So, this post is about beginnings. We will begin our rehearsal process Monday, and I'm equal parts excited and trepidatious. I know this show is going to be great. Our cast is great, our crew is great, our designers are great, and our director... our director has wisely surrounded himself with great people. I'm really excited about the show. We're just about to get started with actual rehearsals, but John and I have been working on it for months, trying to tie up the details and smooth everything into place.
But I want to talk about another beginning. One more important to local theatre than the start of our little adventure on Monday. You see, a new beginning is happening at our venue, Common Ground. Last year we did a week at Common Ground and a week at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro (for various reasons, it worked out best that way). This year, we're happy that we'll be exclusively at Common Ground. Very happy, since we will have a set that will be a little harder to move than 3 chairs this year. And Common Ground will be having a very special new beginning of its own.
As reported in the Indy this week, Devra Thomas is taking over Common Ground Theatre, and Seascape is going to be the FIRST show in the space under her guidance.
Now let me say up front that this caused me (and in turn I caused Rachel) a bit of consternation. When I found out about it, my immediate reaction was "what do you mean Rachel won't be running Common Ground? What's going on? Oh no!" But after several (yes several, I can be a bit of a panic, sorry Rachel) emails, and learning that Devra was taking over the company, well I couldn't be happier.
Rachel has done so much (SO much) for local theatre. Let me say that the reason we produce at Common Ground is that it is a good space that is affordable. Common Ground is cheap enough that you can fail. You can put up a show, and have no one come, and it won't kill you. That's the kind of cost structure you need for independent, experimental, or just plain community theatre. Almost every other space we looked at (other than The ArtsCenter who were great co-hosts last year) was just too expensive. In addition to being an excellent director and a hell of an actor when she's on stage, Rachel has kept Common Ground available, open, and .. well there as an amazing resource for the theatre community. I've seen some bad shows there, but some absolutely incredible ones too (boy, one of my favorite shows ever was LGP's production of Pinter's "The Birthday Party" there. Good stuff).
Anyway, Devra is a great choice. And really, not enough is said for those that work at arts administration. Raleigh recently lost an amazing and creative company with a long tradition (REP), and ... well I don't know what the heck is going on with NC Shakes after they cancelled their production of Mackers (how ironic..). Things like that really make you realize the critical importance of good administration. You're a fantastic actor. You're a director with incredible vision. Well, good, but if you don't have an organization behind you who will know (and let me be clear, this isn't a fame thing... I mean, you want people to come to your show right? You want to connect with them, and have a meaningful experience right? The point of theatre is that it has an audience after all). Without people shepherding our arts organizations, watching their budget, fund raising, and managing costs, well, all the other stuff, the fun stuff, the costumes, the lights, the audience the theatre, that stuff DOESN'T HAPPEN. It can't happen. Having artisitc vision, having a company, creating a community, creating art with your audience, none of that happens if you spend too much on costumes and don't pay the light bill. Just as much as theatre needs great artists, it also needs great people who care about theatre enough to use their considerable talents to make the conditions right. They set the oven to the right temperature, they buy the ingredients, and they find the right dish so that the chef can make the pie.
All of which is a (very) long winded way to say that Devra is just that sort of person. She cares deeply, passionately about theatre, as much as any actor or director I've ever met, and having someone with that skill set and dedication is going to be an amazing asset for Common Ground. I'm thrilled that we're going to be the production that bridges this transition, and I hope we make both Devra and Rachel proud of the amazing space that they have created for the triangle theatre community.