Saturday, November 26, 2011

Nourishing & Being Nourished

from Judson Jones, Artistic Director

For so many, the past few days have centered around old family recipes, football, cheese balls, sausage balls, merriment, naps, Mylanta, leftovers, more cheese balls, more sausage balls, more merriment, more naps, followed by even more Mylanta. But more than anything it has centered around being with those we love. It has centered around conversations & laughter & stories & toasts & smiles & seeing those faces we hold dear.

My wife and I love entertaining guests. We always have. And we’ve always felt incredibly fortunate that people want to come. Growing up as a minister's son, my family was always having someone over for dinner; "Go to church to nourish your soul, come to the house after to nourish your body." I think it was this idea of nourishment that I latched onto. This idea of giving of yourself to others and providing a place for people to interact, eat, drink, discuss, and in general, have a great time. There's also something about having the opportunity to serve our friends that we love. By nourishing them, they in turn nourish us.

But this idea goes beyond the walls of our apartment. Our desire to serve, to nourish, to fellowship, are also the reasons we at Theatre East choose to produce. To have people come be guests at our table and truly partake in what we can only hope is a sumptuous banquet. To be engaged, to be moved, to enjoy, to dream, to question, to hope, to laugh, to love and yes, sometimes even to hate. And then come back for seconds! (You know what I’m talking about—no one likes having the dish that has plenty left over after a meal!) We are indeed so thankful that you have come to our table. We set it for you. Thank you for the conversations. Thank you for sharing in the stories. And thank you for allowing us to host. Our most fervent hope is that you leave feeling nourished.

Jane Howard said, "Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one." We believe this to be true and whether it’s our mainstage productions or educational programming or reading series or mixers, we’re constantly taking steps to provide opportunities for us to interact and provide for our community. So on the weekend of this Thanksgiving holiday, we would like to take this moment, raise a glass, look across the table and thank you for being with us and for allowing us to be a part of your community.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

"I Hadn't Grown Up Enough to Know It"

from William Franke, Director of Development & Communications

Thanks to everyone who read last week's certainly seemed to resonate with a lot of folks out there.
I came across this video of Patsy Rodenburg on YouTube that I just had to share. Ms. Rodenburg is a Master Voice and Shakespeare teacher, and this video is from a series of talks she gave at Michael Howard Studios and it tells a very similar tale to what we discussed last week.

The whole video is worth watching, but this abbreviated clip (3 minutes) gets to the heart of the matter. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Chase Community Giving 2011

Chase is giving away $3 million to 100 small nonprofits—like Theatre East! If you're on Facebook, it only takes a couple of clicks to help us secure at least $25,000 of that $3 million pie:

  1. Go to Chase's Facebook page:
  2. Click the "Like" button up in the top middle of the page
    • If you already "Like" Chase Community Giving, go to the menu on the left-hand side & click on "Chase Giving"
  3. Click on the green  Get in on the giving  button
  4. In the upper right, enter Theatre East in the "Find charities..." box and click  GO 
  5. Go to page 3 of the results and click on Theatre East (don't ask me why, but we're #4 on page 3) UPDATE: including our ZIP code helps narrow it down, so enter theatre east 10108 and we should be the only choice that pops up!
  6. Click on the link for THEATRE EAST New York, NY 10108
  7. Click on the big green  Vote & Share  button
  8. THANKS! You've cast a vote for us to win $25,000 or more. You can share your vote on your wall if you like. You can also vote for 9 other charities
Voting ends in 3 5 6 days on 11/22/2011.
If you'd like to view a demo, click here.

Right now we need at least 790 675 610 570 480 votes to crack into the Top 100 & get $25,000 to Put Community Back in Theatre and bring you productions like EYE OF GOD and THE SOLDIER DREAMS and teach underserved kids the power of the arts for self expression with our Educational Program THE NEW RITES COLLECTIVE.

If all of our Facebook friends who like the Theatre East page vote, we could crack the Top 20!

Of course, you can always donate directly to Theatre East via our website!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

from William Franke, Director of Development & Communications

Yesterday I went to see a wonderful production of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure at NYU's Gallatin School. I'm friends with the director and also know one of the performers from working with her in a Gallatin production of 1001 last fall (I was there as a guest artist).

Now, Shakespeare is wonderful and there have been all kinds of articles and musings about how applicable he is to all disciplines & walks of life. But what struck me was my conversation with the young woman I worked with before. She's now a sophomore and when I asked how things were going, she was busy, of course, but she said she was also "figuring out what I want to be when I grow up." While she had a realistic view of this task, she felt a sense of urgency; even though she agreed when I told her she had time yet to figure it out, I could tell she was anxious (as many students are) to get it settled. (She had at least determined that she no longer desired to be a lawyer, so that helped narrow it down.)

I like to think that her experience in the theatre will only serve her well later in life, no matter what course she chooses. The time management skills she's developing when rehearsing a play are invaluable, because she's working both individually and collaboratively with a larger group. There are those times spent exploring the text in rehearsal, but that follows grappling with its mysteries alone, on her own time, so that she has something to bring to the table in those group sessions (not to mention learning her lines on her own time, so her nose isn't always stuck in the script).

The group dynamic should also prove beneficial. Regardless of the laurels bestowed on any one person for any one achievement, the fact is that no one truly accomplishes anything alone, whether it's landing on the moon, winning an election or a championship, creating the next iPhone, or discovering the next great medical breakthrough.

But really the most important way this student's theatre experiences will have an impact on her later life is something we can't pinpoint now. Something intangible now will come as an epiphany years down the road. I recently read a story about the late Steve Jobs and his similar experience while at Reed College, where he took a calligraphy course:
I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.
None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them....

[emphasis added]
And it's this subtle, unquantifiable effect that both theatre & the arts has that is perhaps the most profound. This ability to permeate our consciousness, only to bubble up in unexpected ways—whether we're students (lucky enough to be) studying the arts in (the ever-dwindling) arts programs in schools, or a member of the audience at a play. I firmly believe that there will be someone out there, maybe even at our next reading (on November 21st), who at some point will have a chord struck deep within them and realize how that piece of art relates to a challenge they're facing in their own life, and that realization, that connection will help them overcome that challenge, triumph & endure. Or maybe even help them realize what they want to be when they grow up.
Hey, Theatre East-ers, we want to know:  
What is the most profound effect—immediate or delayed—that theatre (whether as theatre-maker or audience) has had on your life? Let us know in the comments.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Risk Taking

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

“And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more  painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

This week, I have been so inspired by that quote (enough to post it on Facebook, share it with my students, and now to write about it here).
I think what hits me specifically in this one is the idea of what’s at stake. It’s more painful to NOT take a risk. To never know. To live a life without diving in. To just settle. More painful because if you don’t take risks, you’re not reaching the potential of who you could be, or what could become. It’s that idea of reaching for the stars. Setting goals. Having dreams. In addition to not living to one’s potential being painful, I really think it is our duty as human beings. In order to keep the world flowing. Moving. Growing. Emerging. I mean, what if no one ever dreamed of going to the moon? Or maybe they dreamed it, but never said anything? Can you imagine? Put it like that, it seems that there is almost a responsibility to put one’s self out there. What if a group of people in Chicago never got together and said, “let’s create a company”? We’d have no Steppenwolf. What if Rosa Parks had gone to the back of the bus?
Time and time again, I’m telling myself and my students to try to stay curious. To take risks. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it keeps the world going for sure! (And the cat has nine lives, right? :) If people weren’t curious, they wouldn’t strive to reach past their comfort zone. Creativity (in art, science, expression) requires curiosity. It requires risk taking. Staying curious, with an open heart & mind to experience the world around us and try to be the best human one can possibly be, is worth striving for. The alternative is just too painful. It’s risky to fall in love; to go to school and study what you love; to do what you love; to take a journey across the country; to say “I can do that” and really work on it; to tell a friend the hard truth; to admit when one is wrong; to write one’s thoughts down for the public to see; to trust; to fall down and get back up again; to go against the grain; to question; to Occupy Wall Street; to run for office; to have a baby; to write a poem; to paint the Sistine Chapel; to write a play; to compose a song; to admit that you DON’T want to do what you thought you wanted to do and change direction; to stick with something.
And, let’s not forget the risk of starting a theatre company—and a not-for-profit theatre company at that? Thank goodness we have amazing minds before us who can inspire us. Those that started from just an idea and have, through the years, made a tremendous mark on the world: the Alley, Steppenwolf, the Public, and many, many more. What a gift. And now, with Theatre East, who knows? It’s risky to even put the names in the same thought. But why not? We gotta dream! We gotta keep going because—the alternative is too painful. I’m so thankful to be surrounded by people who push me to be the very best I can be, and who have great dreams and goals—the people in the Theatre East community (the staff, the company, the audiences, the future audiences). Together we can do it. Together we continue to take risks, to push each other and you—so that we can all grow a little bit more. Aim to be better humans. Do our part to help make the world a better place.
The NYC marathon was this weekend—what an amazing physical act of curiosity, strength, desire, goal setting, reaching for the stars, endurance, and determination. What a great example. I am completely inspired by these people. Thank you to those that are running for taking risk and diving in. I imagine you will never be the same. In fact, I imagine you are finding out more deeply who you really are.
So let’s take ‘em. Risks. Why? The alternative is too painful.
One final note, I must thank YOU for taking a risk and supporting theatre in general. And, of course, thank you for supporting Theatre East, specifically. Together—we will blossom.