Tuesday, November 8, 2011

October Forum Notes (Finally!)

I will confess from the outset that these should not be considered minutes. Our group was small but the conversation intense, and I took few notes, so this recap relies on my ever-feebler memory. I also call on any present to add or correct or edit as necessary.

I also have to say, every time we hold one of these forums, I’m reminded why I do what I do where I do. There are some amazing people in this town, and we can all take pride in the project of telling stories.

But anyway…

We kicked off the meeting reporting on the last forum and the progress of some of the projects launched there. Rob Raas-Bergquist laid out plans for the Community Resource Database, which will catalog lendable and rentable props and costumes and set pieces around the city, and which TPS agreed to host. It is being developed with help from Shane Regan.

Outreach to the big houses was suggested, as they routinely have to scrap entire sets. Consensus that there needs to be administration – nobody wants to wait around for the person that said they wanted your set – and the idea floated that we connect with carpenters, the boots on the ground. Tabled for further discussion.

Beth Raas-Bergquist talked about the committee working on a revival of the Fringe Festival (one of the best moments from August’s forum came when someone talked about organizing a fest revival, and Beth raised her hand to say her recent grad school final project was a business plan to re-launch the festival). They are planning to run a pilot, pulling from business plans by Beth and Jake Groshong and fiscally sponsored by TPS, in October 2012. This project team has suffered attrition. Meaghan Darling volunteered to help on behalf of Annex Theatre, and the idea to recruit a rep from each fringe company was floated and will be pursued.

Introductions by attendees got into our reasons for sitting in a basement in Ballard on a Sunday evening, and came universally to caring, a lot, about what we do.

David Orace Kelly spoke first, presenting ideas gathered initially in a graduate school thesis project and continued ever since – the Theatre Values Project. David shared the results of a multi-year survey of values held across the country by theatre practitioners. The results of the 2010 survey and more can be found at David’s website - http://www.dokmfa.org/. I was personally struck by the idea of the “ethical implications” of the choices we make – I hope it is something we can be more open and reflective about as a community.

Paul Mullin spoke next, and focused on his idea of “whole theatre” - a very holistic, multi-levelled way to think about the creation and consumption of theatre, with an intense localism at its base. He kindly published the full text on his blog.

From there, we riffed and covered a lot of ground, often coming back to the idea of needing new business models, of trying to keep artists working and also surviving. We talked about alternative ways to compensate/support actors, like asking Metro to donate some bus passes to working actors.

In the end, we tried to focus the discussion, as last time, into making a list. The list was to be statements we believe to be true – each proffered and group-edited, seconded and added to the list on consensus.

-       There are ethical implications to the art and the business of theatre.

-       When we make theatre in Seattle, we make theatre for Seattle.

-       Seattle theatre must recognize and operate from its position of strength.

-       Making a living and making art should not be mutually exclusive.

This last point came out of our earlier discussion, but was most eloquently encapsulated by Meaghan Darling, fairly paraphrased as, “Nobody owes me a living, but I want them to not prevent me from making a living.” Big House rehearsal schedules were particularly discussed here, as the now-standard 10-6 rehearsal day precludes keeping a day job, while the economics of theatre (and of course there is much debate here) can’t offer a sustainable salary for that work (and we lamented how many amazing actors have had to leave town or the profession). We all rallied around this idea, because it is very much in the spirit of Seattle Theatre: What’s Next as a whole – it is a statement that holds within it hope and offers compromise, which seem to me essential components of productive dialogue.

At this point, we retired to People’s Pub for libations and deep fried pickles and further plotted to change the world for the better, but was is said at the post-STWN bar session stays in the bar. You’ll have to come next time.

Many thanks to the Raas-Bergquists of Ghost Light Theatricals for hosting. Great venue, and perfect for this forum (couches plus bar in the lobby).  And thanks to the People’s Pub for holding some space for use and offering up a drink discount.

The next two months have too many holidays to try and gather again, but let’s start thinking about February.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Notes from the September 12, 2011 Meeting

Many thanks to Rob Raas-Bergquist for taking notes last night. We covered a lot of ground in an hour, with the upshot being we believe the forums are valuable, are planning another tentatively scheduled for October 23, and the projects launched at the August 1 meeting are still moving forward. Individual project notes toward the end - forum discussion up front. As always, if you have questions or suggestions, email me. - JJ

You'll have to excuse my scattered notes, I was trying to capture as completely as possible all the points that were made during this meeting. Feel free to peruse at your leisure.

Seattle Theatre What’s Next: Follow up meeting 9/12/11, 7:00

In attendance: Rob Raas-Bergquist, Jim Jewell, Peggy Lee Gannon, Brandon Ryan, Karen Lane, Dani Prados (called away), Tyrone Brown.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Upcoming Planning Session

I have heard a lot of interest in continuing these forums, and also want to give project leads a chance to report progress and recruit more volunteers. So, we're having an informal planning meeting on Monday September 12 at 7pm in Room G at TPS. Facebook event link below:


Drop me a line if you have questions or suggestions.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Community Resource Network

OK, one more, and then I'm closing the laptop.

Rob Raas-Bergquist and Shane Regan have gotten a fantastic start on setting up a Community Resource Network for sharing props and costumes. I've only had time to scan this doc, and I'm really impressed. Read and share comments - they are looking for input.

Community Resource Network

Final thoughts before leaving for NoCal

Just wanted to share a few thoughts before I ditch town for a few days of much-needed rest.

First of all, I want to thank everyone who came out on Monday night, because it was incredibly energizing to share space with such smart, passionate artists. And I want to thank AJ for letting us come and play in his beautiful West of Lenin space.

And, I say play, because it was fun. I laughed, I gave an "amen," I may have done an Arsenio fist pump because I'm that old. But, the most important thing was that we got to work.

That's really why I tried to bring this meeting together, and was so happy with how it went. If something is important, if it has value, we do it. We take the same positive, generative, proactive, can-do spirit that gets every one of our productions on stage and we apply it to the art of business.*

Before I leave, I'm going to shoot a bunch of author invite to this blog around. Please use it to organize for as long as it is valuable, post info and contacts for projects, but let's get these projects a life and home of their own as soon as possible. Our aim isn't to build a new structure, but better use what we have.

Much love to everyone in this crazy, wonderful community of artists - see you next week!


* - props again to Tyrone Brown for bringing this phrase into the discussion.

Local Playwright Initiative

There was a fair amount of interest in this at the forum and even more at the pub afterward. I originally floated this idea after the Outrageous Fortune discussion last spring.

You can get the original, loosest, highest-level proposal here. Lots more to be talked about at a first meeting - I really believe this kind of vertical-integration is important, and will require being very clear and specific on respective costs and values to potential participating orgs.

I guess what I'm saying is - it takes a leap of faith. Many of the best things do.

I've got a list already - I'll pull together a first get-together after I return to Seattle next week.

The Space Committee

The issue of performance and rehearsal space availability was mentioned time and again on Monday. There are a lot of issues on the table - using the venues we have, finding new space, non-traditional spaces, and working with the DPD. The notes below are the starting point as forwarded by Dan Tarker, Roy Arauz and Aaron more. As always, either reach out to the directly or email me if you want to get connected with the project leads.

Here is an off the cuff mission statement. We'll refine it as we move forward.

The mission of the space committee is threefold:
• To talk with independent theatre companies about their challenges and needs in regards to securing rehearsal and performance spaces.
• To connect with current theatre venues offering rental spaces to theatres for rehearsal and performances in order to learn what their issues are and how to support their business models.
• To build relationships with non-traditional or alternative spaces (store fronts, office buildings, schools, etc.) to learn how independent theatres can secure these spaces at an affordable rate.
• To develop a mechanism to deliver this information and help independent theatre companies secure space for their performances.
• To investigate possibilities surrounding developing a theatre space that can be shared by a number of independent theatres in a cooperative manner.