Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Gray Area of New York Theatre


Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week Cathy Bencivenga.

TACT (The Actors Company Theatre) was founded in 1992 by a group of mid-career actors with the mission to do rarely seen plays of literary merit. 18 years later, many of the original company members are still involved and TACT maintains one of the few groups in the city with a repertory company of actors.  I have the unique point of view of having one company that consists of all actors and another that consists of all directors.

For its first 14 years, TACT existed primarily as a reader's theatre doing concert performances (think Encores!, which debuted the same year) of lost gems in three or four performance spurts. Having built up a hefty subscriber and donor base and looking to delve deeper, TACT began doing fully realized productions in 2005. Since then, we have become a resident company in the Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row, presenting two six week runs there each season.

In the beginning we produced on a modified-by-concession seasonal showcase in which AEA allowed us to set a firm fee to the actors instead of a percentage of income, and after two seasons we moved on to the newly created Transition contract. While not perfect, the Transition contract is an answer to the difficulties companies were having stepping from the showcase to an LOA. It is a 3 year tiered contract that allows for lower weekly salary in exchange for less rehearsal hours and total performances and still restricts to a 99 seat house. I highly recommend it to companies looking to move past a showcase code.

While on contract and therefore officially "Off Broadway," TACT exists in a gray area of New York theatre. Ticket price and audience-wise we compete with major Off Broadway companies several times our size, yet because of our theatre size, we don't qualify for things like the Lortel Awards and barely run long enough to get real word of mouth momentum going.

Last night we opened The Memorandum by
Vaclav Havel. A quintessential TACT play, Memo is a quirky satire on bureaucracy gone mad that hasn't been seen in a major NY production since its 1968 premier as part of the inaugural season at the Public Theater.  We had some bad luck in the room, namely the losing our lead actor two weeks ago when he was hit by a car, but the production has pulled together well and has had respectable reviews trickling in all day. 

Now that I've given some background, for my final post tomorrow I'll talk a little bit about what The Internationalists and TACT have in common and how they relate to the OOB community. 


1 comment:

  1. FYI, The Memorandum was presented at The Ohio a few years ago as part of the Havel fest, and Vaclav Havel himself attended--so it's definitely been in NYC since 1968!