Posted in moving, Running the theatre on February 24th, 2011 by kellinewby

This is a quest.  We find guides who lead us to strange new places.  We are looking for a grail.

The steel door had been painted crayon red and, though it had a normal-looking lock, it still had a door handle much like I imagine fortresses have with built in bars.  Our tour guide pushed it open and revealed another big mill space.  We’ve seen a lot of big mill spaces, but this one was warm.  This one didn’t smell of—anything.  We separated into our interest areas.  Ed went to the walled in area that might serve as an office.  Juliana walked around looking up, down and around, taking in the whole space.  I admired the old shoe boxes on a rack near the door.   David went for details, tugging on one of the many dangling extension cords.

“What was this space?” Lex asked.

“A sweat shop,” David joked.

We know to look at the roof, at the windows, to find the fuse box and the emergency exits, to see if there’s plumbing, to see if there’s a place for a wood shop, for props, costumes, and actors.  We know to ask about the heat–is there any?  Is it loud? Are there sprinklers?  Is there handicap accessibility?  These things are boring details.  These things are important, but sometimes we can lose ourselves in the wonder of the space.

We know now that these old buildings spiral off into strange worlds and we find ourselves on the set of a post apocalyptic movie–giant abandoned rooms stuffed with artifacts of a culture that is long since gone.  The people who lead us through these spaces sometimes discover new things, new rooms, new doors into these old worlds.  Sometimes they know about these rooms and are thrown off by our non-space related questions and curiosity–what was this place?  Do you know what that thing is?  Do you think we could rig this structure to do something completely different?   These places are full of stories and all these doors and hallways are branches leading us to new worlds over and over.

As theatre people we are part scavenger, always looking for the details that pull a show together, the bits of things, especially Juliana and I–a set designer and a props person.  In a sprawling basement below Main Street two weeks ago, she and I wandered deeper and deeper into the unknown and found a stash of things left behind from decades of tenants–a Yhatzee box from the 50’s, a pile of Rolling Stone magazines from the 1980’s.  The room was warm and dry.  We navigated the uneven floor with light from a cell phone.  We passed a land of abandoned toilets, bikes, and window screens.  The basement smelled of dirt and oil and dust.

The rest of the party called to us from above.  They had found a new staircase, followed a door and found themselves on the other side of a wall in a huge room full of refrigerators.   Juliana and I found our way up and joined them and stared at the wall that we could punch through to make more room.  It changed everything about the space for us.

But it wasn’t a revelation.

Deep down, we all know there isn’t a grail; there are many.  There’s going to be something good and something bad about each place we find, and we will have to weigh the pros and cons of each one. There won’t be a moment of discovery that solves all our problems and answers all our questions.  We find dead ends, regroup and try a new path.  We get inspired.  We get disappointed.  We get e-mails telling us about a new location.  We start to dream again.  Maybe there is a grail.  Maybe this is the one.  Friday at 2:00.  A new lead.  A new guide.  A new world.

The same quest.

What We Do

Posted in About Us on February 15th, 2011 by kellinewby

It came up in conversation.  Again.

The public perception is that we don’t do much.  That we’re closed most of the time.

Whenever someone says this to us, we get defensive–we do lots of stuff!  We just don’t always have the door open/lights on!  We work at night!

The fact that we still have our Christmas display up in February doesn’t help our side of the argument, and all of our excuses about having day jobs don’t get communicated, so, after our reaction, we decided to do something.  We’re working on a webpage redesign so that when people say “what do you do?” it will be easy to find the answer.  There will be a calendar, too.  We’re also working on a “who we are” section so that people can see that when the theatre appears closed during the day, it’s because we’re teaching, running after school programs, doing PMP, etc.  If people think we don’t do much, it’s our responsibility to show them otherwise….

Which leads me to Comedy Night!  After the Alley closed, the comedians were left with no place to go, until now.  This Friday, the 19th, is the kick off with stand-ups and RBIT performing.  In March there will be two nights–open mic night and then the double bill comedy night.  We’re also starting up a music night that will run every month.  And we’re working on the Seagull.  And hosting PMP.  And hosting BART.

Keep an eye out for the webpage updates!

With Silver Bells and Cockle Shells

Posted in RBIT, Running the theatre on February 5th, 2011 by kellinewby

How does a theatre grow?

A board member suggested this topic to me the other night, and the nursery rhyme has been in my head ever since.  I looked it up to get all the words right and discovered the little ditty I’ve been half reciting to my son is not about a lovely little garden, but instead about Bloody Mary torturing people.  Lesson one, always do your research.

Growing a theatre.  It’s been something we’ve been talking about for four years.  We talk about having fancy cocktail parties to woo potential board members.  At these hypothetical parties, we give a polished presentation of all we do.  We talk about going to SPARK events and creating more youth workshops and being a bigger presence on Main Street.  We know that’s what you need–a real board, connections, and something to offer the community that plays to our strengths and its needs.  But in the past, we’ve gotten distracted by real life, by jobs and kids, and also by the details of running a theatre and paying the rent.  We dream big, but we live hand to mouth.

But we just got another new board member.  Another non-artist, “real person,” as I call our new additions.  He was talking about North Adams at the meeting, but what he said applied to the Main Street Stage as well:

We enable ourselves by not moving forward.  We need to use what we have.

We have a space.  We have a community.   We have people outside the company that love our space and need a space for their own projects.  So…

  • We’re starting with a Comedy night two times a month.  It will begin on Feb 18th and feature a double bill with local stand-ups and RBIT.  In March, we will add in an open mic comedy night that will be free and open to all.  Stand-ups can start there and work their way up to the night with RBIT.  There used to be something similar at the Alley.  They want comedy.  We want community acts.  Beautiful.
  • We’re working on music.  We may have found someone, not us, to co-ordinate regular music nights.
  • We’re working on regular children’s entertainment.  More details to follow.
  • We’re asking you–what do you want?

Back to Lesson one: always do your research.  What do you want to see at the Main Street Stage?  Please, leave a comment or send me an e-mail.  We want this stage to better serve our community, but we can only guess what you want until you tell us.  We’re listening.