Thursday, October 13, 2016

Down Time?

“You must love that you have a bit of a break now.”  That is the most common thing we hear when a show closes.

Yep, I do love it. I’ll be going to a beach, putting my feet up and having drinks with tiny umbrellas in them.

Or, I’ll be catching up on all the "administrivia" that fell by the wayside or got put on hold in the weeks leading up to a production. There is an art to arts administration, I know that. Strong administration is absolutely essential to any successful arts organization. We see the result of the hard work that artists out into a show. But the work that happens in the offices, or the storage rooms, or late at night on the laptop is supposed to be invisible, right? That’s what makes it good work.

We often only realize that this important work isn't being done well or done right when it is too late. We see another headline about a theatre closing its doors, or an orchestra going under, or a museum having to sell off part of its collection.

There is, indeed, an art to arts administration. And like the arts it supports, it can be messy, confusing, and full of doubt.  Here are just some of the ways that manifests itself (this week anyway):
  • Enter receipts and update budgets. We were over in some areas, under in others. What’s the bottom line on this show?
  • Return some canvas storage bins that we didn’t ending up using on the set because they were the wrong size. That helps the bottom line (every little bit helps, right?)
  • Wash the costumes from the show and return them to storage. Do we have enough hangers for the things that we bought for this show? Should we bother saving this orange t-shirt?
  • When will we finally organize the costumes in storage? We always say we are going to do that and then just stick them on the first available space on the costume racks and can't find them again. Is that why we spend so much at Goodwill?
  • Update the email list. When does the next e-newsletter need to go out? How much growth has there been from this show? What is the open rate/click rate?
  • Update our database with all the people who attended the last show. How should these people be coded? Do we get enough data about ticket buyers from the ticketing system?
  • Check in on the marketing plan. What gets posted to Facebook now that the show is done?
  • Schedule rehearsals for the next play reading. When will we get the cd of images of works of art we are supposed to use with this show? Where is the copy of our license agreement? When are the royalties due on that?
  • Segment lists of lybunts, sybunts, and prospects for the fundraising appeal. Do we need envelopes? What is the goal for this year? Where’s that budget?
  • We’ll need to get these appeal letters signed. When is our next board meeting?
  • Update the website. Do we need to add more photos?
  • We got that grant award last week. What paperwork do we need to send back?
  • What are we forgetting?
Hug your arts administrator, your managing director, your stage manager, your wardrobe tech. They deserve it.  Artists could not thrive at arts organizations without them.

~ Carey Cahoon

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Anton Chekhov, Aaron Posner, Cameron Crowe?

Last night theatre KAPOW opened Stupid F%cking Bird by Aaron Posner. Posner’s “sort of” adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull poses questions about the nature and purpose of art. Why do we make art? Who is our art for? What does it mean to be an artist? Does art reflect life, or do we try, often in vain, to make our lives reflect our favorite works of art? These questions are enormous; it is up to each individual to find the answers for her or himself.

Stupid F%cking Bird is my first show with theatre KAPOW and I have loved every moment of playing Nina and working with this dedicated and talented group of artists. However as any artist knows, it is one thing to be invested in the art you are making, the question is, will others connect with your art? My parents saw the show last night and when I was able to talk with them about it, my father said something I found very interesting. “Your relationship with Trigorin was just like one between Pennylane and Russell in Almost Famous. It was the same story.” He went on to say that he wondered if Cameron Crowe had read The Seagull and was inspired by the Nina/Trigorin dynamic when he was writing the screenplay for his early twenty-first century rock n’ roll masterpiece.

Of course, I have no idea if Cameron Crowe has read The Seagull, or if the doomed romance between a teenage groupie and a famous rock star was in any way inspired by Nina’s adoration of the brilliant, narcissistic writer. Still, there are certainly recurring themes here. There are other parallels to be drawn as well. Both stories deal with the struggle between “art” and “fame,” persona and reality, our desire to connect and our desires.

If we go back far enough in dramatic history, we can find many other parallels. (The similarities between Chekhov’s Konstantin and Shakespeare’s Hamlet have inspired dissertations.) But the takeaway for me is that the very questions and struggles that plague artists also inspire art. My dad loves rock n’ roll and has never read The Seagull. But he was able to see similarities between the characters and story of Almost Famous and the Chekhovian-inspired characters in Aaron Posner’s modern adaptation. He found something he could connect with there. Maybe he’ll read The Seagull one day, or maybe he’ll be content with what he got out of Bird last night. Either way, those works of art inspired discussion, thought, and ultimately, connection. Not earth-shattering, but perhaps just enough.
~Emily Karel