Thursday, June 21, 2012

Today's Brainstorm:

I just had a great idea for a new (possibly 2013) production. The Artist, Interrupted conference I attend this April featured a panel discussion which included a member of the Utah Arts Council. She explained to us there, something I had learned before, but never really applied to myself. You can get grants for artistic projects if you prove that your work is something that will educate, or otherwise benefit the community.

This morning, I've been thinking: I could write and produce a play that gets ESL students to apply their skills outside of class. We could put it on at the Sorenson Unity Center or at the WVC Cultural Center, or even at the park. The project would start with a writing contest for which they submit personal essays entitled, "An Incredible True Story." The prize for the most interesting story is that we use it for the play. I wouldn't want them to incriminate themselves (y'know, in case they want to tell border-crossing stories), so, I'd have to make some rules, that help them keep their confidentiality. Because, eventually, the audience will need to know that the play was based on a true story written by one of the students. And then there's always the possibility that I'll choose three plays and do a series of three one-acts, or somehow fuse the stories together. And why not make it a musical?

Eventually, the project will be about publicizing the show. I'd love the focus to be on getting not just their families, but the Salt Lake community to attend. There's got to be a motivation for them to improve their English, and for this to be something that can bring native English speakers, and English language learners together. What would draw people to this? What would it take to get the library system to adopt this?

If we got a grant we could pay for performance space, a music composer, an accompanist,  and some serious advertising.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Independent Producer--Me?

There are a lot of back stories I could tell here. Like the one about 10-year-old me running upstairs after watching Newsies in the basement,  reenacting a singing, dancing, workers' strike to my reflection in the living room window. Something quaked my heart, and I promised myself that I would make music, theater, and dance a life-long venture.

Then there's the story about me feeling inspired to quit my status as a pre-Music-Dance-Theater major at BYU in favor pursuing the career of High School English Teacher for the stable, predictable lifestyle of glamour it offered. (That, and I had discovered I love writing!)

Another story involves me chatting with Marilyn Oblad, a descendent of Wilford Woodruff (an important Utah pioneer and leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.) Marilyn puts on a Wilford Woodruff show every year at her home (the historic Wilford Woodruff Farmhouse), with a very old script, a faithful cast, and no director. She invited me last year (2011) to meet with the players and see if I couldn't sprinkle on a little professionalism. Our summer interactions ended with an agreement that I'd write a new script, pull together a new cast, and produce/direct a new show ready to premiere Summer 2012.  And wonder of wonders, here I am doing just that.

And then this one time (four weeks ago) I was sitting in a car telling my friend, Mariah, how ridiculous it is that I stack up my life with piles of little projects in an attempt to be a teacher, a dancer, a graphic designer, a sociologist, a choreographer, a singer/song-writer, an author, a director, and a stay-at-home-mom all at the same time. 
"I feel like I'm stuck in this mediocre limbo between amateur and professional," I said, "because I'm only giving hobby time to each one of these. Maybe if I just focus on one area, and try to excel, I might actually become an influential voice in the artistic community."

"Well, why not combine your hobbies?" she answered. "You could keep writing plays and producing them--like what you're doing with this Wilford Woodruff play."
[Aside: Several months ago, the idea of producing a play in a rented performance space sounded outrageous to me. I had always assumed that that was inevitably too expensive. But this spring, I helped book performance, studio, and meeting spaces for an artist and dancer's conference (Artist, Interrupted). In doing so, I discovered a couple of nice black-box theaters in Salt Lake that rent out at very reasonable rates. I was also inspired when I learned that an old high school classmate of mine, Hampton Dohrman, now makes a profession of helping people find alternative performance spaces for cheap.]

Mariah was right. Why not flambeau all my interests into one pot and call it theater? From hence, I summon forthish my future monsters! Musicky comedies about social disparities, historicals, gregoricals, phantasmagoricals, passion plays, and here and there a minimalism that ends with an interpretive dance, etc.