Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Common Thread


Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, Roman Feeser.

As a born and bred New Yorker I’m fascinated by what draws people to NYC. What common thread brought these people here? In any group setting you are guaranteed to find at least one Mid-Westerner, a Southerner and if you’re lucky a foreigner. I grew up on Long Island, so NYC was always my playground. It was where I came when I cut class and it’s where my parents took me to see theatre. I knew it would become my home one day.

For me the same question holds true for the Innovative Theatre Awards board and staff. Where did these fascinating people come from? How did the Executive Directors find so many talented and dedicated people? What drew us all together? Here’s my story.

In 2007 I was working on my play Missa Solemnis or The Play About Henry, the story of gay Mormon Henry Stuart Matis. It was about finished and I needed a director stat. I also needed a producer who knew his or her way around the theatre scene. I didn’t know where to begin. I wasn’t exactly a neophyte, I had produced and directed my previous two shows, but they were more like industrial showcases with bare bones everything. Missa deserved something more. I had worked five years researching this play. I was extremely passionate about the piece and I was also ready to move into the ranks of Off-Off-Broadway. But how did one get there? Then I met Linda S. Nelson.

Linda was the founder of Shotgun Productions NYC and had produced, directed and acted in many productions throughout the Off-Off-Broadway community. I had worked with Linda on several of her theatre company’s fundraising events but never had the nerve to talk about Missa. When I discovered that she herself was from Salt Lake I went in for the kill. She was on board.

A year later I was dating Adam. Adam was the founder of his own successful Off-Off-Broadway Theatre Company that produced three shows a year. He invited me to be his plus one to something called the IT Awards Nominee Announcement. Not knowing what that meant but knowing I was going to be surrounded by theatre industry (and free liquor) I jumped at the chance to attend. The fact that it was summer and hot as hell, and it was in a church basement and crowded and I barely got to eat anything didn’t deter me from having an amazing time. The energy was palpable. It was a community. It was like family. People were there to celebrate theatre which made all the other details melt away.

Unbeknownst to me, Linda was in attendance. I immediately dumped Adam and stood next to Linda plotting our show and how we could get it nominated! “We will be up there next year!” I declared. Adam refuses to speak to me to this day.

I submitted Missa to the IT Awards. It was easy. It was free. It was exciting. We didn’t get nominated. But that was ok. I don’t write theatrical pieces for awards I write them for the rewards.

In the Fall of that same year, my good friend Michael Mitchell called me. I met Michael three years earlier while he still lived in Salt Lake. I was in Utah working on sabbatical and researching Missa. Michael worked for the ACLU at the time and had planned to move to NYC the following year. I told him to look me up. We remained friends ever since. Michael was the board president of the Innovative Theatre Awards a fact I had not known until I attended the nom party with Adam. Michael knew my passion for theatre and was calling because he wanted to recommend me for the IT Board. I didn’t know what the demand would be on my life and if I could serve on a board, but I went anyway. From the Nom Party to the actual Award show (especially the Frisbee throwing) the IT Awards had me intrigued and if I could be of some value to the organization I would be more than happy to serve. They voted me in!

In my time served with the IT Awards I have met some incredible people and accomplished some amazing things. The dedication from the IT staff and board is unprecedented. Our dedication is because we care. We care about the Off-Off-Broadway community and we care about its place in this great city of ours. That is why we do what we do. That is the common thread that drew us together.

If someone was to ask me today how I got involved with the IT Awards, I wouldn’t retell this story. I would simply reply “I’m one lucky bastard!”


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