Friday, April 30, 2010

Title: Crash Test Smarties

Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, Jonathan Reuning.

My brother-in-law has a degree in economics so Ian and I consulted him when we started  United Stages.  He said the first and most important thing to do was to write a business plan – a crash test, so to speak – A way to imagine your company’s journey and anticipate potential potholes along the road. 

Does your company have a crash test? How do you envision your company doing two years from today? Three years? A decade from today? Grab a pencil with a non-dried out eraser and a stack of scrap paper. It isn’t real unless it’s written down. Who is your current audience? No, really, be specific. What things are you doing to make your audience grow? If you had to, who could you share resources with? (Who are your natural allies?)  Don’t know? Luckily you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There is an amazing amount of crash test advise to be found right here on this site.

This is my final guest blogger post and I just wanted to say thanks to the IT Foundation for the opportunity to enter the conversation. I’m obliged also to the NYC producers and artists who each day chime-in, remain curious, make connections with one another,  respect their audiences, and grow and thrive in the business and art of theater.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mercedes’ Rule


Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, Jonathan Reuning.

I was walking my small white dog the other morning and noticed a guy getting out of a Smart Car with his 90 pound Pit Bull and I had to ask him how the ride was in such a tiny car. The first thing out of his mouth was, “well, you know, Mercedes makes these.” Enough said, I thought, but then he added that he observed that the suspension handled the pot holes sometimes better than the larger cars he’s owned.

Wow, so, Mercedes Benz builds the Smart Car - those half sized city cars that fit two to a parking space – and now not only do I think they are more aptly named than ever but I’m left contemplating how reputation transcends size and how this ties into the topic of OOB and the Recession, which, if you’re just tuning in, is my guest topic.

In Tim Errikson’s previous blog, Size, level, and the meaning of life, he made a great point (among many) about fruitless attempts to pigeon-hole Indie/OOB companies with characteristics like “modest’ or “young” or ‘developing” or , let’s face it, “less than”. His point (sorry for the paraphrase, Tim) was that the only true thing one can generalize about us is we work in smaller venues. Colors and models may vary.

You can see this exemplified in the responses to my previous post, Ford Tough.

Daniel said he built his company and artistic goals to work in harmony with his space (The backroom at Jimmy’s No. 43) – even engineered original plays specifically for the site - allowing Rising Phoenix Rep to be, here it comes… a Smart Car.

On the other hand, Heather’s vision for Retro Productions is more traditional requiring period design, sets and costumes (and you know why she is a visionary when you see one of her shows, the design elements make you remember how much you appreciate theater as a collaborative art. See her previous blogs, Doing the Research and Gifts from the Prop Gods) HOWEVER, this Mercedes E350 sedan is bigger. It requires more a expensive parking space that costs a ridiculous amount of her budget (60%!). Should she switch to a crossover vehicle, a hybrid, or stay true to the vehicle she loves?


Monday, April 26, 2010

Ford Tough


Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, Jonathan Reuning.

Last year, because the mortgage market collapsed and it seemed our country was facing the next Great Depression, many theater companies stopped producing shows and started producing fundraisers. Some trimmed their expenses by showcasing work in festival venues that offered brief but less expensive performance opportunities. Some abbreviated their regular seasons while others suspended operation entirely to wait out the recession. Some took a gamble and charged up their MasterCard and took advantage of industry discounts. A year later these combination of strategies allowed ailing OOB a chance to rebound.

I recently read how Ford Motor Company’s reputation for fiscal conservatism was popularly ridiculed for being out of touch with the day’s risk rewarding financial strategies. Of course we now know that Ford was the only US automaker able to decline government bailout money. Their reluctance to outsmart their own balance sheets rewarded them with a huge advantage over their crippled competition. What’s more, instead of being complacent at the top of a shifting heap Ford heavily promoted the value of their products. Some experts believe that Ford’s momentum will keep them dominant for decades.

“OOB and the recession” is my guest blogger topic which sounds pretty ominous but I’m excited to explore it. I think there are probably some lessons to take away from our experiences. It is hard to imagine any small venue theater professional unaware of the negative impact the economy has had on small (and large) theater companies, but you know….It might surprise some to learn that during these most challenging 12 months there were some companies that did more than survive. They flourished. I can’t talk about specific US clients but I’ll say it again, many companies brought in record audiences. They maintained or increased their financial stability during our worst economic year in memory.

How were they able to stay in the game? Did OOB companies that also operated as fiscally conservative businesses take leaps forward? How much luck is involved vs. strategic planning? Aren’t Indie companies supposed to be art smart but maybe a little business-stupid? Possibly, but I’ve never seen it. Would love to hear how you are outsmarting the recession. Also, what you would have done differently if you’d had a year or two with advanced knowledge of the economic downturn.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Guest Blogger next week: Jonathan Reuning


We would like to thank Tim Errickson for his humorous and oh so accurate blogs from last week.

We are so happy to announce that next week's guest blogger is Jonathan Reuning.

Jonathan Reuning was born in California but spent most of his life in NYC. As a child he was sort of an actor and singer. As a young man he studied acting and playwrighting at Syracuse U, NYU and Playwrights Horizons. His first play was self-produced in a downtown space right next to an active firehouse. His second play was produced by Emerging Artists Theater Company (EAT) in a building that doubled as a Masonic Temple. From that he lucked into running the EAT playwrights unit for a few years and also got experience as a company manager. He had more work produced at EAT and in other venues including PSNBC and Lincoln Center Director’s Lab at HERE space. He had the opportunity to do most all of the typical New York survival jobs including short order cook/bouncer and his favorite, elevator operator. Jump a little bit ahead in time, he currently is co-founder of United Stages which is a six year old playbill company mainly for NY producers (OB/OOB/Indie) looking to present small venue as a unified professional industry. He met his business partner Ian Marshall because their moms knew each other and Ian ended up directing one of Jonathan's plays and then moving into his apartment building with his bride to be, Loribeth, who graciously allowed herself to be roped into doing huge amounts of work to help get their business rolling. Today Jonathan spends most of his time promoting theater companies through marketing and publishing. He's also published some really good playwrights which he says is an amazing privilege. Finally, he is currently trying to get back into the swing of writing plays again, an ambition he had shelved for half a decade to concentrate on the playbill. He says he's a little nervous because "I’m not entirely sure I remember the drill."


Friday, April 23, 2010



Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, Tim Errickson.

These are honest to goodness real questions from absolutely fake readers…

Q: Tim, love the blog posts this week! What do you think about ART/NY winning a Tony Award?
-Michele from Boston, MA

A: Great question to lead off the mailbag Michele! I think that ART/NY is a terrifically deserving organization, and any support and recognition they get is fantastic. I did wonder, however, how much they support BROADWAY theatre, which is what the Tony Awards cover. ART/NY membership criteria start with being a non-profit or seeking to be a non-profit, so most Commercial/Tourist theatre shows don’t qualify. Maybe a more accurate accolade (2nd only to their Stewardship Award from the IT Awards a few years back) would be an OBIE or The Mayor’s Awards for Arts and Culture. But ART/NY will get major pub for this, and Ginny Louloudes and her staff are bouncing back nicely from both major personnel changes and the shitastic economy. Hope we get to see Ginny on TV accepting the award shortly.

Q: Tim, what are you working on lately, besides blog posts?
-Kyle from Durham, NC

A: Right now, Kyle, my nights have been filled with rehearsals for The Desk Set with Retro Productions. It’s been going really well, and you should totally check it out when you finish celebrating Duke’s National Championship. The show has laughs, heart, a gorgeous cast, fun music, and a dance party in the middle. I shit you not. You can get tickets here.

Q: Hey man, what upcoming shows are you really excited to see?
-Jessica from Hell’s Kitchen, NYC

A: Well, I’m finally seeing God of Carnage in a few weeks, so I’m psyched about that (my love for Janet McTeer is strong and true, people). Other exciting nights in the theatre coming up include Jacob's House for Flux, The Little One with Nosedive Productions, and Song For A Future Generation by The Management Company. Rehearsal for The Desk Set (have you bought your tickets yet? C’mon!) will keep me from seeing Crystal Skillman’s The Vigil something that Impetuous Theatre Group is doing at the Brick, so I’m actually bummed about that. Ah well, next time.

Q: Dude! Ok, so…imaginary dinner party. Like that old Jon Favreau show Dinner for 5. Who you inviting?
-Victor from San Antonio, TX

A: Well Victor, I’ll tell ya…that’s a tough one. My gut instinct Chekhov (the writer, not the driver of the Enterprise, nerds), Joe Papp, Ethan Hawke, and Salma Hayek, with Sam Shepard on speed dial in case anyone gets a flat tire coming over. Keep the vodka flowing so that Anton doesn’t get too maudlin (“No more ‘we will work’ shit, Anton…tell us The Bear again”). Salma and Ethan are hitting it off and getting cozy, so I break those two up by asking Salma about a “Frida” sequel, which brings out her fiery temper. She curses me in Spanish, while Ethan smokes and asks Joe if he will finance ‘Before Moonlight’, this new thing he’s working on with Julie Delpy and Rich Linklater about two vampires who get stuck on a train to Vienna…Joe gets pissed at Ethan, who won’t stop talking business. So Joe decides to give Ethan the big fuck you by asking how Uma’s doing…Ethan downs three shots of jack, drops his phone number on Salma, and storms out. Salma, still cursing me in Spanish and thinking that calling Ethan is too much like dating Ed Norton again, gives me the finger and heads out. Joe is now sick of Anton drunkenly trying to remember the plot of The Proposal, which in his slurred speech is beginning to sound a lot like the plot from ‘Runaway Bride’ (note to self, next time invite Garry Marshall). Joe steals the last drops of vodka from Anton, and heads for the door, just as Anton passed out in mid anti-theatrical rant (“We need new forrmmsssss….zzzz”) as the check arrives. Fuck. Maybe next time, don’t go with the gut instinct. And invite Garry Marshall.

Q: Look, you seem to know a lot of stuff…what can we do about all these theatres disappearing? Pretty soon, we’ll have to do shows in parks in the afterno…whoops.
-Steven from Richland, NJ

A: Watch it there, fucker. But you are right; theatres are still disappearing at an alarming rate. David Pincus of The Workshop Theatre, along with ART/NY, the League of Independent Theatre and the IT Awards are working hard with elected officials to pass the tax incentive plan for landlords to rent to arts organizations, and let’s hope that has the desired effect. In the meantime, the community needs to seek out landlord of unused commercial real estate, churches, community centers, anywhere we can and start trying to bring back some of the spaces we lost. And EVERYBODY should get to The Community Forum on the Ohio Theatre on Monday for this.

Q: Tim, I think you are super cute. I am an actress, and I know you have auditions coming up for Boomerang’s season. What audition pieces should I avoid when going into an EPA?
-Jean-Marie from Rehoboth Beach, DE

A: J-M, no more Nina’s from The Seagull, no more Julia’s from Two Gents. Ever.

Q: Random question dude…what classic TV theme song best reps the OOB scene? My buddy in his more lucid moments thinks it’s The Facts of Life Theme (“You take the good, you take the bad…”), but I think he’s smoking crack. I can’t have Mrs. Garrett and Tootie as my personal theme song. Need your help, pal.
-Malcolm from Ghent, NY

A: I love me some Jo, and I’ll make Blair into a very bad girl…but The Facts of Life Theme doesn’t hold a candle to The Laverne and Shirley theme (aka We’re Going to Make our Dreams Come True)…Lyrics like “straight ahead and on the track now… there’s nothing we won’t try, never heard the word impossible”’s the equivalent of “Man in Motion” from ‘St. Elmo’s Fire’. Don’t believe me, look it up.

Q: On a scale of 1 to Christina Hendricks nude scene, how would you project the progress of the Indie Theatre scene in the next 5 years?
-CJ from Austin, TX

A: I feel optimistic about things, actually CJ. I’m looking forward to the new space that ART/NY will open in the 50s on the Westside, and the new ticketing/social media application that they’re developing with (Somebody give ART/NY a Tony Award already!); I think the League of Independent Theatre will more fully establish themselves and work some of the kinks out; I think you will begin to see more recognition of productions in OOB, including OBIE, Drama Desk, and GLAAD nominations; I think you will see more prolific publishing of Indie Theatre scripts as a way of both preserving the work and distributing it for other productions; and I think you will see a major book published chronicling the experience, struggle and joy of working in Indie Theatre. So on a scale of 1 to Christina Hendricks nude scene, I would rate that a solid 8.

Alright, time for one last letter…

Q: Dear Tim, I am a Nigerian business man who needs to send $5m dollars to the US and can pay you a percentage…

A: Damn.

Thanks for a fun week everybody, and for the IT Awards for asking me to do this! See you around.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Size, level, and the meaning of life.


Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, Tim Errickson.

Some people have heard me bitch about this issue before, so I apologize in advance. Treat this like a spoiler alert…Stop reading here if you don’t want to hear the screed.

My biggest pet peeve about how OOB defines itself is not the idea of Off-Off-Broadway vs. Indie Theatre (both are acceptable to me) but rather when people say “theatre at this level”. What level are you talking about? And what are you measuring and comparing? Talent level? Entertainment factor? Level of thoughts provoked? All bullshit.

What really defines the OOB/Indie companies (see how I did that) is size. We work in 99 seat and under houses. That’s it. So let’s retire the phrase “theatre at this level”. It imparts the inferiority that Kirk Bromley was originally talking about with the Off-Off tag. We are “theatre of this size”, and a lot of that is by choice. Think about it…if you had more money, would you do your show in a larger house (off-bway 400 seater for example), OR pay everybody (including yourself), buy some advertising and more perfs and keep your show in a 99 seater? I would absolutely go for the latter, because the theatre I make is 99 seat, intimate type stuff. You wouldn’t fuck that up just so you could call yourself something else, right?

But the “level” issue again makes the work we do seem like the minor leagues or like student productions not worthy of the public and the critical community’s attention. Commercial theatre/tourist theatre is a totally different fucking animal. Are they shooting for the same demographic? No. Are they spending the same amount of money? No. Are they even using the same methods? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I’ve almost just convinced myself that Indie theatre is a better way to go, just so as to acknowledge that Commercial/Tourist Theatre is different than what we do.

And sorry if you thought I knew the meaning of life…you must be new here.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rotating what? No friggin’ way!


Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, Tim Errickson.

One of the founding ideas of Boomerang Theatre Company is the concept of rotating repertory. When I mention this to people (designers, actors, even my Mom) I often get the look like I’m speaking Swahili (I get that look a lot from Mom). The idea seems easy to me…you rent a space, and then try to get as many performances to fill that space as you humanly can. Maximize your revenue, maximize the opportunities for artists, always seems like a win-win.

The idea came from when I was a young buck crossing the big pond for the first time in the winter of 1992. I was studying abroad for my junior year, and living in London about three blocks from the National Theatre. I was fascinated by the idea that you could have more than one show in a space at one time…how could that work? Did actors perform in multiple shows at the same time? How did you have to manage a space to retain flexibility yet be specific enough to serve each production fully? And from an audience standpoint, was it a plus or a minus? To me it seemed a plus, because you had the choice of seeing Greek tragedy on Monday or Moliere on Tuesday, for example. When setting up a company in New York in the late 90’s, only one company (the now defunct Jean Cocteau Rep) was running in rotating rep. Could it be done in NYC? More importantly, could it be done in Off-Off-Broadway (OOB)? Over the last 12 years, we have refined the model and made it work on the scale of OOB economics.

Rotating rep in OOB helps to control your costs. If you rent a theatre for four weeks, you can produce three shows and let them run in rep for 8 performances each. In theory, you can market all three separately or together (one postcard or eblast), and with a limited run like this you can increase the audience’s urgency to see the show (originally we modeled that after dance companies that did limited run seasons before taking shows on the road or pulling them out of rotation). You can reuse set pieces or props between shows, also cutting down your expenses. Creative collaboration between shows can even make the individual shows cheaper than doing them separately. And because of three shows running, potentially each of your audience members buys three tickets instead of just one.

From an artistic standpoint, Boomerang is always asked why three plays appear together in a rep season. More times than not, the shows are selected because I really want to do them, with any themes manifesting themselves after the fact. In 2004, we produced O’Neill’s BEYOND THE HORIZON with Kelly McAllister’s BURNING THE OLD MAN and Jason Sherman’s PATIENCE. All three shows were exciting individually, and huge challenges for the casts who worked on them. Just as we are preparing to begin rehearsal, someone said “Ya know, all three of these plays are about pairs of brothers dealing with what it means to be responsible to the other one”. After a moment of silence and awkward stares, I said “Well fuck yeah, sure. We knew that”. Um, not so much. I’m now of the mind that our shows (whatever three they happen to be in a given season) will inform each other in ways both subtle and broad, and that no matter how excellent an individual production might be, audiences will always get a fuller experience by seeing all three.

Since 1999 when we began producing rep seasons, the concept has been used by other OOB companies with much success, proving that the model can work for theaters this size. Yes, there are extra challenges of time, being smart with expenses and smart with people, but it can also provide you with the opportunity to produce a lot of work in a condensed amount of time and really inspire your company.


Monday, April 19, 2010

If you are an asshole, you have to go.


Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, Tim Errickson.

I am a theatre artist. A producer, a director, and now an aspiring playwright at the ripe old age of 39. I belong to a world of spectacle, emotion, intellect, suspension of disbelief, no money, long hours, drama, caffeine , alcohol, good sex, bad sex, bad idea sex, more caffeine, diner food, day jobs, still no money, crap all over your apartment, and a belief that all this adds up to contribution to the city we live in and the world at large. It’s the best job in the whole world.

I’m excited to be a guest blogger this week for the IT Awards, and I’m going to do my damndest to write interesting things about my company, my process, my collaborators, and my community. I’m going to swear a lot, because that’s what happens. I’m going to say some smart things and some fucking stupid things, but again, what can you do. But we’ll take a little ride together and see what happens this week.

Today’s Monday, and I’m going to talk about collaborators…how do you find them and how do you keep them. Back at the dawn of time, there was a place in NYC where lots of theatre got done, called the Lower East Side. I worked for a crazy woman and her slightly more sane husband (just slightly, really) who‘s one piece of sanity was to pass on to me the “No Assholes” rule. The rule is: I don’t care how talented you are, how many people you have worked with, who you’re blowing, where your credits or your MFA are from…if you are an asshole, you have to go. Plain and simple. Nobody’s making enough/any money, and the sex is never THAT good (real or imaginary). At the end of the day, everybody has to pull their weight and make the thing work. So if you are a dick, and making everybody so frustrated at you or your process, no amount of talent in the world can save you. At least not at Boomerang.

And sometimes, it just takes calling someone a dick to snap them back to reality and make them a collaborator again. A few years back, we were producing a project in our rotating rep season in which the director was extremely personally involved. He believed this piece to be the thing that would skyrocket him into the upper echelon of young directors, and that all our limitations of hours and manpower and budget were holding him back. After a run thru during tech week, he dismissed the actors and called the designers and stage manager into the theatre and read them the absolute fucking riot act, hardcore. How dare they not have everything to his specs, how he wanted it and exactly when he wanted it? He announced if they didn’t all get their acts together soon (and honestly, the team was no further behind and exhausted than any other crew before or since in my experience) then he was pulling his name off the project. It was at this point that I stepped in and asked that if he wanted his name off the project, fine, but that this meeting was over. Nobody needed to be treated like that, considering all they were giving. If he was going to be an asshole, he had to go.

Afterwards, the designers and stage manager knew they were protected and respected for all they were doing, and the director was delivered a wakeup call to reiterate that we are all in this together. Has that director worked with us again? No. Have those designers and SM? Absolutely.

While that might seem like a horror story to some, especially during tech week, it served as a reminder to choose your collaborators carefully and to keep them close once you do. How to find them? Obviously word of mouth is a good thing, or seeing their work onstage. But sometimes you just get a gut feeling and you trust it. One of my best friends and closest collaborators met me across the bar at a day job and we discussed college basketball, women, and theatre (three things that have dominated most of my adult life) and without seeing a thing he’d worked on, I had a feeling he’d be a good person to have on my side. Or sometimes it’s just who’s been through the deepest shit with you and come out the other side still sane and alive. You think, hey if that show didn’t drive them to stick their head in the oven, and I didn’t want to kick the shit out of them every day of the process, (and they didn’t quit) then maybe there’s something there.

And while I said that no amount of talent can save you at the end of the day if you are an asshole, it is still talent we are all looking for. Talent is, to my mind, the sexiest thing a person can possess. It’s that magical “it” thing, and if you can find collaborators who posses talent, who can understand the limitations of your project and the success that comes from team work rather than being a douche, then odds are your project is going to be successful enough that you’ll get 3 or 4 hours of sleep a night during tech. And that’s pretty good.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Guest Blogger of the week: Tim Errickson


We would like to give our sincere thanks to ML Kinney for her insightful blogs about her writing process.

We're excited to announce that this week's guest blogger is Tim Errickson.

Tim Errickson is the Artistic Director of The Boomerang Theatre Company. Originally from New Jersey, Tim has made his home in New York City for the past 12 years, working as a stage director and theatre administrator. Tim's recent New York directing credits include the world premiere of THE WEDDING PLAY by Brian Smallwood, STOPPARD GOES ELECTRIC (three Tom Stoppard teleplays adapted for the stage), Kelly McAllister's FENWAY, SOME UNFORTUNATE HOUR, and BURNING THE OLD MAN (Nomination for Outstanding Directing by the New York Innovative Theatre Awards), Michael Weller's MOONCHILDREN (OOBR Award for Outstanding Production), and UNIDENTIFIED HUMAN REMAINS AND THE TRUE NATURE OF LOVE by Brad Fraser. Under Tim's direction, Boomerang was the recipient of 2008 Caffe Cino Fellowship for outstanding achievement in Off-Off-Broadway. As an administrator, Tim has worked at Lincoln Center Theatre, New Dramatists, and The Oberon Theatre Ensemble. He trained at Hofstra University's experimental New College, The University of London, Circle Rep Company, HB Studios, and most recently with LAByrinth Theatre Company for playwrighting. Tim is also the current president of the Off-Off-Broadway Community Dish, serves on the Honorary Awards Committee for the New York Innovative Theatre Awards, and is a member of the Independent Producers Alliance. He currently lives in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Writing a play – I rant I rave, I write.


Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, ML Kinney.

It started with an iota of an idea. It actually started by me getting rather pissed off one day by something I read. I don’t need to go any further with the “what.” My friends and family already know how I deal with getting pissed off – I rant, I rave, I write! (Usually taking an opposing argument, most times theirs, and using it to push my own home.) It gets frustrating for them that they have no rebuttal in my process, but it makes for good theatre.

So this iota of an idea, this tirade took form, of course, as a play. It actually took form as a one-joke play of thirty pages. I brought it to the Milk Can and asked for a read. So one evening we sat down as a group and read out loud the jumble of pages I had assembled. From feedback, and me listening to both the script and comments, it became clear that this joke was more. It was more than an iota of an idea, a joke, but a reality for a script.

I spent some months reviewing the script and making notes. I then sat down with the arguments in the background, an echo bouncing in my skull, and I started in earnest to form a fully evolved reality that went beyond the punch line and actually became a play.

With this draft, I started in the Milk Can’s Scene Herd Uddered (SHU) development workshop series. After seven weeks of working, I was amazed at how the script grew -- it become a world of its own, which is Life Among The Natives.

I am now in the midst of pre-production for the premiere of this new play, a play which has taken a two-year trip down the aisle to center stage. The process and the piece astound me daily.

That’s not to say that my work is done. We are two weeks into the rehearsal process and I find myself re-writing as we go along. Most evenings I sit in the rehearsal room cutting and pasting scenes beyond recognition, where the actors can’t even follow along. I change a word, a sentence, I write a monologue. I come home and re-write new pages and drift off to sleep with the characters talking new arguments in my ear. I listen, re-write and listen again. And through this process, I watch as a world takes shape and an event, the event of theatre, takes form.

I sit nightly humbled in rehearsals by the energy present from a group of artists who are there to fully realize an iota of an idea that formed in my brain some two years earlier. It would have remained there, floating voices for my therapist, or stayed splayed on an unread page, but for the ability I have with the company I work with. This play would not be if it wasn’t for a group of people, The Milk Canners, whom I respect and cherish. They prodded and pushed for me to take this iota, this joke, this part of me to its realized conclusion, which shall complete its two year journey on May 8, 2010, as it is handed to an audience to devour and enjoy.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Cabaretion! A benefit for the Innovative Theatre Foundation hosted by Jackie Hoffman

We're thrilled to announce the host and performers for our first-ever benefit for the Innovative Theatre Foundation! Invite is below; check as more performers and special guest are announced!

Hope to see you all there!

Cabaretion! \ˌka-bə-ˈrā- shən !\ , noun - The fusion of contribution, performance, and celebration of the Off-Off Broadway community presented by your host, The Innovative Theatre Foundation.

Please join us on MONDAY, MAY 17, 2010 from 6 - 9 pm for an evening of celebration and performance to benefit The Innovative Theatre Foundation! Hosted by Broadway star and comedienne Jackie Hoffman, Cabaretion! brings together an amazing roster of performers to honor the organization that celebrates and advocates on behalf of Off-Off Broadway.

The evening features performances by the sensational Taylor Mac, roguishly delightful magician Jeff Grow, singer/songwriter Justin Utley, the mischievously clever band The Reynaldo The Ensemble, and many more...

Plus! The presentation of the first ever Innovative Theatre Luminary Award to a very exciting special guest and, as always, fantastic raffle items.

Drink, laugh and enjoy!
In addition to the show, your $45 ticket includes:
1 hour of passed hors d'oeuvres
3 hours of open beer & wine bar
and one hell of a fantastic evening.

Monday, May 17, 2010
6 pm - 9 pm

Carolines on Broadway
America's premier comedy nightclub
1626 Broadway
New York, NY 10019

BOX OFFICE: 212-757-4100

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cultivating a Theatre to Grow Plays

Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, ML Kinney.

I have been around the OOB block more times than I care to admit. Through the years I have discovered a diverse community and an amazing wealth of talent. I am happy to say that I consider OOB my home. I live, I work, I create, and I thrive within this community. I am fed daily on its spirit.

I have been involved with The Milk Can Theatre Company since its inception in 2003. I believe in its mission, I helped to form it, and I have worked towards strengthening its purpose to the OOB community and to itself as a producing theatre company. The Milk Can’s work is primarily new play development. We work diligently to foster an environment where plays can grow. We examine and change this process yearly to help improve, not only the end result, but the path taken to get there.

As a playwright I know just how difficult it is to get an idea onto paper, into dramatic form. I also know how difficult it is to get that idea off the paper and into a living, breathing theatrical entity. Before 2003, when I started working with the Milk Can, I had acquired file folders full of first and second drafts; I had badgered my friends and family into reading and critiquing beyond politeness; and I had received enough rejection letters to wallpaper my bedroom. Yes, once or twice I was lucky to have some group take pity on my pages and allow me to hear a group of actors sit in chairs and speak my words. I even had the luck to be commissioned twice for projects, where I actually got to witness my ideas take form and play to an audience with costumes, lights, sets, and music. I know that this is an amazing thing. I know there are playwrights who have not gotten that far, and I also know that some of my work was produced before it was ready for prime time.

In formulating our mission and methods at the Milk Can, we agreed as a group that this phenomenon happens more times than not when producing new plays onto the OOB stage: most are just not ready to be in the spotlight. We decided to wrestle with the problem and came up with some solutions that have worked very well for us. We not only continue to produce quality new works, but we also help develop the artists creating them.

The Milk Can as a company takes an innovative approach to developing new work. We believe and think a play must have a fertile environment and time to grow. We provide artists with the opportunity to work on their plays in a no-pressure environment. We provide money, space, and time. Our seven-week "Scene Herd Uddered (SHU)" workshop series is the perfect opportunity for artists to develop an idea, and to concentrate on process rather than product. The end result is a solid foundation where a play can blossom.

The SHU process is divided into three phases:

In the first four weeks, a team -- usually composed of a playwright, a director, designer, and a group of actors -- goes into rehearsal and development. At the end of this period, there is an in-house run-through of the project. Extensive feedback is given to the creative team. The focus is on script development.

The playwright/director team is given a "quiet week" -- one week to write, re-write, and consider how to deal with feedback before going back into rehearsal.

Over the next two weeks, groups rehearse and continue to polish and refine the play. The focus is on performance, though the process of script development continues.
After the performance, there is always a talk-back to get audience feedback.

I have had the pleasure of experiencing this process five times as a playwright, with the end result being five scripts that are stronger, more focused, and workable as a theatre product. It is amazing to have the time to write, listen, re-write, listen, and write some more. The ability to be in a room with actors, director, and designers working on a script is the most amazing experience I have had, and to do it without the pressure that it must be perfect for a performance gives you the perspective on how the play works and doesn’t work. The final stage of the SHU is a staged reading, where the community is invited in to see the work and comment -- the final piece of the puzzle.

We all know that the process of theatre is collaborative, yet as playwrights, we are most often working alone. We sit with the voices in our head creating theatre; theatre as an art form that is three dimensional, a living breathing entity, which does take a village to create. Writer, director, actor, designer, and audience all make the art of theatre. So doesn’t it make sense to have everyone involved in the process of developing? The Milk Can’s answer is yes! We have produced twenty-three SHU workshops in the last seven years; from this group we have produced six new plays, world premieres, for our mainstage, and we still have projects under consideration for the future.

As a playwright, I have found that the SHU experience has helped me write better plays, and has allowed me to form bonds with directors, actors, and designers who now share with me a common language and a style of working. It has also allowed me to take risks and grow both personally and creatively.


Guest Blogger next week: ML Kinney


We would like to thank Gyda Arber for being our guest blogger last week and sharing some of her insights into producing Indie Theatre.

We are happy to announce next week's guest blogger is ML Kinney.

ML is a founding member of the Milk Can Theatre Company. She has been working in New York Theatre for over twenty years. ML has worked as a playwright, lyricist, director, producer, stage manager, and actor and has a strong background in technical theatre. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild. She is currently in pre-production with The Milk Can for the spring premier of her full length play Life Among the Natives and ten-minute play What if… as part of the Disorder Plays. This is her second full length produced by the Milk Can, with her script Ashes produced in the Fall 2004, and her seventh endeavor in the Milk Can’s Annual Ten-Minute Play Festival.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Community Outreach


Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, Gyda Arber.

One of my responsibilities in the theater world is as Outreach Director of The Brick (my fav theater space in NYC, though obviously I'm totally biased). I've been working on raising The Brick's profile in the last few years, and getting new folks in the door. I figured I'd share some of the things we've done that have worked for us!

Theater Discounts:
We've found offering online discounts can be effective at driving audience, especially to those hard to fill opening/middle weeks of a run. I've been particularly fond of TDF's Off-Off @ $9 lately, which is super easy (a lot easier than accepting vouchers) and gets us people who wouldn't normally come to The Brick.

Papering services have been mostly ineffective for us, actually; we'll offer a block of tickets for sale and can't get anyone to come. I think people that belong to those services are looking for Broadway shows for free, and don't care about Indie theater. But we have found that NYU kids will jump at free tickets, and have a pretty good rate of showing up. All you have to do is email with the details.

Group Discounts:
--When we can get these organized, this has been a great way to drive new audience to our shows. Researching meetup or community groups that are interested in the show's topic can be a good place to start, offering a special discount code for their members. You can also offer a talk-back or other post-show event to sweeten the deal.

What have you found to be effective in driving audience to your shows?


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Pondering the Edinburgh Fringe Festival


Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, Gyda Arber.

Just wanted to say thanks to Shay and everyone at the IT Awards for letting me blog this week! I've toyed with the idea of starting a theater blog, but I don't think I can keep up with the prolific-ness of the theater bloggers--so this is a fun way to get my feet wet.

I just got back from researching taking my show, Suspicious Package, to the Edinburgh Fringe festival. It was a great trip (and everyone was so nice!!) but wow, is it expensive! For everyone out there who complains about the cost of FringeNYC, let me just say, NY is a bargain compared to Edinburgh! My show has only one actor (me), and doesn't need a theater space, so I thought it would be a relatively cheap and easy show to take. Not exactly. I'm sure it's cheaper than most, but still....

It's £400 just to register. Add to that, everyone strongly recommends you take out an ad, which is upwards of 1000 pounds! I know we're getting killed on the exchange rates, but that's a ton of money. Then you need to find a venue, which usually charges you a 40% guarantee as a rental fee, plus housing, food, press agent, posters, flyers, flights.... I'm not sure how anyone does it, honestly.

I'm still pretty excited about taking my show, though the fundraising will begin in earnest soon! Anyone out there ever gone to Edinburgh? Was it super expensive? Did you make any $ back?


Friday, April 2, 2010

Guest Blogger of the Week: Gyda Arber


We would like to thank Jeff Riebe for his inspirational blog posts last week. We miss you!

We are excited to announce that next week our guest blogger will be, Gyda Arber.

Gyda Arber is a writer-director best known for creating the multimedia iPod noir, Suspicious Package, which drew acclaim from a host of publications, including The New York Times ("A distinctly 21st-century form of participatory theater. A singular experience.") and The Village Voice ("Impressive!...Makes for thrills.") and was nominated for an IT Award for Outstanding Production of a Play. Named "Person of the Year 2008" by, Gyda is also the director-creator of the interactive play Q&A: The Perception of Dawn ("quite ingenious", the writer-director of the short film "Watching" (commissioned by the horror festival Sinister Six), and the assistant director of The Brick's hit shows Notes from Underground and The Ninja Cherry Orchard. Also an accomplished actress, she has appeared at The Public Theater, Joe's Pub, and most frequently at The Brick, in shows including Fassbinder's Blood on the Cat's Neck ("Phoebe Zeitgeist, an excellent Gyda Arber"--The New York Times), Greed: A Musical Love $tory (Anna Nicole Smith), the English-language premiere of Vaclav Havel's Mountain Hotel (Liza), Ian W. Hill's noir pastiche World Gone Wrong (Dolores), and the musical Ich Liebe Jesus! (Virgin Mary). She also serves as the Outreach Director of The Brick Theater in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. A San Francisco native, she has a degree in musical theater from NYU, and is a graduate of the Maggie Flanigan Studio.


I'll Be Back


Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, Jeff Riebe.

So I've shared with you all a bit of what it is like to exist beyond the confines of that booming scene in New York. I'm sure it comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me, that I miss the NY scene immensely.

Its imperative that all of you know just how fortunate you are to be where you are, doing what you're doing and to be a part of such an active and supportive community. Not everybody can claim that. It's easy to forget just how lucky you really are.

NY is in my blood. To quote directly from The Terminator, "I'll be back."



Thursday, April 1, 2010

If you have it, use it. Really use it


Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, Jeff Riebe.

I stand corrected. The official title of the June production, at Interact is Madame Majesta's Miracle Medicine Show. I only got the correct title after talking with one of the Assistant Directors today. His name is Dario Tangelson. He's of the aforementioned international set as he claims Buenos Aires, Argentina as his home base. He has recently performed at The Guthrie in a production called Super Monkey.

We spoke briefly about what he see's as the biggest difference between theater here vs. theater there. The biggest thing that stuck out to him is that productions here (US) receive a tremendous amount of preparation time. A luxury, really. Rehearsal time is thought by many to be a waste of time. Quite incorrect. Rehearsal time provides a glimpse into the inner workings of what the playwright is saying and allows performance of the piece to glow in the aura of truth.

Interact differs from elsewhere, he said because we have a copious amount of time to get a production on its feet. That struck me as relative, since a majority of theater companies do not have their own space. I believe this to be absolutely necessary and we have the luxury of working in our own space. So if you have it, use it. Really use it.

One of the truly positive aspects of working with this group is that the creative process happens on its feet. The production being developed now, is really birthing. One of the Assistant Directors will come up with an idea, and because everyone in the cast is there, that idea can be tried and tried again, honing it into an operable element. And if it works, great! If not, it was well worth the effort.