals (About Face Theater). Mr. Dawkins is a Fellow of Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers in Scotland and was a fall 2009 Playwright in Residence at the William Inge Arts Center. He is a founding member with Eric C. Reda of Chicago Opera Vanguard, and he teaches playwriting at Northwestern University and Victory Gardens. He also teaches Kung Fu to little, tiny, Chicago children. Hi-YAH!

We are so thrilled to work with Philip. I love this proposal because it is an underdog story, has great pre-teen themes, is a comedy, has a strong sense of genre, and has high theatrical potential.  In two weeks, we will head to campus with our playwright Philip and the teaching artists who will teach/direct this year to recruit students.  I look forward to hearing what the students think of the play. I will report back on that soon!
Devon de Mayo, Director of Arts Education, Northlight Theatre

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Finished Product

We here at Center Theatre Group (CTG) have finally reached an end to our year long journey of our research exploring internship placements for graduate arts management students in local Los Angeles theatres. In reality, however, we feel our work is never done! We have learned so much and plan to launch an expanded internship program here at CTG that will include a new opportunity targeting graduate students based on this research-the CTG Scholars Program.

Please visit our webpage here to download our white paper and feel free to post any feedback here on the blog!

A special thanks to Theatre Communications Group and MetLife for giving us the opportunity to "think."

Leslie K. Johnson
Director of Education and Community Partnerships

Patricia Garza
Senior Manager for Education and Community Partnerships

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fourth Round Recipients Announced

MetLife Foundation and Theatre Communications Group (TCG) recently announced the fourth round of recipients for the MetLife/TCG A-ha! Program: Think It, Do It, which supports the creative thinking and action of TCG member theatres with the goal of impacting the larger theatre community. Five theatres were awarded grants, totaling $225,000, to either research and develop new ideas or experiment and implement innovative concepts.

This year’s recipients include two previous Think It recipients who are now putting their ideas and research into action with Do It grants.

The 2011 MetLife/TCG A-ha! Program recipients are:


Perseverance Theatre, Douglas, Alaska
Perseverance Theatre will explore the feasibility of using their new multi-city operations as a catalyst to build statewide programming for Alaskan theatre artists who would work and train with the company.


CalArts Center for New Performance, Valencia, California
The Center for New Performance at CalArts will convene a TEDx conference in Los Angeles, bringing together creative minds from disciplines across the contemporary performance landscape to expand understanding of the live arts.

Curious Theatre Company, Denver, Colorado
Curious Theatre Company, capitalizing on the momentum of their 2010 MetLife/TCG A-ha! Think It grant addressing the desire to re-center artists within organizations, will create an innovative post-specialist staffing structure by developing and integrating artists with staff in a new organizational paradigm.
LinkSalvage Vanguard Theater, Austin, Texas
Salvage Vanguard Theater will continue to cultivate the Scenic Co-op (shared 'set' resources cooperative) based on discoveries made during their 2010 MetLife/TCG A-ha! Think It grant project.

The Wooster Group, New York, New York
The Wooster Group will create an ongoing online talk show series in which artists across disciplines have discussions with other artists and the public, to foster a more thorough discourse of vital topics that include current trends in the arts; as well as more expansive cultural and political issues.

You can read more about the program and previous recipients here.