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Connecting Collaborative Passion to a National Network

Jeffrey Mosser: Dear artists, welcome to another episode of the From the Ground Up Podcast, produced for HowlRound Theatre Commons, a free and open platform for theatremakers worldwide. I’m your host, editor, and producer Jeffrey Mosser, recording from the ancestral homelands of the Potawatomi, Ho-Chunk, and Menominee homelands now known as Milwaukee, Wisconsin. These episodes are shared digitally to the internet. Let’s take a moment to consider the legacy of colonization embedded in the technology, structure, and ways of thinking that we use every day.

We are using equipment and high-speed internet not available in many Indigenous communities. Even the technologies that are central to much of the work we make leaves a significant carbon footprint contributing to climate change that disproportionately affects Indigenous people worldwide. I invite you to join me in acknowledging all this, as well as our shared responsibility to make good of this time, and for each of us to consider our rules and reconciliation, decolonization, and allyship.

Artists, we’ve come to our final episode of season two, and I’m so grateful to all of the fantastic artists I’ve gotten to spend some time with. But most importantly, I’m so glad to have spent this time with you. By collecting and disseminating this knowledge, I hope that we can catalog and celebrate collaboratively creative work that is happening around the United States. I truly want to instigate change with the knowledge that we’ve heard from these philanthropists, fiscal advisors, producers, and artists.

I left season one thinking about how important it is that ensemble work is seen in multiple regions, and I truly believe that because theatre flexes our empathy muscles, it is increasingly important that we see it from different regions in different regions, which is why I love the idea of an ensemble touring circuit, or greater festival support here in the United States. Today wraps around to where we began in episodes one through three, where we talked heavily about producing at a regional theatre. Today’s guest is the Tony Award-winning producer Mara Isaacs.

She’s also founder and creative executive producer at Octopus Theatricals. She’s going to help us see all the connective tissue between producer, presenter, and artist, as well as some of the larger presenting networks, including the Association of Performing Arts Professionals [APAP] and the International Society of Performing Artists. Also, you’re going to get some scorching hot takes about the nonprofit sector in general. Mara and I talked on February seventh, 2022, and she joined me from Lenape ancestral lands, now known as central New Jersey. Enjoy.

Let me welcome you and say thank you for joining me. Like I said, I’ve really been hearing a lot about Octopus. It’s been in my brain over and over for the past few interviews for From the Ground Up. I’m wondering how you found yourself in the position as a founder and producer of Octopus Theatricals.

Mara Isaacs: The thing to know about how Octopus Theatricals frankly came to be is that I spent more than two decades working in large regional producing organization, working my way up through the staff, from an intern at the very beginning of my career to being the producing director of McCarter Theatre, where I had been for many, many years.

In that time, I was able to build a lot of relationships with artists, build a lot of work, work with a lot of other theatre organizations, also move some things commercially, and was being recruited often for leadership positions at other large not-for-profit institutions around the country. And in that process, I grew discontent with the institutional producing model. That there were a number of elements in the fundamental structure of a not-for-profit that I found were constricting the kind of work that I was interested in making.

And as time was going on, I was finding that the aesthetic range that many of these institutions were working in was getting narrower and narrower. That there was a shift from where the not-for-profit movement first started, which was a much more mission-driven, values-driven, community-based arts movement, due to many factors—including changes in philanthropic practice, changes in consumer behavior, changes in the entire way we interact with each other in the digital sphere—that many of these institutions had to get into the business of self-preservation perhaps more than preservation of the mission or adaptation of the mission. There is a kind of, for many, market-driven ethos that has taken over. I’m a not-for-profit baby. It’s where I professionally grew up, and I had great leaders and mentors who instilled in me this idea that the work we do has to have purpose and meaning and connection to our community, and it has to be great.

As I was wrestling with all of these ideas, I realized that the only way I could do the range of things I wanted to do. At the time I was working on a small musical that I thought maybe had commercial potential, and I was also working on a devised theatre piece with Israeli, Palestinian, South African and American artists. And I thought, where can I work where I can do both of these things? And the answer was nowhere, at least not to my knowledge. I thought I’m going to just have to figure this out myself.

I created Octopus Theatricals, which at the time consisted of me, a website, and a business card, and suddenly an organization was born. I just set out on my way to try to make work happen in a very organic and intuitive way.

Jeffrey: And now just for those who may not know at all about Octopus Theatricals, what is it that Octopus does now?

Mara: Octopus Theatricals is engaged in a really wide range of work. We produce support, nurture, advise projects that range from crazy experimental short pieces for one actor and one audience member at a time, to I’m the lead producer for a Tony Award winning musical on Broadway called Hadestown, and everything in between. We partner with other not-for-profit institutions to make work. We develop projects and/or pick up projects that fit within our aesthetic and values-based portfolio.

We tour them, whether it’s nationally or internationally. It’s hard to in an elevator speech say what we do, except that we do work that matters and we do work that, if you look at the body of our work, hopefully represents the world that we want to be living in.

Jeffrey: What’s maybe something that one wouldn’t be able to find out about Octopus Theatricals from your website?

Mara: What an interesting question. Over the years, I’ve been able to build up a small team, and that team is infused with a sense of joy in coming together and working. I hope you could kind of figure that out by looking at our website, but I’m not sure that that’s readily apparent. Joy is a big part of the work. Being values-based is a big part of our work. We’re small and scrappy.

Jeffrey: It sounds like that sort of devising attitude. It’s like pick the right team, be scrappy about what you find, how you do what you do. That’s that sounds like you’re carrying that aesthetic through your work together.

Mara: 100 percent.

Jeffrey: What you do with producing other projects and other ensembles’ works, or other theatrical pieces… what does a theatre or a project need to know about itself before becoming affiliated with Octopus?

Mara: It’s interesting. It not like there’s a checklist. All of our relationships tend to bubble up in some random or organic fashion, and fundamentally everything is relationship-based. I would say people to know who they are and what they value and what they bring to the table and why a partnership is additive to both sides. We’re less interested in providing services and more interested in collaboration.

Jeffrey: Can you talk a little bit about how you find those pieces? One thing that Rachel Dickstein mentioned is that she had been reaching out to you, to Octopus, and it seemed like Ronee [Penoi] was just really excited about Murakami and just read the proposal and said, “Yeah, we’re going to do this one.” But can you tell me a little bit more about how the people propose to be a part of Octopus Theatricals?

Mara: Sometimes people come to us. Sometimes we generate ideas and go to them. Sometimes we’ve seen something and put people together, connect the dots. But in every case, somebody on the Octopus team must be passionate about the project. And if there is no passion, we don’t do it.

Jeffrey: Wow! That’s a good Occam’s razor to have.

Mara: Yeah, because you know what? Doing this work is really hard, and you are going to come up against obstacles no matter how fabulous a project may be. If you’re not passionate about it, then when you hit those obstacles, most people would just be like, “Eh! I don’t want to do that anymore.” Instead of, “I’m really passionate about it, so I’m going to figure out how to overcome this obstacle, and I’m going to creatively problem solve for it, because I can see and I’m excited about where we’re going to.” And that’s a very important requirement for anything that we work on.

Jeffrey: What I’m hearing is that passion allows you to see a future for the piece as well.

Mara: Absolutely. And it allows you to advocate. I encounter a lot of people who try to sell something. They’re trying to sell themselves as artists. They’re trying to sell their piece. They’re trying to sell an investment opportunity. It’s really easy to parse the people who are sharing an authentic point of view and feeling about a work versus people who are telling you something they think you want to hear. When you are working with people who have that authentic belief in what they are doing and why they are doing it, it makes all the difference in the world.

Jeffrey: I’m just remembering who’s sort of on your docket right now. I saw The Wholehearted long ago and I know Suli [Holum] and Deborah Stein from a while ago. In fact, Theater for One was something that I picked up as an inspiration piece for another devising piece that I worked on once upon a time. It just feels like there are so many pieces that are inspired. Is there any particular aesthetic that you hope to look for in sort of a devises or ensemble-based work when it comes to you or when you find it?

Mara: It’s not that I’m looking so much for an aesthetic, but what I am looking for is what is essentially theatrical about whatever the work is. What needs to be live about this experience? Because if it can be told in some other way, I’m probably not going to be as interested in working on it. What’s the relationship between the artistic event and the audience? That’s at the core of every project that we work on. It’s a different answer for every project, but I am not interested in a piece of work that you sort of look at from a distance and be like, “Oh, that’s really lovely.” I’m interested in things that are going to stir you up.

Jeffrey: Is it fair to think of Octopus Theatricals as an agent for the pieces that you were advocates for?

Mara: Agent is such a loaded word.

Jeffrey: Maybe broker?

Mara: We do a lot of the things that agents or brokers do in terms of the fact that we will often negotiate a contract on someone’s behalf. We will advocate for them in the marketplace, but our relationship is so much more complex and embedded 99 percent of the time in how the work is made and a lot of the decisions that are made around how the work is made. One of the reasons I avoid using the agent or broker word is that it implies a separation between process and product, and I’m not thinking about things so much as product.

There’s a spectrum of roles and relationships and responsibilities. And on any given project, maybe I lean a little bit more into advocacy in the marketplace, and over here, I’m leaning more into like in the weeds, line producing and problem solving. But I really look at the relationship as a holistic one and not a transactional one.

Jeffrey: Can you talk a little bit about how Octopus relates to another organization like APAP? APAP is sort of a more broad idea where other folks like Octopus may find themselves as vendors underneath. Can you talk about that relationship and how that sort of connects the dots for artists?

Mara: Yeah. I mean, APAP as an example is really an interesting. There are a number of organizations. There’s APAP. There’s also ISPA, which is the International Society Performing Arts. APAP functions as a gathering place, both literally in January with their annual conference, but also throughout the year and other ways, for people across the sector, whether they’re agents, managers, artists, presenters, to come together and look at work, identify partnerships, other questions of the field.

What’s interesting is that until recently, independent producers—and that’s really where I put Octopus Theatricals is in the independent producing sector—but that the independent producing sector was sort of not visible within the APAP world. We started as independent producers, a series of conversations, and actually formed an organization called CIPA, the Creative & Independent Producer Alliance, and started conversations leading up to the pandemic, not knowing the pandemic was coming.

But at the onset of the pandemic when APAP and other organizations were really focused on artists and institutions and how they were surviving or struggling in the wake of the pandemic shutdowns, independent producers had fallen through the cracks. They weren’t visible and nobody was really talking about them and figuring out how to support them.

We spent a lot of time over the last couple of years doing advocacy and reminding people about how, in the ecosystem that is the presenter network, that the independent producer is an essential component of that network. APAP has embraced that wholeheartedly. Actually, if you had asked me your question a couple of years ago, there probably would’ve been a very different answer than the way I’m answering it now, but really I would think about it like an ecosystem.

I would think about the fact that there are presenters, there are artists and ensembles, there are agents, there are managers, and there are independent producers who are often the connective tissue between multiple players in that ecosystem.

Jeffrey: Got it. You’re building the muscle. You’re building the tissue between those artists and producers.

Mara: Exactly. Yeah. And really, I think, actively trying to put the artists at the center of the conversation, which is also a shift of perspective for a lot of the people who have been working in that ecosystem.

Jeffrey: One of the things that Rachel talked about was how Ronee really served as sort of a tour manager in some ways. You talked about line producing or taking on different roles. What are some of the roles that you take on through Octopus to give the best possible experience for your artists?

Mara: We do everything from helping to identify creative team collaborators, oversee a casting process, really manage and produce a development process often over years. Often that will include developing partnerships with host organizations who might host residencies and whatnot, and then actually planning and managing those residencies. Sometimes it’s fundraising, whether through grants, foundations, and individual donors, as well as commissioning partners, other presenting organizations. Every project is going to have a different set of needs.

And then, of course, there’s the booking of the pieces and then the managing of the tours of those pieces. Some of the artists that we work with have their own infrastructure, and they’re very self-sufficient and they only might need us to come in for some portion of those. Some people need the full gamut. Theatre For One, as an example, not only are we booking and producing the individual engagements, but we’ve got that booth in our storage unit when it’s not being used. It just really depends. Sometimes we’re managing people’s payroll. Sometimes we’re not. Sometimes we’re helping them manage their entire fundraising infrastructure, which is something we do in partnership with another initiative we’ve started called the Producer Hub, but that’s probably a topic for a different podcast. We wear a lot of hats or use a lot of tentacles, as we like to say.

Jeffrey: How do you know where to connect your productions to where they’ll best fit?

Mara: That really comes from relationships and understanding both the artists and the work in a deep way, but also so understanding the presenters and their venues, their communities, and their point of view and trying... It’s matchmaking. That’s a lot of what it is and trying to figure out who are the likely partners on any given piece. And each piece is going to have a different set of partners.

On the other hand, we have some presenters who we have a really deep relationship with, and there might be four or five projects that we’re bringing to them in any given season. But no two projects ever have the same path. Some of that is just intuitive, and it’s based on conversations and relationships and trust. There are certain presenters who will take my word that a project is the right fit for them because we have built trust over time.

Jeffrey: It’s funny, trust comes up over and over again in terms of building trust with not just presenters and producers, but also with audience members. Do you see presenting organizations as reaching out to you for content that might help them engage differently with their audiences?

Mara: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.

Jeffrey: As you mentioned earlier, just the idea of a different aesthetic, just a shift in what nonprofit offerings typically are. Are they taking a jump with you in some way?

Mara: Some are and some are not, okay, because everybody’s different. It’s hard to make a blanket statement. Octopus Theatricals has now been around for eight and a half, almost nine years. And in that time, people have gotten to know our aesthetic, as broad as it might be. They’ve begun to see what the commonalities are. I think they understand when they’re reaching out to us where our work is going to fit into their overall program. And probably most presenters, they have a really diverse program too, and the kind of work that we do is only one sliver of their total offerings.

Mara: They’re reaching out to other people to kind of fill in the areas that are different than the areas that we fill in, as they’re curating the totality of what they want to be sharing with their communities.

Jeffrey: This is kind of off the cuff. I’m curious. If in the instance that someone is trying to take a risk in that regard with their audience, I’m wondering, will they sometimes mitigate that risk with co-productions, or maybe will it end up becoming a multiple stop tour for that project perhaps?

Mara: Yeah. I think, again, it’s really hard to generalize, but certainly I’ve been involved in a number of projects that we’re definitely pushing the envelope either aesthetically, financially. Building a consortium of presenters to help support the work has often been a strategy that’s very effective if everybody’s on the same page about the desire to work with that artist and their community.

I found that especially to be the case when we’re working with large scale work. Like for example, we have an opera we’re producing right now by Wayne Shorter and Esperanza Spalding, and there is a consortium of presenters who came together to support that work, because it was very ambitious both aesthetically and financially and risky. That’s been a very successful example of partnerships with multiple institutions, each who really had some skin in the game.

Certainly when I’ve worked with international companies, I’ve brought them to the US, having a consortium of presenting partners lined up and ready to work together has been the only way that we’ve been able to bring in international work.

Jeffrey: Is there a difference in what more purely presenting theatres or presenting organizations are looking for versus what a regional theatre might be looking for?

Mara: I think the biggest thing is that when you’re talking about theatre, theatre in the presenter model is very difficult to pull off because of the time and energy it takes to mount a show and how so many of these presenters are really set up to have runs as short as one or two nights. Whereas in a regional producing model, you’re looking at multiple weeks. The lift to get something up in front of an audience is amortized over a longer run.

I think you’ll find in the presenting world there’s just a lot less theatre on those programs because it’s much more expensive and logistically complicated to pull off. Big Broadway-level tours have a kind of infrastructure built in where they can put a show in multiple trucks and send it out overnight, leaving from one venue, loading into the next venue. Twelve hours later, the performers are on stage performing. And yet, I’ve got a one man show that travels with everything in suitcases.

It takes three days to tech the show in a new theatre because it doesn’t travel with the kind of infrastructure that a big Broadway touring show has. Most of those presenting venues don’t necessarily have three days of housing, labor, all the things to get a show up, and then they’re only going to be presenting it for two or three nights. But you can see there are real challenges to how we make theatrical work with all of its bells and whistles fit into a traditional presenting model.

Jeffrey: Is there a better way for ensembles or collaborative creators or folks who have something that they want to present or something that they want tour, is there a better way for them to know about presenter networks that exist or getting involved in sort of those presenter networks?

Mara: Such a good question. Again, because so much of this work is based on relationships or based on presenters having seen the work. If those relationships don’t exist, certainly the artists can learn there are regional presenter network. They can be going to the conferences and meeting up with people, and figuring out how to invite presenters to see showcases of their work in order to try to get future engagements.

I’ve seen that be very successful, but it definitely helps to have someone, some kind of intermediary helping to make those connections and build those relationships. Because at the end of the day, all of this is about relationships, relationships between the artist and the presenter, relationships between the work and the audience. Those get built over time. I get these emails all the time, “Would you like to see our industry email list that you can sell your product to?” I think selling my product to an industry email list, that’s not how it works.

Jeffrey: One thing that Olga Garay-English mentioned in our second episode is that she’s really disappointed with the lack of festival culture in America and how it is so much more prevalent in an international culture. It got me wondering how we could be making something possible around a touring model. Do you think that there’s any possibility that a touring model could be possible in the United States? Sorry, let me change that a little bit.

Because clearly there is a touring model for Broadway productions, right? Do you think that there will ever be sort of a touring model for smaller, ensemble-based—the guy with three suitcases model that you’re describing?

Mara: I mean, there is a touring model. I don’t know that any of us like the touring model. The festival circuit that exists outside of the US is pretty thrilling. Those festivals are heavily supported by the governments of the countries where those festivals take place. We live in a country that has historically not valued that kind of communal gathering. I would love to see that change. I’m working in my own way to try to find ways to see that change. But festivals are financially... They’re an investment. They’re an investment in the community. They’re an investment in artists.

I think there’s tremendous value in that investment, but not everyone gets that. Until we can get each community to see the value of having a festival in their community, I don’t know how we’ll ever be able to support a festival touring circuit, but I’d love to see one.

Jeffrey: Me too.

Mara: I mean, there are some festivals there’s Spoleto Festival. There’s the Next Wave Festival at BAM sort of has that kind of festival sensibility, although it is still very much within the structure of a not-for-profit organization. There’s... Oh my god—

Jeffrey: Fusebox.

Mara: Thank you. That was exactly what I was thinking about. There’s Fusebox, and also it’ll be interesting coming out of COVID. I think there’s an opportunity, not that I think anyone will actually have the nimbleness or the financial wherewithal to seize it, to actually change the patterns. Now, in this moment. Everything’s been disrupted. People who are subscribers to performing arts center aren’t going in the way that they used to go before.

There is an opportunity to turn everything around, but it would take commitment of serious financial investment and patience for a new model to get traction and really take off. I don’t know. I’m not optimistic, unfortunately.

Jeffrey: No, thank you. That’s much appreciated the candor around it. I can feel it. Going back a little bit to how you assist other organizations in their preparation and their work, how would you help someone negotiate in their process with a presenting org?

Mara: Often I will just do the negotiation on their behalf. I think of myself as a translator, because I’ve worked on the institutional side and I understand deeply what the institutions need and how they think about their budgets and their staffing and time management and all of those things and audience and ticket sales and etc., etc.

And just trying to navigate between that language and that culture, and then what the artists need—which is fair compensation and the ability to be able to string together enough engagements that they can make a living—and also just support the work and also make sure the work can be realized at the venue and the way that the artist has envisioned it. The negotiation isn’t always just about what’s the fee. Negotiation is also like, how much time do we get in the space? How much crew is going to be there to support us?

Who’s covering the housing? Who’s covering the transportation? What does the marketing plan look like? Who’s responsible for developing the marketing assets? There’s lots of things around properly setting up an engagement with a presenter that are about more than just a financial transaction. And that’s where I think I can be the most helpful is really setting people up for success in that relationship.

Jeffrey: I’m wondering if you’ve seen any trends in either content or otherwise?

Mara: Well, I’m excited by what I see as a greater appetite and appreciation for work by, with, and for historically underrepresented communities, however one defines what that is in a given place. I think that will only be exciting and successful if the people who are presenting that work are able to get their audiences as excited about it. Because if it’s not sustainable, then nobody wins. I think positive trends are that there’s a recognition of the fact that artists need to be paid a living wage. That was a much harder case to make in the past. Now at least people understand it. They may not have any more resources to throw at something, but the understanding and willingness to come up with creative solutions I have seen improve significantly coming out of the pandemic. I don’t know enough yet. I don’t think we’ve had enough time to see if any of these are trends or if they’re momentary experiences. I also think that a lot of these organizations are figuring out how to get their audiences back. And that’s a real struggle.

Jeffrey: Going back to what you talked about with nonprofit and regional theatre models, what do you wish that they were pursuing instead of the market-driven model that you mentioned earlier?

Mara: In the not-for-profit organizational structure, there is a requirement in order to be a not-for-profit, that you have to have a board of directors. What the relationship is between the board and the governance model of a particular organization and the artistic leadership of that organization is so highly varied. To me, in that relationship is ultimately the stickiness of this kind conversation. Are the boards there to oversee? I heard Ben Cameron, who’s at the Jerome Foundation, in a talk talked about the best boards as being there for insight and foresight, but not for oversight.

I thought that that was such an important distinction, because where I’ve seen things go astray is when, in the not-for-profit—I’m sorry, I’m going into a bit of a tangent—but in the not-for-profit, the boards are comprised of volunteers and mostly of volunteers whose expertise lies in other fields, not in the performing arts. What their role is in ensuring that this organization, which gets tax benefits, the people who contribute to the organization get tax benefits because that organization is there to do the public good. That is the reason why we have a 501(c)(3) status.

As long as people can keep at the front of mind this notion of mission and public good and service and how it is we can be supporting that mission and service to the community—however you define community, it might be the artistic community, it might be a geographical community—community can be a lot of things. But there’s this idea that as a not-for-profit organization, you are in service, and that the people who are the leaders of those organizations, whether they’re appointed staff or the board, they are the stewards of that mission and that service.

And if they can keep that at the forefront, then I believe the right decisions will follow.

Jeffrey: Thank you for that. I’m holding back a giant fist pump. I’m holding your sign.

Mara: I tend to get a little bit on my soapbox, so I apologize.

Jeffrey: No, no, no. I asked you to get on the soapbox. You jumped up on it, and I thank you for that. If you could take a hurdle out of the way of Octopus Theatricals, what would it be?

Mara: I think the biggest hurdle, and I think so many people are experiencing this right now, is just one of bandwidth and how to multitask and manage all of the things we want to be doing and find a way to be fully present with each one. For me, the biggest obstacle is time and the lack thereof.

Jeffrey: Mara, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it. I really do appreciate what you’re doing, and I think that the model that Octopus is holding right now is something that I love to see and I love to hear. I’m so happy that you found a way to not confine yourself to doing one or the other, but rather finding a way to doing it all. Thank you for that.

Mara: Thank you.

Jeffrey: Thanks for your time today.

Mara: Thank you. I really appreciate it.

Jeffrey: I should have done a tally of how many times you say relationship in these episodes. My guess is that it came up a significant number of times, including at least twice here with Mara. While it’s important to get your work seen, it seems important that relationships and passion are the keys to getting that work to be seen outside of your region. This season’s conversations with UNIVERSES [and Alison Carey] and David Catlin of Chicago really illustrate how important it is to get people to see the work who can vouch for it.

The connection Mara made to the idea that nonprofits are in service to the community means a lot to me, especially the idea that our work in the theatre is a bit of a public service. When we aren’t creating plays, I believe it’s our job to promote and support the culture that we want to create and work in. The multitude of ways that we can interpret community is so vital. We all need to hear something in a different way at times, so those connections to community are so important.

I appreciate her candor around how she thinks the work at regional theatre feels like it’s fitting into a smaller and smaller market of ideas. I think we’re facing a real challenge with what theatre is and can be. To me, I imagine that the work that ensemble theatres and collaborative creators are doing is trying to get back to that original idea of service to the community. But it will take a lot of work, a lot of money, and a lot of optimism. I believe in us all, artists. Okay, so you all know, I’m already interviewing people for season three. So be on the ready for what’s coming.

And if you all know someone who should be on this podcast, maybe it’s you and your company, please reach out. You can find us on Facebook, on Twitter, or email us at ftgupod@gmail.com. In the meantime, you can tell us what you like about the show on any of those social media sites, or just drop me a line via email. I do hope that we can keep this conversation going, but now you know what time it is, the sound check lightning round. See you next time, artists.

Can you tell me your favorite salutation?

Mara: Hi, friend.

Jeffrey: Your favorite mode of transportation?

Mara: My feet.

Jeffrey: Your favorite exclamation.

Mara: Oh my god. Why do I feel all this pressure? I’m not a very exclamatory person. I’m an introvert, so I don’t exclaim a lot.

Jeffrey: That’s totally acceptable. I love it. What’s your favorite kind of ice cream?

Mara: Mocha almond fudge.

Jeffrey: And what would you be doing if not Octopus Theatricals?

Mara: Not trying to be glib, Octopus exists because it’s doing what I want to be doing. But if I wasn’t working in the performing arts, I think if like I had an alternate career path, I think I would’ve been an architect.

Jeffrey: And what’s the opposite of Octopus Theatricals?

Mara: The Titanic.

Jeffrey: Amazing.

Mara: Big, immovable, hard to turn around, heading to the iceberg.

Jeffrey: This has been another From the Ground Up. The audio bed was created by Kiran Vidula. You can find him on SoundCloud, Bandcamp, and flutesatdawn.org. This podcast is produced as a contribution to HowlRound Theatre Commons. You can find more episodes of this series and other HowlRound podcasts in our feed on iTunes, Google Podcast, Spotify, and wherever you find your podcasts. Be sure to search “HowlRound Theatre Commons podcasts” and subscribe to receive new episodes. If you love this podcast, post a rating and write a review on those platforms. This helps other people find us. You can also find a transcript for this episode, along with a lot of other progressive and disruptive content. on howlround.com. Have an idea for an exciting podcast, essay, or TV event the theatre community needs to here? Visit howlround.com and submit your ideas to the commons.

Thoughts from the curator

From the Ground Up is here to ask the questions about this often generative method. Who’s doing it? How is it practiced? Are they paid? Are they able to thrive? We’re also examining that word: Ensemble. What does it mean? There is no roadmap, format, prescription, description, or rubber stamp to the way ensemble-based work is made from place to place and process to process. This podcast interviews companies from around the country on how they make and pay for the art. If you have questions about where to begin or what to do next with your own company, stay tuned.

From the Ground Up Podcast

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