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.