Weather permitting, Fight Designer LLC will be tabelling at tomorrow evening’s Virginia Production Alliance State of the Industry mingler in Richmond. I’ll bring some toys for show & tell, and see if I can’t drum up a little more local business.
WHEN AND WHERE
Thursday, January 17, 2013 6 pm – 9 pm
8570 Magellan Pkwy, Suite 400,
Richmond, VA 23227
In less chipper news, the previously mentioned mess at Firehouse Theatre is just getting worse. For a decent summary of what’s happening, check this week’s cover story in Style Weekly, Burning Down the House. If you’re logged in, you’ll also see the pages of comments, including many respected theatre artists here making public their intention to boycott. There’s a Facebook Group which is also getting information out with an aim towards bringing back Carol Piersol to her post as founding Artistic Director.
I had the pleasure of attending a protest performance of Zhe [Noun] Undefined, the most recent show at Firehouse. It was a co-production with University of Richmond, and the artists and show came in from the UK at Carol’s invitation, so there has been no ill will against them personally. Still, many who would normally attend Firehouse shows were unwilling to support it in that venue, so the director and cast managed to secure a last-minute alternate venue for a special showing for the Firehouse family-in-exile -after having one alternate venue cancel following interference from Firehouse’s board. Did I mention what a mess this was becoming? There were respectful, silent vigils outside the showings at Firehouse but this time it was in the Speakeasy at the Hippodrome – not ideal, with kitchen noise and no real stage, but it felt right. The show itself was wonderful, and of great interest to my wife and I (on a VERY rare date night to catch this), followed by a talk-back about the show and its issues (gender identity, sexuality, etc. for two UK based actors of African descent), followed by a discussion about Firehouse.
The board has found a new interim artistic director whom I don’t know personally (a young local director – one former board member at this meeting said the existing board had commented that Artistic Directors are a dime a dozen, and they’re trying to prove it) despite sharing some connection with both VCU and William & Mary. The theatre recently sent out a casting call for the upcoming two shows (including the one I was going to be in) -but with no directors listed. I have to hope that the local theatrical community matters here, and can make a difference, but despite being a member now of multiple unions (SAG-AFTRA and the Stage Directors & Choreographer’s Society) my personal experience of this kind of dispute is very limited. For what it’s worth, here’s the statement I have made on the matter:
I won’t be acting or teaching with Firehouse as things currently stand, despite having been scheduled to do both in the coming months. I respect the opinions of my peers in the local theatre community too much, including Carol Piersol. I believe that theatrical management exists to support theatrical art, not the other way around, and if management and art don’t agree, then what’s needed is new management… not to drive away all the artists. Even if this means lack of growth, constant state of crisis (I’ve never known a theatre, film, or other arts organization that wasn’t in a near constant state of crisis for much of its existence), or ultimately even the company’s demise. We learn early in acting to make strong choices and not be afraid of failure if you want to make anything worthwhile.I do hope some equitable answer can still be achieved allowing Firehouse to survive and continue the artistic vision that’s carried it this far, but pending that, I have to add my list to the ranks of respected actors, directors, patrons, board members, donors, and others who have severed ties with the current leadership of Firehouse Theatre. I’m sad it’s come to this, as I was really looking forward to acting in Time Stands Still and teaching stage combat certificate classes, and my family could certainly have used the additional income (Not to be flip, but the staff sometimes has to pick up a second job? That sucks for them – and let me tell you about my five adjunct classes at four Universities/Colleges, theatre and film work, and running my own small business that still don’t together pay a living wage this Semester). I’ll continue to follow developments closely, but at present I cannot support the current efforts of Firehouse, be it the re-casting of shows, the doubling-down on artistic decisions made by management, or the disrespectful manner in which this has all gone down.
To be clear: My statement on management and art is targeted to this kind of theatre. I do believe there is a viable place for completely commercialized theatre, no matter how lowest common denominator it may end up becoming to appeal to donors or demographics. I would hate for that to be the only theatre left, however, and any healthy metropolis (I’d say that wants a theatre scene, but I believe that goes along with being a healthy metropolis) needs a more artistically driven fringe, semi-pro, or professional theatre that’s willing to take artistic risks, to push boundaries, and to say the art IS the bottom line, not the product to support one. I don’t think that’s antithetical to an artistic community that can support full time theatre artists – in fact, I think it’s a requirement for one, and Richmond needs that, whether in Firehouse or someone else. It’s been great to see the support of other theatres, ostensibly competitors but also friends and members of the same ecosystem – groups like Henley Street Theatre (Jackie made this point quite well at the post-Zhe discussion), or Richmond Shakespeare or SPARC (there were staff members from both there, and Jan has at least given online moral support).
My hope is that the board will respond to pressure (financial pressure and the active rejection of their main talent pool) and reconcile or step down, but only time -and the actions of people, which I can’t presume to predict- will tell.
So in the meantime, I think I’ll go see if I can drum up a bit more film work tomorrow.
In unrelated news, classes are now in full swing for me at Christopher Newport, William & Mary, and VCU, with my John Tyler classes not starting until later (and still pending sufficient enrollment). My schedule feels plenty full, but there’s definite vacancies in my finances and in my artistic well, so I’ll continue to try to fill those as I can. The work from the recent Chekhov workshop with the NMCA is proving helpful in my teaching already, and is something I will definitely continue, probably next Summer at their next intensive.
The spring time vacated by the cancelled Firehouse show is rapidly filling with workshops, etc – getting my Theatrical Firearms instructor certificate from the SAFD (a separate endorsement than their Certified Teacher rank, which I already hold), hopefully heading back to the Virginia Beach Bash at Regent University, and more.
Firehouse or no, rest assured I still know how to burn the candle at both ends.