What a muggy day! It's 76 degrees outside. And how inappropriate of me talking of fahrenheit when I am about to sit down and write about Canada. I'm such a dork.
I had a great time being in Thunder Bay. It seems to be a city which will very soon be on the brink of opportunity. It brought back a lot of memories for me of when I started out creating theater on the Lower East Side of NYC and Williamsburg, Brooklyn. There was lots of space - both free and cheap (and unclaimed) and not too much Disney to get in the way. What I'm trying to say is, IT'S A GREAT TIME TO CREATE SOME THEATER COMPANIES IN THUNDER BAY!
First off, you want to find a great group of people. Everyone should be passionate about the work you are about to do.
Free or low cost rehearsal space - parks; parking lots; NOT the steps of the Farley Post office in Manhattan - they will insist on asking if you've checked with marketing, and no you have not; unused classrooms; bars in the afternoon when no one is there and be nice and order a few cokes or something; loft apartment of a castmate whose father bought it for tax purposes which she painted aqua with mermaids and bubbles on the walls; a friends' art gallery during the evening hours when it is closed (and be careful not to damage the art or you will probably have to buy it). My favorite free space though was The Roxy nightclub (Do nightclubs even exist anymore or is it that I've just gotten older?) They used to distribute postcards for free admission and open bar from 9-11. No one would be there. We would have this huge dance floor all to ourselves and free drinks. Of course with all the music and few stranglers it wasn't ideal. But we got the basic outlines of a few pieces done there. Ha!
Performance spaces - Back then, you could get away with performing in apartments, abandoned warehouses, storefronts etc. I'm a little fuzzy on exactly how it worked but there was a phone number passed around that you could call that would leave info of performances at these unclaimed spaces on the outgoing message. But nowadays, everyone is so aware of real estate and its worth that that would be too difficult to pull off without any fines or consequences. So try - being creative with site specific theater; or bars on nights there are no scheduled performances; theater spaces after hours - my first self produced show was a midnight show in a tiny 30 seat theater; churches, community centers, bookstores, libraries - any kind of place like that you may be able to negotiate something. And theaters are good as well!
Subject matter - pick a topic and start talking, interviewing, reading, researching. One of the first pieces I was involved in got the text from the creator taping her friend ranting about eating disorders, feeling fat, overeating, and body image. She then transcribed the text and did a little editing. It was about fifteen minutes long. She then put me in a refrigerator, had me recite it at top speed (finishing most nights in under 7 minutes) while fishing for Barbie dolls as she danced around the stage (she was an amazing modern dancer) while cooking (microwave popcorn) and eating tons of food, which ended up in a bag under her shirt that she 'threw up' at the end of the piece. It's a heavy subject matter, but it came off as very tongue in cheek and humorous. The other fun thing about that piece was there was no storage space at the theater, it was too small, so we had to find and discard a refrigerator from the streets of Manhattan every evening!
Fundraising - From the beginning you should look into grants or funds from local, regional 'council of the arts' groups. In NYC there are rules (like you must be in existence for three years) but they were always wiling to tell us what the rules were, and to make suggestions as to where to get money NOW. Hee Hee. Seriously though, you want people who can help to know you exist from the very beginning.
Some books by people I think are cool - The Viewpoints Book - Anne Bogart, Tina Landau; Writer's Block Busters - Velina Hasu Houston; The Invisible Actor - Yoshi Oida; A Practical Guide to Working in Theater - Gill Foreman.
Break a leg!!!!!!
xo Dame Edith Evans
March 31, 2011