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Well if you’re so smart

08.09.12 | 26 Comments


CATEGORIES arts administration, audiences, community, development, neverbedark, new play development, new plays, the process

The ease of publishing in this post-Millennial moment means that a lot of half and semi-baked ideas get pushed into the universe, and the lack of friction to respond combined with the relative lack of consequence of narrowcasting your opinions means that a lot of folks get to talk an awfully big game without anyone calling them on it.

If you want to actually be one of the big kids instead of simply commenting on them you need to put your ideas into the world. If we want to move forward as a sector we need to hold each other accountable and ask important second questions. First questions are important. The first question may be speaking truth to power but that’s not a solution. We need to follow through and make the conversations we have turn to realities and solutions or we simply keep yelling the same things over and over again.

In the case of the Guthrie’s new season we asked why it was so male and white. We asked how Joe Dowling and his team could have the sort of institutional blindness that precluded them from recognizing it before being called out on it and then a bunch of folks called them names.

So let’s ask the next question. What does a properly built season look like? What sort of framework can an AD (and their team) use to program a season that they can sell and moves the form forward in their community. What principles can we establish as worthy of being part of every theatre’s programming?

I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t begin to have answers. I have never run a theatre or completed a full season in the way that we’re discussing. I have never had the responsibility of covering others’ livelihood or making insurance payments. The things I’m looking for in a season are going to lack a rigorous commercial viewpoint because I lack that background.

I am also going to allow myself the one caveat that while the principal  I wish to push for is a vaguely academic and analytical principal (and the model I build it on is rudimentary), it relies on something that has made itself very clear in my time in Austin: never ever underestimate an audience.

While the conversation around the Guthrie’s season was primarily about diversity I think there are broader problems with season planning. Others will be following to address the diversity question head on but I would like to talk about what I feel is the first step to better programming. The underlying thing I think is most missing from season selection is a really basic combination: shows that communicate with each other and create dialogue with an audience. The death of subscription series might be going differently if my participating in a full season at your theatre paid off in some way. If your theatre is simply a multiplex offering a mishmash jumble of entertainment why should I give you income certainty for 8% off?

“A Touch of Class”

One model that I think can create ongoing conversation is a “tentpole and response” season. In this model I’m going to use the Seagull.

For planning purposes I am assuming two theatre spaces, a 400 seat “main stage”  and a 99 seat black box and a $2-3M budget making it a lightly resourced small theatre.

On your mainstage for your non-holiday season you present The Seagull in a fully realized production. I would actually avoid heady concept in the direction or design on the tentpole as you’re going to riff off it already.

In rep with The Seagull on the same set you present Steven Dietz’ take on the Seagull, The Nina Variations. I would use the opportunity to feature younger members of your company (it can use as many of them as you’d like really) and introduce them to your mainstage audience.

I would then add 1 more published show and 3 commissions to extend your conversation. I add Adam Szymkowicz’s Food For Fish to open a discussion of Chekov’s broader themes (it’s a take on Three Sisters).

My commissions in this case go to folks I know a little, but mostly because they’re folks whose take I’m interested in that I trust will deliver product I can take to an audience and they will be interested in.

So I would commission Callie Kimball, J. Holtham, and Joshua Conkel to provide full length responses to the themes in the Seagull. They would be in the smaller theatre, but be guaranteed full productions.

The theatre, the writers, the performers and the audiences all get to have a conversation about race, class and gender through a shared framework of the season. They don’t need to have gone to grad school for classical theatre, everything they need will be provided in your theatre.

It’s just an exercise but I think a model that offers benefits…. :

  • It pays off on repeat attendance at the theatre.
  • It introduces new voices to your audience.
  • It includes a diversity of voices even before we pair directors with projects.
  • It is a mix of new and classical work.
  • It creates a narrative for the year.
  • It leaves nooks and crannies to create #NeverBeDark programming around the themes and issues the season brings up.
  • Those same nooks and crannies create partnership opportunities with community groups and possibly reaching out to new constituencies.

I also leave open the holiday segment of 8-12 weeks for non-tentpole affiliated programming for whatever entertainment your audience likes.

What would your season look like?
What principles guide your season creation?

Using the same sort of criteria write it up and let’s talk about it.

Updated: The sixth paragraph was edited to clarify my goal in this season model in Response to Valerie Weak’s comments below.

Travis Bedard

A long time theatre blogger and proud advocate for new work in general and Austin theatre specifically in the social media realm.Travis is the Artistic Director of Cambiare Productions in Austin and a contributing writer to 2amTheatre.com. Travis holds a degree in Theatre (Secondary Education) from the University of New Hampshire.

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  • Valerie Weak

    Travis – I appreciate your post and this conversation
    greatly.  But it seems like you’re
    setting up your season as an alternate to the Guthrie’s, and from a purely
    numbers standpoint, I see a mainstage season of 3 white male playwrights, and 1
    more on your 2nd stage. 
    A quick google scan tells me you’ve rounded out your 2nd
    stage w/one non-white male, and one female.   While I can see that your thematic programming is
    different than the Guthrie’s, I see very little difference in diversity of
    voices.

     

    Some suggestions:

    Emily Mann/Seagull in the Hamptons

    Short plays by Maria Fornes, Samm-Art Williams, Wendy
    Wasserstein in the collection ‘Orchards: Seven Stories by Anton Chekhov and
    Seven Plays They Have Inspired.’

    Tanya Saracho/El Nogalar

    Chiori Miyagawa/Leaving Eden

    Wendy Kesselman/The Black Monk: A Chamber Musical

    • http://blog.CambiareProductions.com Travis Bedard

      I think that’s absolutely correct.  
      Statistical diversity wasn’t my goal. My specific goal is diversity in voice and my three commissions are folks who would speak to gender, class and race which is something that interests me in response to the Seagull. (I would honestly probably swap out a rural voice for race if it were Cherry Orchard)I might swap Tanya for Adam… but I haven’t read El Nogalar yet :)How would you specifically program such a season?

      • Valerie Weak

        okay.  I’d start w/Lorca’s Bernarda Alba, and I’d run that in rep with a new piece commissioned from a group creating devised theater with a strong physical aesthetic, something like ‘Dirty Laundry’ – a Yerma-inspired piece currently in development in SF: http://www.inkblotensemble.com/dirtylaundry/  I’d round out my mainstage season with David Adjimi’s Stunning, which maybe isn’t as obvious a connection as the Chekhov examples, but seems thematically linked to me in its double whammy of passion and societal repression.  On the 2nd stage, I’d love to commission Enrique Urueta (or maybe just give his ‘Forever Never Comes’ a 2nd production if my fictional theater weren’t in the Bay Area).  A few other writers I’d like to have on that commission list – Marisela Trevino Orta, Lauren Gunderson.  Hard to pick just two, but sure, I’d ask 2 writers to respond/riff on the themes in Bernarda Alba, and give their new works full productions, just like for the devised piece.  The last show on the 2nd stage would be Crimes of the Heart by Beth Henley.

        And my holiday show would be Paula Vogel’s Civil War Christmas.

  • http://www.davidjloehr.com/ David J. Loehr

    One dream season I’ve thought about before is also Chekhovian…

    Three existing plays:Three Sisters by ChekhovAnton in Show Business by Jane MartinMarion Bridge by Daniel MacIvor

    Now, these are primarily plays by men.  (Cough.  Jane Martin.  Cough.)  So to balance, I would commission responses from women.  Two or three full length plays to round out the mainstage season.  Maybe those are responses to or variations on the Chekhov, maybe they’re specifically women writing about brothers, that’s up to the playwrights.  But wait, that’s not all.

    I would fill my other stages with a regular series of collections of ten minute plays and/or one act plays, also by women, also related to the larger theme, to run for one to two weekends every six weeks.  All new work, performed by local, smaller theatre groups.  That supports the local artists in my community, it gets exponentially more voices on my stage, and it adds to the #neverbedark ideal by continuing to have new, simple, affordable events on a more frequent basis.

    I would also want to do readings of plays that would tie in thematically as well, either new or existing work.  Those would be smaller, ancillary events to attract my core audience and patrons, to attract students and new audiences maybe not ready to come to a full production or, more to the point, not able to afford the ticket price for mainstage shows.

    That’s just one potential season I’ve had in mind for a while…

  • Callie

    I especially love your introduction to this post, Bedard. You are so right about how easy it is to take a swipe at the big guys while not really having any skin in the game. Thanks for setting up this thought experiment. I hope actual fruit comes from it.

    You know I’d write you a full-length play for a dollar, but boy I’d love to see at least one of your commissions on the main stage. I know it’s riskier, but why not trust that the audience will stay in the big tent and believe that what you’re offering is worthy, if unfamiliar? Seems that would be an exciting way of not underestimating your audience.

    Thanks.

    • http://blog.CambiareProductions.com Travis Bedard

      You are dead on. I chickened out even in fantasy.

      Originally the idea was to leave the Seagull set on the mainstage all season with Nina/Seagull running in rep on it, which meant limiting the commissionees, but that sort of got scrapped….

      I think not only do we need to trust our audience but we need to give writers the keys to the big car (and space and designers) and see what the big dreams look like. 

      Mea maxima culpa.

  • http://twitter.com/CodyDaigle Cody Daigle

    I really appreciate the notion of a good season being made of shows that are in conversation with each other. Before I left Louisiana, we were talking about making seasons that were yearlong conversations with our audience, picking shows that fed a central question we wanted to ask over the course of a year. 

    As artists, we’d go on an investigation together through a series of shows. And our audience would go on an investigation of their own from their vantage point in the theatre seats. 

    There’s something appealing about the conversation being more important that the titles. 

    For what that’s worth/

  • http://xeric-front-yard.tumblr.com/ Tim Thomas

    I really like your idea of a dialog of shows Travis. 

    But I’d also like to bring up what I call my “Hyde Park Theatre” rule. Their top grossing plays were all the 3rd production of a play by a playwright who was more or less unknown in Austin when they started producing them.

    I think there’s a strong lesson there. Not only should you do the commissions, but you should invest in doing one a year by the same playwright so you can actually build an audience for their work. You should assume that there’s a good chance the first will fail financially and invest in the long run. 

    • http://blog.CambiareProductions.com Travis Bedard

      I would love to have you write up a longer defense of a year by the same playwright… what are the benefits to an audience? What are the benefits to a theatre?

      • http://xeric-front-yard.tumblr.com/ Tim Thomas

        Oh! Absolutely not a year by the same playwright. Doing one show by the same playwright for 3 concurrent years. Sorry if I wasn’t clear there. I imagine in your model you could stagger them so each year you had a year 1 playwright’s show, a year 2 playwright’s show and a year 3 playwright’s show. You’d always be concurrently building an audience for 3 writers.

  • JConks

    To get more women you could always include Annie Baker’s Uncle Vanya. It’s kind of the bomb, I hear. 

    Off topic-ish: I know I benefit from privileges from being white and male, but I’m also a queer (not gay- queer) and blue collar writer which puts me in a very different camp than the standard white dude lump of writers, personally and artistically. It’s important to remember that women and people of color are not the only minorities. 

    • Valerie Weak

      agreed!  I only know you from your google photo and seeing MML at Impact, so I could guess that you identified as queer, but without knowing you, couldn’t say for sure in my comment above.  Diversity has so very very many stripes – gender, ethnicity, age, physical disability, class, urban/rural, religious outlook, political outlook.  What else?  

  • http://twitter.com/halcyontony Tony Adams

    Honestly, I’d reject the premise of building a subscription season around a flagship show.  

    It would take some major structural changes to the production/marketing machinery, but what I would do is open four shows on the mainstage, progressing into a rep. Say Caroline or Change, Drums on the Dam, Sacrifice and The Age of Arousal and  as open runs, each playing twice a week.
    I would have ten or so three week runs in the smaller space,  presenting small companies, along with dance, music, comedy and other performance modes inbetween the short runs. 
    The ones from the smaller space that really connect with audiences would move over into rep  on the mainstage. Use the smaller space as an R&D lab to feed the mainstage. When mainstage shows lose their steam, they close and another show goes in it’s place.  

  • Cole Matson

    I’ve always wanted to do a season on heroes/saints, and the question of how relevant such figures are today (and can we – ought we – be saints and heroes)? My favourite play is The World Over by Keith Bunin (which opens Monday at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe - 
    http://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/theatre/world-over - plugety-plug), and it has a great line, “We’re all of us meant to be heroes.” So I’d start with that.

    Then, I’d like to do productions of Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons and Maureen Martin’s The Red Hat (about St John Fisher, also executed under Henry VIII). I’d love to be able to commission an adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall to run in rep, if we could get the rights. Otherwise, I’d commission a couple Baltimore playwrights I know – either Terry Kenney or Stephen Kilduff – to write a response to Man for All Seasons.

    I’d also like to invite Fr Rick Curry SJ, founder of the National Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped and a director who works with war veterans, to create a piece with his soldiers on the theme of being a hero, as well as doing some of Erik Ehn’s saint plays.

    I’d also like to invite my current World Over director, a talented young Scot, to create a devised piece on the year’s theme, and/or direct a production of Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme.

    Finally, I’d like to commission a play about modern-day saints, like the Algerian martyrs of the film Of Gods and Men, the martyrs of El Salvador, and/or the martyrs of WWII (such as Edith Stein and Maximilian Kolbe). I’d probably open that up to proposals for a full-length play.

    Now that’s primarily white guys, but there is some diversity in terms of gender, sexuality, geography, and age, as well as a mix of professional and amateur creators, and a representative from a religious order.

    One thing that occurs to me is that this list is primarily white guys because I’m a white guy and know other white guys. Perhaps that speaks to the importance of a show’s administration being diverse first, so that people who belong to different groups will be aware of talented friends who belong to the same groups.

    Of course, I’d like to fill in the gaps in the above program with talks, field trips, maybe a book club and other events, as well as a volunteering and educational program, to create a year of discussion and resulting action.

  • Elizabeth Spreen

    What a great exercise. 

    Here’s my season: 
    The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. In The Summer House by Jane Bowles. Stunning by David Adjmi (love that play), and Eliot, A Soldier’s Fugue by Quiara Alegría Hudes. I would run them in Rep. These plays deal with family, mothers and/or memory. 

    R & D: Full or Low Residencies (with paid commission or grant funding): Inkblot ensemble & Mugwumpin. Josh Conkel, Enrique Urueta, Laura Axelrod, Marisela Treviño Orta, & me (I’m working on play called The Laurette Taylor Experience, so it might be helpful if the audience had a familiarity with the Glass Menagerie). 

    Artists could work on whatever they wanted. If it was mutually agreeable, we’d continue the residency until what they were working on was finished and then we’d do a full production, feeding the work into the mainstage rep cycle. I’d watch what was happening with the work going on in R & D and discuss with these artists what plays or artists were influencing their work and we’d extend that conversation to the audience (there’s so much you could do with that). 

    There would be open rehearsal/workshop readings or staged readings (depending on how each playwright worked). But the idea is that the audience somehow gets exposure to this work and the work of our resident artists. We could feed other plays by the resident artists into the Mainstage season. I’d spend time plotting out seasons that the new work could be in conversation with or against. 

    I’d bring in international artists – dance, music, theater and offer workshops to the community.

    I have late night programming like Reefer Madness, Harold and Maude, music, dance, evenings of 10 minutes performances by local artists, or group games – there are endless programming possibilities.

    Holiday? I’d probably do something like It’s a Wonderful Life or Harold and Maude. Or invite Taylor Mac.

    There would be pie.

  • http://twitter.com/MariselaTOrta MariselaTreviñoOrta

    Elizabeth is right, this is a great exercise.

    I have 2 seasons to offer. Hey, if we can dream, then I’m gonna have 2 seasons I’m dreaming up.

    The first:
    * Dreams of the Penny Gods by Callie Kimball
    * Lydia by Octavio Solis
    * Samsara by Lauren Yee
    * Shakespeare Than Fiction by Rebecca Frank

    During this season I’d have 4 writers in residency all working on new plays that would be presented as staged readings with the idea that they consider the theme of the season (family) and riff off it. The writers would be (Bay Area since that’s where I am): Andrew Saito, Brian Thorstenson, Myself and Elizabeth Spreen.

    2nd season would be all about trilogies. I’d partner with two other theatres for this. Each of us would present 1 play from a trilogy or cycle of plays.

    I’d present:
    * Into The Clear Blue Sky by JC Lee (2nd in his This World and After series)
    * The Road Weeps, The Well Runs Dry by Marcus Gardley (2nd play in a trilogy re the migration of Black Seminoles (African and Native American people) from Florida to Oklahoma)
    * The River Bride by ME (First in a cycle of grimm Latino fairy tales)
    * …okay, I need one more play that’s part of a trilogy (I welcome your ideas)

    This season would also have a residency component which would include: Inkblot Ensemble (whom I’d ask to develop a devised piece in response to the season’s theme or a play in the season), Eugenie Chan, Aaron Loeb and Tim Bauer. Again we’d include stage readings of their works in progress as part of the season.

    Regarding both residency programs. While the playwrights would be asked to respond in some way to the season, they are free to write whatever they want. Participating in the residency wouldn’t guarantee a production, but the plays written would most definitely be considered by the theatre. Playwrights would design the residency to best suit their needs as writers (setting their own writing goals). The theatre would provide table readings (bringing in actors, printing scripts). And the A.D. would attend each meeting (I’m thinking they’d be monthly).

    p.s. I tried to figure out how to include Tim Bauer’s Zombie Town: A Documentary Play, but didn’t have the brain cells this afternoon to do a third season with a theme about how the dead impact the living.

    • http://www.davidjloehr.com/ David J. Loehr

      I’d suggest Becket & Lion in Winter as 2/3 of a trilogy and commission a 3rd story to go along with them.  (Not that I’ve thought about such a thing at all.  No.  Not at all.)

    • Elizabeth Spreen

      I’ve got it, Marisela!  I was trying to round out a second season. 
      Tim Bauer’s Zombie Town: A Documentary Play
      Thornton Wilder’s Our Town
      Sheila Callaghan’s Dead City or even Crumble: Lay Me Down Justin Timberlake
      Naomi Iizuka’s Language of Angels 

      • http://twitter.com/MariselaTOrta MariselaTreviñoOrta

        Thanks! That sounds perfect.

      • Elizabeth Spreen

        Here’s one more: I’d round out this season with Jackie Sibblies Drury’s We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South West Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years  1884 – 1915. 

    • callie

      I blush that you include my work, when I am such a fan of yours!

      Johnna Adams has a fine trilogy, called The Angel Eaters Trilogy (Angel Eaters, Rattlers, and 8 Little Antichrists).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000085755797 Erin Merritt

    I’m just returning to the world of new plays, so I don’t have much to add in terms of plays to pair with your big-classic, but I do want to underline the sentence that stood out for me here, which can not be said loudly enough, apparently: “never ever underestimate an audience.” It seems to me that’s exactly the key to all our wrong-headed casting issues. Producers seem to think they can’t book shows by women or minorities or gender-queer authors (or whomever) and can’t cast any shows with majority minority casts or differently abled casts or women in most the roles because the audience (which really equals “the donors”) won’t come. Certainly funders will support this work, and I have always found that audiences will too. We are the cultural gatekeepers, and if we don’t show them all the possibilities, how are they to know they want to see them? I produced all-female Shakespeare for over a decade and surprise surprise, men came in droves, young people came in droves, families came in droves, and even one woman in full burka came. A marketing consultant told me I needed to change our marketing materials so men would fell welcome, but 65% of our ticket buyers were men, a number than I think is unmatched anywhere else outside of porn. And no, we weren’t doing porn. Producers, trust your audiences and open the whole world to them. I look forward to seeing all the seasons above produced and in particular having all the “other” voices leading the conversation for once.

  • Brandon Moore

     I love the model here.  I’m persuaded by the notion that the season needs to say something AS A SEASON: plays in communication with each other is a more compelling argument than any others that I’ve heard.  I like the challenge of the model being a pragmatic season.  And I like the idea of a tent-pole coming from “the canon” as a way of giving it structure that’s more than just thematic, that reinforces the value of the classics as classics.  I’m in the same theatre as Travis, same budget, same pattern of main-space/extra-space, same ancillary work (all of that seem to be very sound premises to me.)  I’m probably being a little more “rigorously commercial”, but not in a pejorative way.  I agree audiences should not be underestimated.  The only explicit variation is that we’re in Toronto (or at least urban English Canada.)
    “Translations” by Brian Friel is my tent-pole.  I was introduced to it many years ago in a scene study intensive (playing Lieutenant Yolland) and ever since it has always been a personal favourite.  How we communicate is central to the play, and how theatre communicates is central to the exercise.  The narrative is sufficiently “open-ended” to allow the commissions to explore new territory in their “responses.”
    Plus, I just love the play, and the prospect of doing it honourably scares me as a director.  A lot.  Since we’re daydreaming, naturally I’m totally overcoming that challenge.
    I propose a second work from the author of the tent-pole.  Putting his own work in conversation with each other.  It’s “Dancing At Lughnasa” which is also commercial, and with choppier waters ahead, I need to play it safe.
    I love the commissions of new plays “responding” to the work in a Canadian context and having two founding languages.  Unlike Chekhov, Friel has moral rights that he can exert so hopefully he’s on board with our explorations.  And it’ll cost us, as I envision five commissions in total, all in the extra-space.
    The first is by Hannah Moscovitch, the second is by Carole Frechette.  Again, I’m already second-guessing myself but I see them right now (in this particular moment) as my favourite English-language and French-language Canadian playwrights.  And besides being awesome, they’re also “commercial” ones – in that I think these are playwrights whose names can sell shows.  (It’s why Frechette edged out Jennifer Tremblay, another francophone voice that excites me.)
    Both plays will –of course – also get a translation into the other official language.  That’s central to our tent-pole.  Each production will run surtitled™, and paired in repertory.  I haven’t decided the pairings yet; I think it’s Moscovitch in English and Frechette in French in the Fall, and then Moscovitch in French and Frechette in English in the Spring.  As much as I LOVE the idea that you’re going to see the same play in both languages within a week of each other, I anticipate audience resistance.
    Also, I’m not trying to pander to the Canada Council here – but I do think this pitch writes itself.
    The fifth commission is for a very short run of a play by an Irish playwright I’ve never heard of.  None of us probably have.  S/he hasn’t been produced in North America yet.  Hopefully, Gwydion Suilebhan’s “New Play Oracle” is ready, and sufficiently International so we can find him/her.  If it’s not, then I’m calling friends like Autumn Smith at MackenzieRo and John P. Kelly at Seven-Thirty Productions because they’ll know who the playwright is.  Or they’ll know who to call.  Maybe Friel has someone to shine his bright mentoring light onto.  We’re part of a global theatrical community, and I want to give an opportunity to that voice.  We’ll find him/her.
    The holiday show is the Nelson/Davey adaptation of James Joyce’s The Dead.  Sorry Marketing but at least, it’s a good musical.  And we’re going to kick ass with it.  Guaranteed.
    I’m running out of steam, and the last two main-stage spaces have me stumped.  Two voices that would traditionally be in the extra-space get the main-stage.   Because the “Translations” season needs to give voice to the voice-less, the unheard, because we’re afraid we don’t understand the language.  One must be rural (vital given our tent-pole.)   I’m open to suggestions.
    Still second-guessing a lot of this, but I have to throw this out to the universe or I’m not going to sleep tonight.

  • syhuff

    You guys are all way ahead of me with new plays, but I can comment on the basic ideas-in my view, there are 2 problems that need to be solved-the choice of plays and how you cast them.  If theatre companies feel compelled to go to crowd pleasers, they can always do non-traditional casting-as Erin points out, audiences love it.  Then they can use their second season to acclimate audiences to new viewpoints.  And can’t they re-mount successful new plays over multiple years so audience can start thinking of them as classics?

    • http://twitter.com/MariselaTOrta MariselaTreviñoOrta

      I think a really good example of a theatre that right of the gate started doing just new plays is Sleepwalkers Theatre here in San Francisco. Even with a small budget they’ve built a reputation with their audience and critics that they do new work and do it very well.

      In their 2010-2011 season they did an entire trilogy by one playwright, which was really exciting. And their casting, of what I’ve seen, is diverse.

      I personally believe that if you develop a relationship with your audience so that they trust you, you can produce new work by playwrights they’ve never heard of because your audience trusts you to curate an interesting and exciting season. A good example of this is Shotgun Players of Berkeley–their 20th anniversary season was all world premieres, including commissions. They have full houses on Wednesdays and Thursdays. How? B/c they have a loyal audience and because they consistently do interesting and exciting work and do it well.

  • Cynthia

    I’m fascinated by this discussion because I am opening a small theater in Miami and am formulating my first season. For the past two years I have been attending plays all around my Miami, studying the theater’s voices. Miami is unusual in that the minority of people are white with English as a first language. I’ve been studying these audiences, too. There are four distinct audiences that financially support their culture’s representation in theater: White American older women, Latins, Hindustanis, and Russians. They are not afraid of the new, since they have chosen and succeeded in coming to a new home. What they do wish for is the familiar within the new.

    The subjects of interest to these groups do not lie the areas men like to write about–war, heroes, rejection of the mother. Instead they are interested in coping with unfamiliar customs, issues of freedom, mother-daughter relationships, mother-oriented interactions with society, and romances. For instance, the Women’s Theater Project did a play about 2 female elephants that lived in American zoo and had to be moved to another zoo though the elephants were afraid to go. Here we had two characters who had been thrust into a foreign land and were now being asked to undergo yet another drastic change. One of the elephants was young and had been ripped from her mother during her capture.. This play, well done, was sold out at every performance. I think stories that look at the world from women’s perspectives are more often stories that are new in view while maintaining a familiar core. They are stories that understand the heroic effort of getting up each day to face a world that is always, day in and day out, going to be just slanted a bit on the side of condescending and hostile to you because you are not a white, English speaking male.

    My goal is to bring Miami’s diverse audiences together as a community and expand it to including a younger audience, those right out of college. I want to give the new with a familar base, that sort of familiar base that we all recognize and so find our common ground. I want to choose my season so that Miami can continue to teach me rather than me assuming I am the one to teach them.


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