How about bad news first? (Well, i guess some might consider the flagrant abuse of alliteration in the post title "bad news," too, but that's beside the point.)
As a former longtime member of the greater Boston area theatre community, I was sad to see North Shore Music Theatre announcing their closure
after 55 years. Some time back, they put out an emergency call for funds, needing to come up with $2M in order to stay afloat, a sum that proved too much for them to raise.
Add one more to the casualties list:
RIP, North Shore. I've run into performers the nation over with fond memories of your weird-shaped house and appreciative audiences. Thanks for all those outsourced garment-distressing jobs you used to send us over at the ART; seems like i cut my painter/dyer teeth on your grime needs. May your staff find new jobs, commensurate and swiftly.
But, to follow up on a positive note with another recent panic-button klaxon: Oregon Ballet Theatre
is only a hop, skip, and a jump away from THEIR fundraising goal of $750,000 to remain operating for next season! I've been following performing arts company closures and layoffs in the news since the bubble burst, and thankfully, for every one of us that falls, several more manage to cling on a bit longer. Guess Portlanders aren't ready to sacrifice ballet yet; great news for the OBT and the greater community of dance production professionals in general.
And, here's some exciting news closer to home for me:
For the second year in a row, the National Endowment for the Arts has awarded PlayMakers Repertory Company of Chapel Hill
a prestigious Access to Artistic Excellence Grant in support of our production of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby
, and the in-depth outreach program we're launching in conjunction: The Dickens Initiative (which will emphasize literacy through the rich storytelling of Charles Dickens, and partners our theatre with libraries, schools, book clubs and university organizations throughout our region).
And, as part of The Dickens Initiative, I'm super-excited to announce the launch of the production blog, Nicholas Nickleby Page to Stage
. The blog will update on a weekly basis, featuring a different guest blogger each week (including Yours Truly at some point soon!). For any LiveJournal folks who'd like to read the blog via an LJ flist, I've set up a syndicated account for it at nicknickleby
As much as i appreciate the convenience of blog post aggregation, there are definitely some cool features on the NNP2S homepage though. In addition to posts by "Bloggers of the Week," dynamically-refreshing sidebar features include an excerpt from the original novel, a "Dickens vocabulary word of a day," links to other Charles Dickens sites on the web, and a "quotable quote" spotlight.
The inaugural post is from Joseph Haj, PlayMakers' Artistic Director and one of two co-directors of our Nicholas Nickleby
production (along with Tom Quaintance, who's going to probably be the next blogger-in-line). Joe talks a bit about the relevance and import of this play-cycle in these times, and also makes reference to the exciting news that playwright David Edgar will be in-residence at PRC during a portion of our production process! Man, can you tell i'm psyched about this? :)
I find the idea of production blogs to be really inspiring, fascinating, and of great academic interest for future dramaturgs. (I almost went that route, dramaturgy, instead of costume production, in fact, due to how much i love research and history. But i digress.) The production process has always been something that treads a fine line between the practical and the magical--the psychological alchemy of an actor's character development exists side-by-side with the highly technical capabilities of say, the theatre's electrician. On any given day during the gestation period of a play, you might have a hundred people doing a hundred different things, all equally important to the piece of artwork the production eventually becomes, and how do you document any of that?
I mean, clearly, you have some people like myself, writing about it in blogs or emails, or letters or journals or published articles or books. After the fact, you have a series of tales told by its participants which become the stuff of legend ("I'll never forget, one night early in the run, when he missed his mark, stepped right off the apron of the stage into the orchestra pit and broke his ankle...but he finished the monologue!"). You have reviews in the paper from critics who discuss the performances and production values, and perhaps even accounts from audience members who particularly enjoyed or hated it in their own blogs and letters and such.
I'm excited though about the concept of production blogs tracking the process itself in something close to real-time. It doesn't need to be something as extreme as say, an actor microblogging a rehearsal on Twitter (which would probably be about as exciting to read as watching paint dry..."OMG we're running act2sc4 AGAIN - time 4 break plzzzz
" ), but the formation and maintenance of a public avenue of textual expression--complete with the opportunity for readers to respond with comments--is pretty cool.
In talking about the nature of the collaborative process of theatre, i don't mean to imply that the individual's talent is lessened any--i fully believe that a good actor can give a monologue in a sweatsuit by flashlight powerful enough to make an audience member cry; a skilled scenic painter can produce a backdrop so beautifully done that it stands alone as a piece of 2D art; and I know i can make a hat or sculpt a mask worthy of solitary display in an exhibit box. But, as accomplished as ALL those things are, when that actor puts on my mask or my hat and performs that monologue in front of that brilliantly-painted drop? That's the next level. That's theatre.
So, i can write my blog here at La Bricoleuse
, and that's great. This blog is something of which i am inordinately proud, creeping up on hubris
. (Don't worry, i don't plan to kill any strangers at a crossroads.) But seriously? As diverse as this blog's focus can be, it's still filtered through the lens of a single writer with an occasional collaborant. It's a particular slice of the theatrical pie. A production blog like NNP2S, with a roster of bloggers all offering their singular take on their experience of a collective experience, well, wow. Just as theatre practitioners today find themselves looking dramaturgically at plays we produce in terms of prior productions, I like to think about some company twenty or fifty or 200 years from now being able to look back and read what various members of our company thought and did while bringing this production about.
I don't know that the production blog will become something common or standard--i know ours isn't the first, nor will it be the last. Perhaps it will be successful, or perhaps it won't actually function in the way that we hope or envision. Who knows. For my part, though, i'm certainly interested to see where it goes, regardless!
 Jokes aside, PRC is tweeting as well
, and they're also x-posting the blog via their Facebook page