After the first sustained pause in the conversation between (sober) theatremakers the party question of choice is “what is your dream project?”
It’s a fun topic and generally it means you don’t have to talk for a minute which limits your probability of saying something stupid. It works best for actors and directors and pretty well for designers or writers. It works less well for… well for me.
I am a sometime actor and director, more often I’m a producer, but mostly I’m a thinker with an interest in community building – which isn’t really invigorating party talk. I would love the time (and ability) to do King Lear but my true dream project is bigger.
I want to create and curate the ArtsDepot.
My first real theatre experience after school was at the Exit Theatre in San Francisco. It’s a warren of 3 theatre spaces and a cabaret/cafe space in two physical locations in the Tenderloin District. It’s magic. Christina Augello and Richard Livingston have created the sort of hive of theatrical energy that every community desperately needs. If you’re new to the San Francisco theatre scene and have any interest in indie theatre, hang out at the Exit for a little while, your people will show up.
I want to do it bigger.
You have one of these in your town. It’s an abandoned big box store. In this case a Home Depot. It is a massive footprint space that only another Big Box Retailer could fill, but their sustainability (of profits) plans generally requires that they build from scratch.
I want it.
I want this store and its land.
I want to carve three performance spaces into it, one 99 seat house and two 50 seat houses.
- I want to have:
- scene shop + housing for the Austin Scenic Co-op
furnished communal office space for theatre and dance groups to use,
and a cafe/bar.
So roughly I want the moon and the stars, but wait! There’s more!
There is plenty of space around the building to create outdoor performance space and plenty of parking. It’s on a major highway (the same major highway as the Guthrie!) so access is easy if not always uncongested.
What does this do?
- Creates more performance spaces for Austin.
- Provides a space for artists to create in community. I want to model this on Sandy Stone’s amazing ACTLab at the University of Texas.
Friction requires proximity. Giving people the tools necessary to create includes access to one another.
- Equal opportunity for visual, performance, and movement artists.
In the same space. The future means not separating specialties.
- It creates a space in the building for the audiences and artists to interact. There is no physical break between the experience and the interaction. Getting in your car and separating yourself from the experience to go to the bar euthanizes the moment. Can you imagine the audiences from three Fusebox shows all emptying into the same cafe at once and talking about art and performance and feeling the glow that only shared experience can bring?
- It creates opportunity for awareness. With three shows running you will be exposed to a broader cross-section of available than being at one far-flung location.
On a selfish note it also would grant me space to curate. Whether that meant allowing for an extension of a show that deserved a longer run than one of Austin’s other theatres could provide or bringing in a production from out of town that I think Austin would enjoy. That sort of exchange broadens the vocabulary of our community and creates opportunity for outside artists to experience this city. There is also the opportunity to host a company in residency as the Exit has done for Ripe Theatre and for Cutting Ball Theatre which eliminates their space costs for a year.
Of course something on this scale is a pipe dream for me personally, a fun “if I won the lottery” game, but the model that the Exit presents would scale beautifully, and I hope to help see it put to the test in some daring community,
(if you have the capital and inclination to do it in Austin call me! (512) 524-3761)