The behind-scenes-blog of Bare Theatre and its affiliates.

the business of art

The Trials and Tribulations of Casting.

Let me be clear – our Comedy of Errors cast is incredible.  This is an awesome group to work with, and I can’t wait to add in the circus artists!

It’s the casting process that is always my least favorite part of directing.  Why?  I’m glad I asked for you.

As one of our compatriots recently posted, casting is not about who’s better than who.  It’s about finding the right fit.  As a director you have ideas about who the characters are, what their personalities are like, and maybe even what they look like.

There are three things that inevitably happen in casting, in my experience:

  1. At least one role, sometime several, have a ton of actors/actresses who would be perfect.  Frustrating, because there are not enough roles.
  2. At least one other role, sometimes several, do not seem to have any “fits” with what is in my head.  Not as frustrating, but it does require a shift in thinking and imagining the character differently from the first vision.
  3. There are always several roles that have perfect fits and the actors asked want to do the roles – however, they’re in another show, out of town that weekend, etc.  This one is the most frustrating!

Another thing I don’t like about casting is that I always feel like I’m in Jerry McGuire – wheeling, dealing, trying to coordinate with dozens of people and get just the right team put together.  It’s just not something I feel great with.

However, there is another truth that I experience every time once casting is complete – I always end up with the cast I needed.

It’s so true.  For all the heartache I put myself through in this process, in the end we have exactly the right cast in place, every time.

This time is no different.  Although we are still short one Antipholus…



So, What Is It?

An image from “Fuerza Bruta” in NYC.

I’m getting this question a lot these days.

The short answer might be that THE LEADER is a dreamlike collection of sketches, movement and clowning that looks at leaders and their followers in a variety of different ways.

That would be accurate, but probably doesn’t convey the emotions we are finding in this process.  I hope and do think we are progressing towards a show that is wildly entertaining, funny and disturbing all at once.

It’s a really hard thing to describe.  I know what it looks like in my head, but we’ve only even conceptualized half the show at this point (which is amazing to me, considering that we’ve only been at this for a little over a week).

I was describing it to a friend the other day as more of an experience than a play.  I used to spend as much time as I could in New York City, especially when working on a show that went to the International Fringe Festival several years ago.  I was really influenced by De La Guarda, Fuerza Bruta, Snow Show, and Arias With a Twist.  These aren’t plays.  They’re non-linear and they don’t even necessarily tell stories, but they do convey emotions and thoughts, and there’s something about them that engrains them in the memory.

Image from Arias With a Twist

The imagery used in these shows is extremely powerful, as is the music.  Where words may well be forgotten days or even hours later, the images and the sounds persist, as do the sensations and emotions they create together.

This is the kind of show I’m looking to create in THE LEADER.  I’ve been wanting to do a show like this for years, and this fall seemed like the right time.  We don’t have the budget of those New York companies, but their shows in a way are very Bare Theatre.  They’re not overly complicated, and they go right to core emotions of joy, fear, and sadness.

It is my hope that audiences in Durham and Raleigh enjoy this type of theatrical experience in much the same way as I have enjoyed these type of shows in New York.

More will, of course, be posted…

Publicity shot from Snow Show

October Surprise.

It came to me one night after a post-show hurrah during Durang/Durang.

The plan had been to do Shakespeare this fall – The Comedy of Errors at Raleigh Little Theatre’s amphitheater.  Shakespeare and amphitheater go together like brie and bacon, and I was getting pretty fired up about the show.  However, there was a problem.

The trouble was threefold:

  1. Hopscotch is at the beginning of September and SPARKcon is mid-September.
  2. Actor’s Comedy Lab is doing The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) at RLT at the end of September, and there is not enough parking for two shows.
  3. It’s cold at night in October.

So September was not possible and RLT was only available during October.  No sweat, right?  Find another venue.  We’ve made a firm commitment to performing in Raleigh from now on – it’s where most of us live, and there is a relatively large theatre crowd here.

The only problem is that finding performance space in Raleigh is one of the most difficult challenges I face as a managing director, especially after the closure of Raleigh Ensemble Players.

Being a vagabond theatre company is a lot of fun, but also at times like this a royal pain in the arse.

Theatres in Raleigh in the fall are busy with their own seasons, and most don’t really want to squeeze another show in when they’re trying to rehearse and get ready for their next opening.  Trying to book consecutive weeks in Raleigh and Durham makes it even trickier.

So it was time to do something different.  I had already been wrestling with the idea of using non-theatre spaces, and the next best thing I could come up with was art galleries.  Sure, they don’t have raked floors or lighting plots, but they understand the challenges of finding spaces and getting work seen.

I figured if we weren’t going to go big with a grand amphitheater show, we should do exactly the opposite.  It was time to think of an intimate, funky show that wouldn’t need a lot of space, but that would make an impact.

That’s what occurred to me that Saturday night after Durang.  Then I realized we shouldn’t do Shakespeare this fall.  There’s at least four other productions of Shakespeare plays going on in the Triangle, anyway.

I thought about a show I had seen 17 years ago, one that I still remember because it made such an impact.  It was an original adaptation of Eugene Ionesco’s “The Leader,” an absurdist comedy about people excitedly (and blindly) following a mysterious leader figure.

“The Leader” is only about 10 pages long, but the production I saw had sliced up the script and inserted several original sketches and movement pieces, making a full length play.

Immediately I knew we needed to do this piece in the fall – right in time for the 2012 election.

Expanding the play will be a challenge, and it’s not what we normally do, but I think it will be a great experience.  I’ve already got some ideas for clown pieces and vignettes that we can try out.  We’ll spend the next few weeks playing theater games and work-shopping, and the ensemble will devise the show together.

I went to two of the fine ladies at ground zero of SPARKcon – the two Sarahs at Visual Art Exchange – and they turned out to be as wonderfully supportive as I thought they’d be.  We have ourselves a show.

The Leader goes up October 25-28 at Common Ground Theatre in Durham and November 3-11 at Visual Art Exchange in Raleigh.

See you then,

Reflections on the Age-Old Question, “What Next?” and the Troublesome Questions of Identity and Purpose That Ensue, Part 2

I’ve really made an effort in the past year or two to see as much theatre as I can. It’s always difficult when running a season of our own, because when we have a show up it’s pretty much impossible to see anything else. However, I think it’s really important to see other shows and other companies in order to grow.

Art thrives off of other art. Whether you are inspired, you “borrow” or steal outright, or you see something that you don’t like – you walk away with something. You have an idea. You saw a technique you hadn’t seen before. Perhaps you find an actor or actress who you want to work with.

With that in mind, I’ve been studying the other companies in the Triangle lately. Looking at what they do, considering what works and what doesn’t work on the business side as well as the artistic side. I’ve come to a few conclusions:

  • You have to differentiate yourself. If you’re doing the same shows as other companies, and stylistically they’re not very different, the hardcore theatre-goers are going to be less interested (and let’s face it, they are the base).
  • You don’t necessarily have to do well-recognized shows to have an audience. Manbites Dog has proved this pretty convincingly. They do original work and people come because of the company’s reputation, not necessarily for the playwright or the play.
  • Seasons don’t really matter unless you are selling subscriptions (which we are not currently). Even then, a season announcement won’t affect the non-subscription buyers – they’re only going to see what interests them anyway.

As Managing Director, I have to consider the business end as well as the artistic end. We don’t have unlimited funds, so a serious misstep can really muck us up. Luckily, that hasn’t happened yet in my seven-plus years with the company, but I’m not looking to break that streak.

We have to balance those pragmatic business needs with what drives us artistically. It’s not enough for us to do what we are passionate about – other people have to care, too, or else the whole operation is unsustainable.

I believe there is a new model of contemporary American theatre emerging. It operates more like a business and less like a charity. It is a lean operation. There is not a lot of overhead. It is innovative and different. It is highly creative, and it will redefine the experience of going to see a play.

That last paragraph pretty much sums up what Bare Theatre is.

Rather than overexert ourselves trying to make the company something it isn’t, I want to make our focus all about getting creative people together to create experiences that will inspire and educate others.

Which leads me to The Next Show and Where We Go From Here…