Category Archives: get out of the way of the play

Posts about Theatre in all its forms pertaining to SerahRose.

Embrace Rejection? Or Change the Standards?

As a theatre artist who began as an actress, you’d think getting rejected would role off my back the way ice cream drips down my daughter’s arm…effortlessly and sweetly to be licked up and blithely swallowed before going back for more.

I wish.

I still hurts.   I don’t cry.   I don’t stomp around.   I don’t think the world looks dark and endlessly dreary, but it still hurts.   I get a little red in the face, the heat prickles my skin from the inside and my stomach does a sad little flip.

I got turned down for the New Hampshire Individual Artists Fellowship. It’s my second year running.   I was really proud of my personal statement this year, but my understanding is that the panelists use your primary visual presentation first, then turn to secondary things like your personal statement only if they feel it’s needed.   Who knows if they read mine.

But, out of sincere curiosity, I did go look at this year’s award winners.   They all look like fine artists and very deserving of the credit.   What bothered me, however, is that none of them were theatre artists.   I clicked through to see the winners for the past 9 years: not a single theatre artist.

The NH State Council for the Arts requires that theatre artists send a video of their work to be used for primary judging purposes.   Let’s face it: videos of theatre performances suck.   Plain and simple.   One cannot get passed how the lighting is misrepresented, sound is wavery, footsteps are pounding, faces are fuzzy, and emotional/social expressions are over-blown and just plain weird looking.   Even professionally produced pieces such as those done by the BBC stink: the lights are flat, the acting is too pronounced (because it’s not for film) and the sound is off (again, because it’s not meant for film).   I can only hope that the panelists (including three representing performing arts: musical theatre, opera, and jazz/folk music) remember this when making their assessments.   It’s far too easy to let things like that get in the way of truly assessing what matters in directing projects and, considering the number of theatrical award winners, I doubt that they really truly ignore them.

I suggest that those who use certain visual criteria for judging the creations of theatrical artists (including NH) take a long hard look at their requirements.   As a working theatre artist for over a decade, it is clear that still photos of plays more strongly represent the visual story-telling of a play and should be considered as vital to the judging of quality of craftsmanship, as should the director’s statement of purpose in a project and the final design concepts.   Theatre is a three-dimensional ever-present ever-dynamic art and cannot be captured by a video camera, but a closeness can be captured by multiple medias together.

I’m not saying this because I was passed over; I’m saying this because there has not been a single award given to a theatre artist in at least 9 years.   And rather than place the blame on unknown biases or faulty videos, it would be in the best interest of the community at large (in a state that is decidely lacking in quality professional theatrical opportunities) to reevaluate the evalutation process itself.


Women On Top

This past Sunday, the Board of my budding company, GAN-e-meed Theatre Project met to discuss, among other things, the mission.  We’re new so we need to define, enhance, and pinpoint what exactly we want to do.  We all agreed, in a nutshell that we “advance the role of women in theatre.”  What comes after that…precisely…we’re still working on.

Of course, along with this discussion came the question:  Where’s the proof that women theatre artists need advancement?  We all know that there are far fewer roles for actresses than there are actresses to fill them, but what about directors, designers, technicians?  Where’s the proof?  I was able to point to anecdotal references to a study published in 2003, citing that only %20 of theatre directors are women.  Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find the actual study (That’s next on my list) but I did find a survey of studies published by the Fund for Women Artists in 2002, and an article published by tcg in February of 2008 about The Women’s Project and the reasons around its existence. Both articles include the aforementioned decidedly small percentage:  According to TCG, in the 2000-2001 season of the 1900 member theatres, 23% of shows were directed by women and 20% had “women on the writing team.”  These numbers actually decrease in the following season (2001-2002) down to 16% and 17% respectively.

Furthermore, I pointed out that as an attendee at this Year’s Elliott Norton Awards in Boston, I was pleased to note that the percentage of women nominees for fringe/small companies was high (sometimes 100%) but as soon as the budgets went up, their representation declined proportionally.  And I believe I can say this is simply because fewer women are hired at theatres with larger budgets.  You can go here for the results of this year’s awards.

This trend was reiterated just this weekend at the Tony’s and deftly summarized by blogger Laura Collins in her recent post, Where the Boys Are: At the Podium.

Whatever the reasons (and I’m sure a few good feminists can point you the way if you’re not entirely sure on your own) there is a definite lack of female representation among directors, writers and designers.  I know they’re out there, so it’s not for lack of trying; it’s simply for lack of hiring.

What is Community, really?

On Tuesday night, I hauled myself down to Boston to attend the 27th Anniversary Eliott Norton Awards.  To be honest, I was dreading the evening.  I normally avoid these things as a best-practice step to staying sane.  But, you know, re-entering the theatre scene after a mom-hood absence means pounding the pavement.  So I strapped on my heels, called me up a date (my lovely friend and fabulous ex-co-worker Ms. Rafson) and off I went.

It was actually quite lovely with the exception of the somewhat excruciating thank you speech from Al Pacino on behalf of the late Paul Benedict.  (Mr. Benedict being one of those actors I can identify by sight but didn’t know his name nor his connection to Boston.)  Mr. Pacino, however, freely admitted he was a rather shy speaker and then continued to prove this ineptitude, but, you know, the entire audience was drooling into their open programs anyways so it didn’t matter.  And he told a really good joke.

There were some musical selections, some heart-felt speeches, some lousy speeches, some faked speeches, some inspiring speeches…and a lot of tossing around of the word “community.”


It’s a word we like to use a lot in theatre.  It’s a word that comes up even more when we’re faced with the cuts in grants, giving, and butts-in-seats.  But, what does it really mean?

Community, according Mr. on-line Miriam Webster:

1: a unified body of individuals: as a: state, commonwealth b: the people with common interests living in a particular area ; broadly : the area itself <the problems of a large community> c: an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common location d: a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society <a community of retired persons> e: a group linked by a common policy f: a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests <the international community> g: a body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society

Well, that’s dry isn’t it?  It entirely lacks the connotation:  support, enthusiasm, critical dialogue, empathy.

With all of the squeals of glee, back slapping, and zealous hugging, we all seemed to exhibit a very clear sense of this connoted community. But how much of this was real and how much for show?  We were, after all, there to impress ourselves with our showmanship, go ga-ga over a few outfits, coo to each other a bit, and pay homage to a group of individuals who, no matter what they say about supporting the arts, can still make or break a show.

Maybe, the reason I have a hard time with this concept and our interpretation, is that I’m a teacher and I’d much rather see everyone soar than only a few of us rocket to the moon.

The point I’m trying to make is…we toss around the word Community with love, compassion, and thrill.  But I think it’s time to steady the word in our hands, present it with reverence, and then embrace it into our hearts. No more tossing and hoping it will land on its feet on its own.  Let’s give it some wings.