Tuesday, September 14, 2010

OOB Community: What and Who is it?

Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, Cat Parker

When I first moved to New York, a dear friend, John Morrison, introduced me to the WorkShop Theater Company and they welcomed me into their fold. Thus began my entrĂ©e into the world of Off-Off-Broadway theatre. I met other directors, actors, playwrights, stage manager, producers, technicians and all the “slashie” combinations of those positions. As we all know, the ability to wear multiple hats, and change them mid-stream can be a real asset in our world.

Then I took a detour – I began work at T. Schreiber Studio, which afforded me a wonderful opportunity and unique environment to hone my directing and producing skills. TSS was a great place to work, but one thing I noticed about my time there was that I was losing touch with the outside community. So, after I left TSS, my first priority was to re-establish contact with the theatre community. Seems like an easy proposition, right? After all, it seemed pretty straight forward in my earlier years. Turns out, identities in the theatre world are mushy, grey, and ever-changing. See that struggling, first-time playwright over there? In her day job, she’s a well-respected actress in off-Broadway and regional houses. That budding OOB producer over there in the grungy jeans and decades-old tee shirt? He makes his living as a literary assistant at a very well established producer’s office, wearing a very snazzy tie with his white shirt, thank you very much.

Who are these people? Where/What are the parameters? How the hell am I supposed to get back into the swimming pool?

Fortunately, there are two very big and helpful elements to help me take this dive. The first is that theatre people are generally very willing to help each other out. When I sit in a puddle in the floor and wail “HELP!” I am never left hanging – good friends, and “6-degrees-of-facebook” friends have always come to my rescue. Casting advice, rehearsal space, that one freakish prop you desperately need – all of these have magically appeared just when I was on the verge of ripping my hair out because of the generous nature of our community. So, when I tap on the shoulder of a stranger at a gathering, feebly introduce myself, and take a chance on this scary thing called “networking,” it’s gratifying to have them smile and say something like, “Oh riiiight! You’re the one that was looking for the blue thing-a-ma-hoochie with the red candles and spotted feathers. Glad we could share ours with you.” (The fact that no one in the group even looks vaguely askance at that description is testament to a whole ‘nuther trait about theatre folks, which I’ll leave for another time.)

The second element(s) are the folks at NYIT. [Yes, I know this is their blogspot, but I’m really not just kissing up!] I got involved with NYIT originally as a judge for productions, and then was asked into the Honorary Awards Committee. Being involved with this varied group of individuals has really widened my understanding of how intricate, complex and passionate our community is. And professional! Sometimes the word “community” has more of a social feel to it, but the reality is that our “community” is deadly serious about what we do. And the folks at NYIT are entangled with community leaders and organizations at all the various levels – political, legal, social, revolutionary, journalistic, polling, statistics, reviewing, “a”warding and “re”warding, past, present and future. If it’s going on in the world of independent theatre, someone at NYIT is involved or knows someone who is. So, when I made the decision to leap back into the fray, I turned to these colleagues, and they said…… “Hey, wanna be a guest blogger for us?”

So, next time I’m being the wall-flower at a gathering, and I pluck up the courage to come tap on your shoulder, hopefully you’ll turn around and say, “Oh yeah, I know you – I read your blog!” and we’ll have widened our community by one more degree. Who is the OOB community? – I am.

And, should you need a blue thing-a-ma-hoochie with the red candles and spotted feathers, I’m there for ya.



  1. I know a lot of folks are feeling like as real estate pushes so many of us out of the city - there isn't much of an oob community feel like there was back in the day (60's, 70's, 80's and some of the 90's)...good to know!

  2. Leap back in and do it with gusto!!! I'm all for getting the community to work and support each other rather then feel they need to compete for minimum resources!!