Each year, for the past five years, South Stream opened local theatre's calendar with a production the first weekend in January. This year we have decided not do so.
Why? Lots of reasons. But the central answer is exactly that question - Why? Why should we do a play? What story do we feel passionately about that someone else isn't presenting? What connection do we want to make that we can't? What can we feasibly produce given our practical constraints of money and time? What are we called to do? And at the end of the day, we didn't feel the answers to this question - Why? - was compelling enough for us to produce a play.
Now I want to be clear: this absolutely has nothing to do with Sonorous Road. Josh and Michelle have been great to us and supported our efforts tremendously. I have made no secret that our shows have not made money, and part of that is venue cost, but Sonorous Road is not over-charging us - they need to pay rent like the rest of us. Having a theatre space that is charging less money than they pay out and goes out of business doesn't help anyone. In addition, they were very accommodating when we had a discussion about finances. They truly want to support good theatre, and they have been tremendous partners for us. So money, in and of itself, was not an absolute barrier.
I think part of it is simply demand. Not in a monetary sense, but in a sense of "who will come to this show?" Blackbird was amazing, and I am incredibly proud of that production and glad we did it. But sadly, not that many people attended the show. And theatre is a collaborative art form. And one of the collaborators is the audience. At the end of the day, if people just don't want to share our work, maybe we need to re-evaluate if the area really wants it.
Another factor is the fact that there are so many other theatre producers in the area. Four itinerant theatre companies formed in the past year alone. This area does not lack for theatre voices doing work they find compelling and important. So if we are going to produce in this environment - what are we going to bring to the table that is different? What is our perspective and why is it important that we present it? At the end of the day, we just couldn't answer those questions to our satisfaction.
But ultimately it really comes down to what we were driven to do (or not driven to do). As I intimated in a previous post, we agreed that, in order for us to put in time, effort, and money for a production, we needed to be absolutely on fire about the show. We really needed to be passionate about the story, to the point that we would be willing, and happy, to do it even if we knew in advance that the show would not generate anything but artistic fulfillment. And we frankly didn't find that thing. South Stream started with Copenhagen, because John and I had a script that we loved, it was a story we really wanted to tell and had roles we really wanted to play. So we thought "Hey, rather than hope someone else produces this, and hope they cast us, let's just do it ourselves." And it was great. Each of our shows since then has been something we personally feel excited and compelled to present. But this year, we didn't find that story. We did find some stories we thought would sell, but we didn't love them. We found some stories we loved, but were beyond our means to produce. And at the end of the day "we need to produce a play in January because that's our time slot" is just not a good enough reason to do something we didn't feel strongly about.
Now - is South Stream dead? No. It is not. I have some project ideas I'm mulling over and hope to be doing soon if the pieces fall together. But we're not producing a show in January, and we don't have plans to produce a show in the near future.
I plan to keep blogging, so keep tuned to our posts here on the website for future details.