Wonderful Prizes!

Posted in history on June 2nd, 2010 by kellinewby

Raffle tickets for sale.  $5.00 for one, or buy 4, get one free.  Prizes include a dinner for two at Grammercy and two Richie Havens tickets; a massage from Tsubo; tickets to WTF; tickets to Sweeney Todd at Barrington Stage Company; and more prizes to be announced later!

You can buy tickets at Papyri Books in North Adams and at the public library in Williamstown.

We’re having this great promotion because we have new board members.  Real board members.  It’s something we’ve talked about at meetings for the past three years, one of those items that keeps getting transferred to the next to do list, but never getting done.  Real board members, not just company members, but real ones…

We kept putting it off.  You have to be ready for real board members.  You have to have something to offer them.  You have to schmooze them; there’s been a fancy cocktail party in the planning for years now.  But there’s always the next  show, always the next bill to pay and fancy cocktail parties kept getting pushed aside.  We kept hoping someone would notice how hard we were working.  And someone did.  Two someones.

So now we are moving back into strategic planning.  We are working on the mission statement and all those things you do with real board members and, most importantly, we are fundraising.  Now, I’ve told the history of our fundraising efforts in a previous post, but the short version is we kept trying to put on a show to raise money for a show, and the double effort was exhausting and doubly disappointing if it didn’t work out.    The real board members suggested something like a raffle that requires much less work.   Great idea!

Want to buy a raffle ticket?

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Halloween (October 2008)

Posted in history, Past Shows on September 2nd, 2009 by kellinewby

In the sort of moment I had only daydreamed about.  A woman I didn’t know was  running across the BCC auditorium saying: “Hey, you guys are Main Street Stage?  I’ve heard all about you and have been meaning to track you down.”

The woman was Juliana.  The project was a Halloween show in the old graveyard in Williamstown.  She needed actors for the graveyard tour, but more than that, she needed someone to write and produce a show in the chapel and heard we might be the folks for the project.

A couple weeks later, I piled most of the Redroom writers and a few others into a car and we got a tour of the chapel and did some brainstorming for plots.  An evil wedding?  Some sort of historical piece?  A town meeting?  We wandered around, found a secret passage, discovered the old town morgue, played around with the organ and had a good time.  Eventually, we decided that the story should be a presentation on local ghosts that is interrupted by ghosts, of course.  We made a couple more trips backs with various people in tow, including some MCLA students, to plan special effects.  I wanted them to all be created in the space, especially the noises.  Prerecorded sounds just weren’t going to cut it.

Here’s the story.  Penny tours around giving her lecture on local ghosts.  She had an encounter in the Houghton Mansion as a child.  Her friend, Maxine, fancies herself a paranormal investigator and often crashes Penny’s presentations.  Of course, on this night, the women have stumbled into an actual haunted place and everything falls apart in a cacphony of ghost noises and a blackout at the end.

I spent many delightful hours reading up on local ghosts late into the night  and scaring myself.  (Incidentally, here’s a link to a great blog on the topic if you’re interested). We had also decided that one of our characters was a ghost hunter, so I called up the local ghost hunting team, Berkshire Paranormal Group, to get a sense of what kind of equipment the character would have and what sort of language she’d use.  I even spent a long, dark evening in the chapel with the Berkshire Paranormal Group doing an investigation of the chapel.

Then things started to go wrong.  Although the event had been approved by the town council and had been in the works for the better part of  a year, about a month before Halloween some residents of Williamstown got wind of it and objected strongly to theatrics taking place in a graveyard, on hallowed ground, as it were.  What followed was weeks worth of nasty letters to the editor (and even worse comments on the online Transcript comment sections below said letters) and a heated town council meeting.  While the project moved ahead as planned, it was  not without an emotional cost to the main planners.

But the day came and, except for it being bitterly cold, we had two nights of good attendence and great fun.

The Halloween event will be in the basement of the Milne library this year and Main Street Stage will be there!

Raising Funds

Posted in history, Summer 2009, Twelfth Night on July 17th, 2009 by kellinewby

In the three years I’ve been involved with Main Street Stage, I have participated in three fundraisers.

The first, a dinner and a show ticket for $50.00 that involved a lot of preparation and catering for one weekend’s worth of Irma Vep performances, was a lot of work.  We had a cook station set up in the basement.  We blew a the fuses a couple of times.  Lex, who was also starring in the show, was running around trying to get the food ready too. It was good food and the lobby looked great, but the ticket price was high and we didn’t sell out the two shows as we had hoped.  In the end, after all the work, we made about fifty bucks.

After that fiasco, we decided to strike out in a different direction–a dance party.  I went to a city council meeting and we were approved for a one night liquor license.  Lex and I bought a keg (and considered driving to Mexico, but then returned to the theatre).  We had a DJ from North Hampton donating his services.  We charged $15.00, figuring it was a fundraiser and people might pay a little more.  We postered everywhere, talked it up.  But the attendance was low.  We made enough to cover the cost of the keg and we had a great time dancing, but, again, not much in the funds raised department.

This summer, before we even saw how little was available through grants and sponsorships (we’ve made a total of $250.00 from that drive), we knew that we needed a fundraiser to get us through Twelfth Night.  We had the age old discussion–do we do something fancy and expensive or cheap?     This evolved into a Woodstock style music festival, which would be a great  show for the community in and of itself.  But it’s hard to find an outdoor venue in North Adams where you can charge admission; believe me, we tried.

As the weeks passed, as we thought about past attempts to raise funds, Lex decided the simpler the better, and we had to agree.  The fundraiser was going to be two weeks before we opened and mounting a second show in the middle of the big show sounded less and less doable as the summer progressed.  We lined up two local musicians who have been very supportive of the stage (and who we adore as people and as musicians).  We got RBIT to perform. We rented the American Legion–who provide a cash bar as part of the rent.  The intern went around and got local restaurants to donate food and the cast made the rest.  It helps that we had a lot of foodies in the company.

We postered, we sent out press releases and we put ads on WNAW (something we’ve found has really upped attendance).  Then we waited.  And we worried.  Would people even know about it?  Had we done enough?  We kept getting bad news–Zombie Prom was opening that night, and Wild Oates was having some BBQ and it was a third Thursday in Pittsfield.  Even postering was difficult.  Usually you can find some space on a board, but there were several we couldn’t find any room on.

An hour before the doors were set to open, I went to pick up the tickets from Papyri and found not a single one had sold.  We had five reservations.  The dread I’d been feeling for a few days only got worse.   Lex shrugged and said, “As long as ten people show and we cover the rent for the space, the cast will have a good time and a night off.”

And then, at 5:30–people!  Lots of people!  I kept counting and recounting the money in awe.

So why did this one work?  We put less energy into it than any of the others.  We had less riding on it, I guess, and we catered more to families (the door price was only $12.00).  We had a really great raffle that raised over a hundred dollars.  We’ll sit down and get to have the meeting we’ve been wanting to have about a fundraiser for years–the “what went right?” meeting.  I, for one, am looking forward to it.

“Welcome to Main Street Stage. Here’s a hammer. We own you now.”

Posted in history, Past Shows, The Redroom on June 3rd, 2009 by jturbin

I lurked backstage behind the curtain at the May 2008 Redroom intently listening in on the audience response to my short play, Job Interview with the Vampire Wannabee.  Written during a slow day at my then-dayjob as a substitute teacher it involved a vetting session for the new member of a high school goth clique.  The small yet vocal audience seemed to be lapping it up.  I had been involved with Main Street Stage only a matter of weeks and already I had begun acting, directing and writing for the company.

And it was all due to a matter of chance.

I was eating out with a friend (okay – it was a date) when a woman with way more energy than is advisable waltzed into the restaurant, dropped a quarter-sheet on the table, plugged the Redroom, and left.  Said friend looked at the card, observed “oh.  It’s right around the corner” and suggested we attend.  I had only been back in the country for a few weeks, let alone the city, and knew next to nothing about the art scene in North Adams (I had only a vague notion that a bunch of old mills had been converted into artist lofts and museums).  Little did I know that I was about to encounter an olde tyme cabaret/burlesque performance, a team of earnest and talented artists, and people who would become some of my closest friends.

The evening in question involved a local singer/songwriter (a “troubadour,” as my friend put it), a Dada performance piece, and a one-act about a woman harassed by her time-travelling, future groupies.  Afterward, over drinks at the bar, I struck up a conversation with a woman in striped tights.  Said conversation began with Paul Farmer and ended with me being handed the executive director’s email address.  Truth be told, I nearly threw it out; while I had done theatre as an undergrad, those days were behind me.  Or so I thought.  One month later, I attended my first executive committee meeting.  Shortly after that, Main Street Stage had claimed me.

It’s now little over a year since my first performance with the company.  Here I am dramaturging our summer production (Twelfth Night, for those of you who haven’t been paying attention) and helping manage our humble blog.  Main Street Stage has grown by leaps and bounds during my tenure, so I can only imagine how far it’s come since its founding.  If history is any judge, next year will be even bigger and better.

The Mystery of Irma Vep (October 2007)

Posted in history, Past Shows on May 21st, 2009 by kellinewby

“Top Geniuses!!” –audience member addressing the Trova sisters at the bar after the show.

irma-vep-cleaver1

We needed to do a show and we needed to do one fast; if all of our hard work to start over as a company was going to work, we needed to refill the coffers.  Lex suggested remounting Irma Vep with her and her sister in the two roles.  We still had most of the set downstairs, it was a funny Halloween themed play, it would be easy to get up and running quickly and it had some name recognition.

Irma Vep usually stars two men.  We had two women on stage, three women back stage and a woman in the director’s seat.  It is a quick change show where a lot of the fun is seeing an actor walk off stage as one character and walking back on stage as someone entirley different  literally seconds later.  Sometimes the results are a little wonky…lexs-wig

But it adds to the fun.

The show was our first big step in company building.  The set was harder to put together than originally anticipated; consequently there were a lot of late nights at the theatre painting and sewing.  The crew had to be at all the rehearsals.  A couple people of including myself – who had initially felt a little outside the inner workings at the stage — found a welcoming environment and a completely non-hierarchical production.  There were bloopers to keep us going through the exhaustion (with that many wigs and a werewolf costume, how can there not be bloopers?)

One of the most interesting parts of the show was the set change between Egypt and the mansion, which happens before an audience.  There was some set ingenuity (namely hinged, panted panels with Egypt scenes).  More than that, however, the director wanted to make the set change interesting, so she put the crew in masks, put on a song and made it into a creepy dance.

“Why do we always have to pretend the set isn’t being changed?  It’s ridiculous” quoth she.

Some of the Redroom began here–bringing elements of  other disciplines into a show and saying “we just can’t hide this, so we’re going to have to put it out in the open, but we have to make it entertaining…”

edgar-and-nicoLex wants to make Irma Vep a tradition. It’s a fun show and everyone has a grand ol’ time.  There’s a big trunk in the basement full of werewolves, mummies, fake legs, cleavers, wigs, paintings that can bleed, and much more  just waiting for the next time through.

Romeo and Juliet, summer 2008

Posted in history, Past Shows on April 26th, 2009 by kellinewby

“This is the strangest thing you’ve ever done.”

–Jeffery Borak, local critic, to Alexia Trainor after he found out Main Street Stage was producing Romeo and Juliet.

[Follow this link to see pictures of the production]

wedding1It was a strange thing.  We all thought M. was crazy when she suggested it.  Romeo and Juliet?  That play we all read(and hated) in 9th grade?  That over-produced play that was totally beneath us?  We were all leaning toward the Tempest after we’d decided on Shakespeare for the summer–after all, it was artsier and we could do mask and puppet work!

M. held a day-long Shakespeare workshop to help us make the final decision.   We spent a lot of time publishing it, harassing people who had said they were interested in the stage but had yet to take the plunge, and the turn out was excellent–20 people.   It was a wonderful day full of new faces and fun and at the end, when we started reading sides from Romeo and Juliet we all came to the same terrifying conclusion–that we should do Romeo and Juliet.  Why?  It was a gut level reaction.  The R&J sides resonated.  The community was telling us what to do and we listened.

But, we all agreed, we had to do it right.  Whatever that meant.

Fast forward–M. found teenagers, real teenagers, to play the titular roles.  friar-and-romeo1She followed through on age appropriate casting (Lady Capulet was 13 years older than the actor playing her daughter.  Lord Capulet was about fifteen years his Lady’s senior.  The cousins and friends were all early-mid 20′s.  The nurse was not very old at all–she was, after all, able to have a child as of 14 years ago.)  We spent weeks at a table pulling the text apart word by word.  M. focused on making the cast a cohesive, collaborating group with a mix of old pros and green actors.

And you know what, it worked.

Gail Burns wrote in her review:

The result is this production of Romeo and Juliet which is chock full of the energy that comes from ownership of a show. This cast owns this show and you can tell that they are thrilled to be sharing it with their friends and neighbors. And by gum, their friends and neighbors are coming!

We even took the show to Windsor Lake and performed outdoors for a crowd of 80 or so.   Letters to the editor came in declaring the show interesting and moving, and that putting such a big show in a tiny space made the spectator feel as if she, too, was in Verona.

Another audience member summed up her reaction to the play like this:

The Friar comforts Lord and Lady Capulet after they've discovered her dead on the morning of her wedding to Paris.

The Friar comforts Lord and Lady Capulet after they've discovered her dead on the morning of her wedding to Paris.

I finally get it.  They’re not idiots.  They’re teenagers!

When Romeo andJuliet are teenagers, they no longer look like idiots that make rash decisions. They look like children caught up in a violent society that is not of their making who are trying to find a way out of it.  The bad decisions made by the adults around them result in the violent deaths of an entire generation.

And you thought it was a love story.

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Recent History, 2007

Posted in history on April 26th, 2009 by kellinewby

The Main Street Stage began as the Manic Stage in 1999 and was founded by Spencer Trova and a lot of people from the defunct Berkshire Public Theatre.   I don’t know much about those times.  I wandered in off the streets during the spring of 2006.  There was a hand written sign in the usual dark store front:

Auditions Today

That fall, the stage had had a remarkable success with a play called Like Home that was really the best of what the stage had to offer–a script by a local playwright, directed by her husband and starring a real life family of actors playing a family.  It wasn’t a big pile of nepotism: it was a lot of really talented people using their natural chemistry and passion to create a truly original piece of theatre.

But things had been falling apart for awhile, as I discovered later.  There were the real life concerns–the founder was getting older and tired of the sustained effort.  His daughter, who was planing to take over the stage, had a baby a few months after Like Home closed and was out of commission for awhile.  There were also the public image concerns I mentioned in a previous post.

When I wandered in that day, I joined a once-a-week acting work shop that was sparsely attended and run by the Artistic Director who had, at that time, taken on almost all of the running of the theatre–design, publicity, script selection, direction, cleaning…He also lived 45 minutes away and had a full time job.   How things had come to be like this is a matter of discussion among company members.  I’ll just leave it at there was one guy doing just about everything.

I was in and out over the next year, working only as an actor, but the following summer we put up John Guare’s Bosoms and Neglect and I finally saw just how threadbare the theatre had really gotten.  The artistic director made a fairly sudden decision to throw up B&N after the play that had been rehearsing was moved up a couple of months to accommodate for the director’s real life.   Because of the politics, B&N was an unwelcome production from the start.

Rehearsals went well, but I was slowly learning the back story as we discovered there was no stage manager, no lighting or set designer, no costume designer, no technicians–nothing.  Just three actors and a frustrated director.  When the show opened, there was no one to do front of house, no one to clean the bathroom, make the blood bags or set the props.  The director and I split the jobs, but things were frantic.

The publicity went out late and the show was sparsely attended.  There was one night where the only person in the audience was the local critic up until about 5 minutes before curtain when someone else–thankfully–wandered in.  Only a couple of the board members and company members saw the show, and some of them only saw half of it.

As soon as the show closed, the artistic director resigned his position and walked away.  Another company member invited me to join the board.  I said sure.  At a meeting soon after, Spencer also officially resigned.  things looked grim.

It was too late for me, though, I was in love with the tiny space.  And so were the four other women in the room.  So we started over.

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New Beginning, part I

Posted in history on February 26th, 2009 by kellinewby

October 2007.

We’re marching in the Fall Foliage parade with a banner that reads “Main Street Stage.”  We’re on Main Street.  In fact, we’re in front of the theatre.  I hear people saying, “Main Street where?”

It was that bad.

But it was understandable.  The guys that had founded MSS lived in Pittsfield and weren’t in North Adams that often.  The windows at the storefront stage were used as storage spaces and were usually dark.  The people who had heard of it thought it was some sort of vanity project.

So we were dressed as ghouls and marching in the parade.  The Better Business Bureau’s witch float (which we were supposed to be accompanying) was so heavy that the pick-up truck it was built on top of couldn’t make it up the hill by the Hadley Overpass, leaving our 8 person group a half-mile to fill with just our bodies and our banner which, apparently, didn’t have enough information.  And I’m pretty sure I had inadvertently scared a couple of little kids pretty badly.

Reaching out to the community was going to be harder than I thought.

But we had big plans.  No more artistic directors!  We would rule by committee!  We would have weekend long brain storming sessions (complete with worksheets to be filled out before hand) to write a new mission statement and new goals!  We were going to have a catered fundraiser!  We were going to find board members!

We had no money in the checking account.  We had no name recognition.  We were hoping that Irma Vep would make enough money to pay the rent for Novemeber so all of this work would be for something.

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