Sunday, October 30, 2011

Emerging Leaders

from Todd Eric Hawkins, Managing Director 

As Theatre East-ers who read this blog and/or follow our Facebook page know, about ten days ago, I learned Americans for the Arts has nominated me to serve a three-year term on their Emerging Leader Council. My name, along with 11 other individuals, will appear on the ballot for this year’s council elections. The ballot, which will appear on the Americans for the Arts website (, will be open for all members of the Americans for the Arts to vote on from Monday, October 31st to November 21st. Six of the those nominated will be seated on the council.

Americans from the Arts is the leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts in America. To aid in this mission, the Emerging Leader Council assists in developing programs and resources to promote the growth, development, and sustenance of emerging arts professionals.

Webster’s dictionary defines Emerging as “to become manifest; to become known.” As a member of the Emerging Leader Council, if I am elected, I would be in a position to help emerging leaders, across all arts disciplines, to realize their potential and become the next generation of arts leaders.

When I stop and think of the titans of the nonprofit theater of today, Lynne Meadow & Barry Grove (Manhattan Theatre Club), Neil Pepe & Jeffory Lawson (Atlantic Theater Company), Andre Bishop & Bernard Gersten (Lincoln Center Theater), I realize that at one time they were all emerging leaders. Today, each one of them shapes, fosters, and cultivates nonprofit theatre in New York City. It makes me wonder who the next generation of titans will be, and how the nonprofit theatre of tomorrow will be shaped.

When I look back at the history of many nonprofit theatre organizations, the phrase “circles rise together” always comes to mind.  None of the current titans were able to establish their place in the theatre by themselves; talented individuals surrounded them all with one goal in mind: to produce the best theatre possible.

I am honored that Americans for the Arts believes I am a leader that is “becoming known,” and proud of the fact that Theatre East have accepted me as a part of their circle. I am confident that together we will realize our own potential and become one of the next generations of theatre titans. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Straight Furrows

 from Judson Jones, Artistic Director

I spend the majority of my time at my desk. If I’m not at the theatre or in a meeting or teaching, that’s where you’ll find me. I keep a fairly neat desk. I try to keep a fairly neat desk. I have a stack of plays I need to read, another stack of legal pads with lists of things that I need to get done (some of them are even checked off), an assortment of sticky notes to remind me to look at my legal pads, a cup of coffee that will remain there and mostly full throughout the day, and two pictures. One of my wife and me when we were around 23 years old living in Tyler, Texas; we’re young, ready to take on the world, and I have a full head of dark hair. The other of my great-grandfather and two great-uncles in Idabel, Oklahoma taken sometime in the early 1930s; they’re genuine, stalwart, and robust.

Over the past several days, a story about my great-grandfather, Pap, has continually crept into my mind. My mother once asked him, after spending a day watching him plow the fields, how he made his furrows so straight. He simply replied, “I keep my eyes on the end of the row.” I think about that simple statement and what great truth it holds.

With all that goes into running a theatre company—going from board meetings to production meetings to finance meetings, making phone calls, sending emails, union negotiations, grant writing, drafting budgets, readings, rehearsals, hikes in rent, good reviews, bad reviews, fundraisers, etc. etc. etc.—it can be easy to all of a sudden look up and think, “Where the hell am I ?! How did I get here?” You no longer recognize your mission statement and you’ve forgotten the reason you started the thing in the first place. You took your eyes off the end of the row. You took what you thought was a detour and now you’re on a completely different track altogether. We see this happen all too often.

Perhaps this is why I keep these pictures on my desk, specifically the one of Pap and my great-uncles. It’s a constant reminder of that simple truth. As we look to our busiest season yet, and as our company continues to grow, we promise to stand by our mission and our core beliefs, to keep our eyes on the end of the row. And know that at the center of all that is our commitment to you, our community.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Todd Eric Hawkins on the Ballot!

The Emerging Leader Council of Americans for the Arts has voted to add Theatre East Managing Director Todd Eric Hawkins to the ballot. The national voting will begin on Friday, October 21st Monday, October 31st and will end on Monday, November 21st. Any member of Americans for the Arts can vote. There are 11 names that will appear on the Emerging Leader Council ballot, six of whom will be chosen to serve a three-year term starting January of 2012.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2010, Americans for the Arts is the nation's leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts in America. Americans for the Arts is dedicated to representing and serving local communities and creating opportunities for every American to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts. From offices in Washington, DC, and New York City, it serves more than 150,000 organizational and individual members and stakeholders.

The Emerging Leader Council (ELC) is an elected advisory body to Americans for the Arts and assists in developing programs and resources to promote the growth, development, and sustenance of emerging arts professionals nationwide. ELC members are provided with singular professional development opportunities to engage in the field on the national level; build new and dynamic relationships with colleagues; learn firsthand about new programs, resources, and tools from Americans for the Arts; design and implement programs for their peers; and be recognized on the Americans for the Arts website.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Race Goes On

Track & fieldfrom Joseph Mitchell Parks, Associate Producer

As I sat and read my colleague Christa Kimlicko Jones’s latest blog post, I realize we are in the exact same boat, and furthermore it is the same boat that most of us as artists sail through life in. We do anything and sacrifice anything to be a part of the theatre community that we all love. 

Right now I am in the middle of the rehearsal process for Othello running at The Secret Theatre the end of this month.  In addition to playing Cassio, I am also co-producing the project.

My day begins at 6am with my morning coffee and a sensible breakfast. I have always treasured my mornings since I was a little boy. I have never been one to wake up and go; I need time and caffeine to ease myself into the day. For this very purpose,
I get up early and I usually even try to squeeze in a little bit of a favorite film or television show.  My castmate (and roommate), Valerie Redd, often teases me about my morning dramas. It is not unusual to find me drinking my coffee while watching Revolutionary Road, The Reader, The Hours, or any other gripping drama. These types of films always give me perspective on my life and I appreciate my life so much more when I watch them. It’s a true catharsis.

Following my morning ritual I try to make it five times a week to my gym to get in a good workout, which always improves my day. Then I am off to work a full day for The Acting Company, where I am the Producing Assistant and Resident Company Manager, which entails problem solving and helping take care of other artists all day, which is wonderful. It is gratifying to spend my whole day working for a classical theatre company.

Rehearsals begin at 7 and I cannot eat between work and rehearsal, otherwise my stomach will be in knots. I try to shrug off the day and be completely present in the studio, but at this point it has already been a long one and I have a few more hours to go. It is a challenge we all face everyday.

At 10pm we end our rehearsal and my Co-Producer and Director and I debrief and then I head home. Like Christa it is now midnight and it all starts
again at 6am.

It is a fascinating thing how we choose this life, but I would not give it up for anything in the world. 

Othello opens October 25. Buy tickets at 
or visit the company website at

Photo by Olli A

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Marathon Days

Running feet from Christa Kimlicko Jones, Associate Artistic Director, Director of Programming:

I just closed a show.  Up until last Sunday, I was acting in a new play called The Woman Standing on the Moon, by James Haigney.  We had a 16 performance run at Urban Stages in NYC.  During tech week, classes started back up, so I was teaching a full load and then walking over to the theater each night.  My ritual each evening was to touch base with my husband and pick up the largest bottle of water I could get, a yogurt, a banana, a coffee (I know, I know, not the best thing, but…sometimes I treated myself to a Pumpkin Spiced Latte, and that just made me happy!), and some kind of protein bar.  I couldn’t really eat anything more than that before the show, because, though it was long, it was very emotional, difficult subject matter.  Most nights after the show, I would need to walk it off.  I’d walk in the night air—a full 12 extra blocks to get to my train.  I’d get home close to midnight, sleep for an average of 4 ½ hours, and do it all over again.
Since school had started back up, I invited my students to come, which many of them did.  (I have to give a big shout out to them right now: Thank you to the students, especially of Stella Adler Studio.  You know how to be great audience members!!)  At any rate, I can only imagine it was an interesting introduction to me; they definitely saw me in a different light than in the classroom!   After the show, there were many dear moments with those students…and the next day in class…and days after.  One day, I recall many of them swarming around me and asking me how in the world I could do that show and then come to studio each day bright and shiny to teach and give so much?  And truly, I have to say… I wasn’t quite sure myself.  I don’t know exactly know where the energy came from or how I got through…all I know is that I had to be right in the moment.  I knew what my objective was for each class, and I pursued it to the best of my ability.  I tried not to think about what was going to happen at the end of my day (i.e. get in a major fight and completely crumble into a snotty, wailing mess in the middle of the stage).  If I thought of that too much, I’m not sure I could get through.  But instead, I was with my students.  And the moment. I took one breath at a time, one moment at a time, and the next thing I knew it was the second act, and I was in the middle of that stage.  During this process, I learned how to pace my energy out.  Whenever I found a quiet moment during my day, I took it.  I drank water all day long.  I ate light, but healthy.  I figured out what my body needed so that I could run the marathon.  Oh, and I laughed A LOT.  With my students, my colleagues, my husband, and my cast mates.  Laughter is good stuff.
I am so happy to have had an opportunity to play a role like that, for many reasons of course, but also to be able to tackle that question of, what does one have to do to be present, to not play the endgame, to not collapse from exhaustion when you’ve got so much ahead?  I think it has to do with breathing and taking that first step.  Taking every moment for itself.  I remember in graduate school, I was talking to my professor, Franchelle Stewart Dorn, who had played Medea. I asked her how in the world she did that every night.  She said, “I took a breath and I walked on the stage.”  And I realized then, “Oh, that’s what we should do every day—take a breath, start the day, be in the moment, and allow yourself to be surprised by the outcome.” 
The motto at the Stella Adler Studio is, “Growth as an actor and growth as a human being are synonymous.”  What a great truth that is.  I am so proud to get to do what I do every day.  I am often amazed.  Man, to be an artist, to learn how to be in a moment in life—and to help shape and hopefully inspire young minds—what could be better?  Sure I like sleep too, but…that’ll come soon enough.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

How Sausage, er Theatre, is Made

from William Franke, Director of Development 

Recently I was listening to the podcast of THIS AMERICAN LIFE, episode 241: "20 Acts in 60 Minutes." I really enjoyed this particular episode, not only because it was a radio show inspired by a theatre company (the Neo-Futurists), but also because one of the 20 stories made me think about the magic of theatre.

About halfway through, at the 34:16 mark, they share a story from Jim Bodman, Chairman of Vienna Sausage Co. in Chicago. I recommend listening to the whole story but briefly: Bodman tells the story of how the company built a brand new, state-of-the-art facility in 1970, replacing their old factory, which was actually a warren of buildings on Chicago's south side that was built up by gradually buying up buildings over the course of 70 years, until the factory complex occupied an entire city block. Once they moved into their fancy new digs, however, they faced a problem: the hot dogs weren't coming out the same. They didn't have the same distinctive red color or desired snap. They couldn't figure out what was wrong, since the ingredients, spices, cooking time, everything was the same.

After a year and a half, they still haven't figured it out...until one night, when some guys from the plant are out at a bar, reminiscing over drinks about the old days in the former plant. They start talking about Irving, a fixture at the old plant who knew everyone, whose job was to take the uncooked sausages to the smokehouse. But, given the "Rube Goldberg" layout of the old factory, it took Irving half an hour on a circuitous route to get from A to B. And they realized: Irving & his trip was the missing secret ingredient.

With apologies to Christa Kimlicko Jones & any other vegetarians out there, this story of how the sausage is made got me to thinking about how theatre is made. No, not (just) that it happens over drinks in a bar, but also how, once the house lights go down, and the lights come up onstage, and the first words are spoken, something magical happens, and it's easy to forget all the many ingredients—all the people who come together to make it happen; all the hours spent designing, rehearsing & discussing; all the ideas that get thrown out, tossed around, tossed out or modified; all the paperwork that has to have i's dotted and t's crossed; all the collaboration—that go into making that magic. (Scott O'Brien, our Resident Composer & Sound Designer, keeps telling me that you don't want to show people how the sausage is made, but if you want to take a peek at how we've made it in the past, you can check out our YouTube channel.)