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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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.


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.