Thursday, January 31, 2013

First observations from Thayne Abraham

I have come to love scenic art and the majority of my knowledge of the field has been garnered from the experienced veterans that surround me at OSF. Because I value real world education and because my experience outside of OSF has been relatively minimal I feel this exchange program is a really perfect fit for me.  I am looking forward to seeing new technicians and observing how a different production building functions while doing my best to help them put on a show, so thanks for this cool opportunity! I mean this both literally and figuratively.


First Observations from Kira Nehmer

January 29, 2013
Day Three at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival:  so far it’s been a whirlwind of meeting new people, getting to know Ashland, getting to know the facilities and working on quite a few different projects.  Before I dive into my initial observations, here’s a little background on me:  I am currently a staff Scenic Artist at Milwaukee Repertory Theater in Milwaukee, WI.  This is my first season with the Rep; I started working there in July of 2012 and have painted 8 ½  shows out of their 13 show season.  Before joining the Rep’s staff, I was a freelance scenic artist in New York City for four years.  Transitioning from freelance to full-time staff has been interesting; I have found that there are many differences.  More on that later, as it applies...
          The major differences between the Rep and OSF that I’d like to point out right away are our differences in staffing and in facilities.  I’ll stick mostly to the paint shop, as that is my area.  At the Rep, we have a Charge Artist, a Lead Scenic Artist, a Scenic Artist (me), and an intern.  At OSF, they have a Charge Artist, two Lead Scenic Artists (one of them is Thayne, my exchange partner), two Scenic Artists, and two interns.  So OSF has almost twice as many artists in their shop.  However, our space at the Rep is probably four times the floor space that is available at OSF.  (OSF has a separate space in which they paint that I have yet to see, so I may make amendments to this observation.)  However, their performance spaces are larger than ours.  Both companies have three theatres, but two of OSF’s spaces are about as large as our one main stage.  Long story short: they’re producing more scenery at the end of the day. 
          The other thing that I wanted to briefly hit on before we get deep into this exchange was how difficult planning was.  To be clear, it wasn’t difficult because of OSF or because of the Rep.  It was difficult because of the nature of theatre.  To do an equal exchange, where two scenics worked on the same number of shows, would be nearly impossible to plan because every theater’s performance schedules are different, which makes their build schedules different.  Add in factors such as the number of artists working and floor space available, planning for such an accurate exchange would simply never happen.  A concrete example: while at OSF, I will mostly be working on “The Unfortunates”, but I won’t have enough time here to finish the project.  Thayne will have a little more success: he’ll be painting two shows start-to-finish at the Rep.  This is because both of those shows open by the time he leaves, whereas “The Unfortunates” doesn’t open for another three weeks after my departure.  It would be an interesting experiment to swap artists for an entire season, but our paint time is July-March, whereas OSF’s paint time is fall-summer.  The schedules simply wouldn’t allow it.  Nevertheless, I think this exchange is such an awesome idea and I can’t wait to see what everyone gets out of it.  Stay tuned for more thoughts on my first week here!

First Exchanges

The first artisan exchange between the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Milwaukee Repertory Theater is underway. Scenic artist Thayne Abraham is in Milwaukee and Kira Nehmer has arrived in Ashland. It has been a little hectic finalizing all the details. We decided to create a simple letter of agreement between all of the participants to clarify who was responsible for what. We had  help from our HR Department and others in assuring that all artisans are covered by workers compensation insurance and arranging for transportation, housing and stipends.  I would like to thank OSF's Production and Artistic Associate Rachel Maize, Safety Manager Janice Tacconi and HR Director David Taylor, plus the partner theaters and artisans who are making this project happen.
Bill Tiesi
Project Director

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Artisan Exchange at OSF

Unlike actors and artists, production artisans tend to be isolated in their home theatres and don’t have many opportunities to interact with artisans from other theatres. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) received AHA funding to partner with up to five regional theatres on an exchange program for production craftspeople. Five staff will be released from their OSF assignments to work at one of the other theatres, and each will send an artisan to work in a parallel position at OSF. We want to explore the benefits and challenges of sharing production skills and resources across the field. We believe that the potential impact is profound.

Production Manager Tom Knapp recently retired after more than 30 years at OSF. Technical Director Bill Tiesi has stepped in as our AHA project director. Bill has identified five potential partner theatres: Shakespeare Theatre Company, Children’s Theatre Company, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Huntington Theatre, and Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. He solicited applications from OSF artisans, asking them to submit a resume and a short statement about what they hope to learn from the exchange. In November, Bill and other OSF’s shop managers went through the process of selecting the artisans for the exchange. These sessions felt very much like casting, with the added complication of matching OSF applicants with the applicants from other theatres.

The first exchange is set to begin this month: OSF Scenic Artist Thayne Abraham will head to Milwaukee Repertory Theatre and Milwaukee Rep Scenic Artist Kira Nehmer will come to OSF.

We are very excited to see the Artisan Exchanges actually happening. Thanks to the MetLife Foundation, TCG, and all the people who helped make this a reality.