A note from our director

Posted in Uncategorized on April 27th, 2011 by kellinewby

It is very exciting in these final weeks of rehearsal for The Seagull. At this point in the process I am constantly answering a million questions as director. I have the privileged of working with such awesome designers like Juliana, Vanessa, Jeff, and Mike; so on a daily basis I get to see new exciting set pieces, costume pieces, hear sound, talk about lighting, etc. It really feels like a collaborative process. I have to give a big thank you to my Assistant Director, David Sernick, not only has he worked with actors to pick apart beats and/or scenes in order to big deep and get the juice out of the fruits that Chekhov has laid bare; he showed me some amazing video that we are using for the multi-media affects for The Seagull. 

Early on we did a lot of table work, just sitting, reading the play, talking about the play, the world of the play, how it relates to our current time and era. We changed references to take it out of 19th Century Russia and make it 21st Century Berkshire County. Then we pushed really hard to make a sketch of the blocking. Just an outline of where an actor enters and exits, who they are talking to, where they are going and why. Then the real work began. For the last month after the play was “blocked” we worked and re-worked beats, scenes, sections, and eventually acts to find how every actor is relating to one another and reacting to the tension on stage. It is electrifying to watch rehearsals at this point in the process; I get my breathe taken away when certain characters just simply exit or enter because I can see why they are there or why they are leaving and what they are trying to accomplish. 

First and foremost, though, The Seagull is a character study of people who cannot see past the tip of their own nose. This character-based comedy is filled with the kind of awkward humor that always strikes home; the same kind of humor that makes TV shows like The Office so popular. Plus the play is infused with beautiful poetry and in-depth analyses of the human condition as only Chekhov can deliver them. Is it a comedy? A tragedy? Does a play written in 1895 Russia taking place in the countryside outside of Moscow relate to 21st century Western Mass? Answers: Yes, yes, and yes.

Advocate Article on the Move

Posted in Uncategorized on April 11th, 2011 by kellinewby

Here’s the article about our move from this week’s Advocate written by Rebecca Dravis.  Many thanks to Ms. Dravis for the excellent article!  I apologize about the headline; it is making its own picture art, but it reads as follows: “Main Street Stage in North Adams is charting a new future after being asked to leave its theater.”

Main Street Stage in North Adams is charting a

new future after being asked to leave its theater

By REBECCA DRAVIS
Posted: 04/06/2011 12:59:01 PM EDT
Wednesday April 6, 2011

When Main Street Stage produces “The Seagull” in May, it will be the theater company’s last production on that stage.

Those involved with the 12-year-old community theater group hope it won’t be their last production — period.

Alexia Trainor, founder and artistic director, said Main Street Stage has been asked to leave its space at 57 Main St. in North Adams because the shop next door — Creations — asked the building’s landlord, Scarafoni Associates, to expand. Scarafoni agreed and gave Main Street Stage until the end of May to vacate the space.

“Business is business,” Trainor said in an April 1 interview.

Trainor said being asked to leave was a surprise to her because it came on the heels of a conversation between Scarafoni and Main Street Stage about a three-year lease. The theater company never had a lease.

“It went from ‘Oh my god’ to ‘Oh my god, what are we going to do now?’” Trainor said.

That question is what is foremost on the minds of the people involved with growing the theater company over the past 12 years.

Ed Sedarbaum, current president of the board of directors, said the group has looked at “seven or eight” other properties in North Adams, but finding a space that will accommodate their physical equipment, such as lights, as well as accessibility and safety issues, has not been easy. Still, he said the company hopes to have an announcement about its future by mid- to late-May — right around when “The Seagull” ends its three-week run.

Sedarbaum said Main Street Stage is working closely with the Partnership for North Adams — whose CEO, former state Rep. Dan Bosley, also is a member of the theater company’s board of directors — to ensure the company has a future in North Adams. Trainor echoed a commitment to keeping the theater in North Adams.

“We didn’t want to move it anywhere else,” she said. “It’s perfect for this area. We’re all invested in the community.”

In fact, that investment was about to grow, as Main Street Stage was working on big longer-term plans for the company.

“This comes at an unusual time for us,” Sedarbaum said.

Sedarbaum and Trainor both said the theater has been built up through the dedication of its volunteers over the past 12 years — from the seating to the equipment to the manpower behind it.

“Everything we built. This was pretty much an empty space,” Trainor said.

And build they did, creating an intimate 50-seat theater that allowed the company itself to perform a variety of plays but also be a resource to the community. For instance, the space is used by Barrington Stage Company’s Playwright Mentoring Project, a six-month, out-of-school activity that uses theater to help at-risk youth develop positive self-images.

In addition, the theater company was about to expand with endeavors such as creating a Playwright Mentoring Project-type program for area senior citizens, building up children’s programming and adding child-care services to allow more parents to come see plays. The company recently launched a bimonthly comedy night series and hoped to add a similar music series in the coming months as well.

Instead, now the group has to regroup.

They are not doing it alone. Both Trainor and Sedarbaum said that in addition to Bosley, Mayor Richard Alcombright has offered his support and advice, as well as state Sen. Ben Downing.

And they are not doing it blindly. After having spent 12 years building their space, they now have a better idea of what to look for in a new space, which ultimately could mean good things for the theater company.

“We know we want wings,” Trainor said.

Sedarbaum said the goal is to keep the theater an intimate theater space — perhaps seating 50 to 75 people — but that also can open up for cabaret-style events. In the meantime, though, Trainor said it’s possible that the theater company will have to “take to the streets” between physical locations.

“We are laying plans on how to be a theater without a theater if we have to be for a while,” Sedarbaum said.

Still, his enthusiasm for the theater company’s future is obvious, even in the face of a such a large setback.

“It’s going to be great,” he said. “We will discover new parts of ourselves.”

Keeping a positive attitude is the only way Trainor said she is making it through this rough time, as she sees the fruits of her labor over the years being dismantled.

“It’s exciting in a way,” she said. “It’s scary. Change is always scary.”

Trainor said something she had read in the Small Theatre Handbook had this advice for companies: “Whatever you do, don’t fall in love with your space.”

As the founder of Main Street Stage, she clearly loves the theater, but she’s trying to keep a bright outlook in the future by remembering one important thing.

“It isn’t the space that makes us who we are,” she said. “What makes us who we are is our group of people.”

Perspective

Posted in Uncategorized on April 6th, 2011 by kellinewby

What had we been worried about before?  What had we been angry about before?  What had been the things that stuck in our craw, that raised our hackles?  What were the promises made or not made and who were the people who had better things to offer us?  What could we say and not say?  What did we know and what did we officially  know?

Yesterday we had to ask a new question: how does someone thirty years old and exploding with life not wake up one morning?

I met Mike Grogan working on Baby with the Bathwater with Mill City Productions.  He and I were a two person team in a short but hysterical scene set on a playground.  We would sit back stage in our track suits playing intense games of SORRY! until it was time for our scene, and like divas, we would assure everyone that we would raise the level of the show with our performances.  It was really his performance, though.  All I had to do was not laugh.   His character seemed, at first, a normal parent.  But as the scene progressed, he became a hysterical, pill-popping, conspiracy theorist that I was trapped on a tiny park bench with.  He went big and bought into the character 100%.  I never saw him do otherwise.

Rehearsals would be one third working, one third laughing, and one third recovering from laughing.  If it wasn’t the scene, it was something else.  He had a new cell phone that was all the rage at the time, a bright red Razor, that he was proud of, but it kept breaking.  Every rehearsal he had a new story about how he had to fix the phone in some absurd way.

At one point, ribs sore and eyes watering, the director told us we needed to focus and run the scene.  I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and tried to clear my mind.  Mike took a big breath and turned into a cartoon of a satire of an acting exercise.  He puffed his cheeks and shook his face so that his lips flapped with a duck noise.  He splayed his fingers and shook them around his head like a conjure man.  He might even have said “Focus, focus!”  Someone once said that he could do gymnastics with his face.  It’s true, and I saw it at close range.

At first I thought he must be kidding, but after a few seconds it became clear to me that he was focusing.  His aerobic, farcical dance was drawing all his energy in and channeling it.  What could one do but laugh?  I said, “Mike, your focusing unfocuses me!”

Mike was also part of my original Redroom crew.  I wrote skits for him.  He was part of a group that trusted each other completely.  We had very little rehearsal, brand new material, and a new show every week.  He was always funny, always present, and always had your back on stage.

Tonight we had board meeting.  We talked about exciting opportunities, bold initiatives, and cold, hard realities, but my mind wandered back to the first item on the agenda, added yesterday afternoon.  Mike Grogan.