Friday Phone Call # 39

Diane Rodriguez of Center Theatre Group LA

Diane Rodriguez
Diane Rodriguez

Today I get to talk to Diane Rodriguez, an associate producer and director of new play production at Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles. This is a big conversation about how one of the largest regional theatres in the country is rethinking and realigning its support of artists, their projects, and the form. Listen to the way she talks about CTG's sense of "ownership", for instance. Or the way they are using their Douglas Plus series. But it's also about how an individual, with a solid set of values that are rooted in community, can impact an enormous institution. Or the ways in which they are rethinking the relationship of the CTG to the field itself. Whether it is Diane herself or Michael Ritchie or any of the other people she speaks of, they are each proceeding from a core value that privileges a sense of citizenship of a larger community. Diane and I are involved in a bunch of different ways and over a long period of time, so we get a bit "shorthandy" in this call. "The Douglas" is the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, part of the CTGLA organization. "Rude Mechs" is the Austin-based group The Rude Mechanicals. "NEFA" is the New England Foundation for the Arts which administers the National Theater Project, supporting the creation and touring of new works of theatre nationally. We'll get back on the phone together again soon to see what is unfolding there as it happens.

Listen to weekly podcasts hosted by David Dower as he interviews theatre artists from around the country to highlight #newplay bright spots. You can subscribe to the series via iTunes or this RSS Feed (for Android phones).

Transcription: 

David Dower: Hello, Diane.

Diane Rodriguez: Hi, how are you?

David: I'm great. Have you recovered from TCG?

Diane: I did. I did. It took me a couple of days, but I did recover.

David: Well, good to see you here. I've been talking to Diane Rodriguez, who's the associate producer, director of new play productions at Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, and also a writer and a freelance director in her own right. And, Diane, there's so many things you and I could talk about. Diane and I serve on a number of committees together, and so we end up in a bunch of different conversations.

Diane: That's right.

David: But the one we most wanna focus on today, if you're up for it, is really the work that you've been doing at Center Theatre Group around support for devise work, ensemble created work, and the presentation of company created work. You guys have a huge program there—

Diane: We do.

David: ... and a real pedigree all of a sudden that's just thrilling to see in this area. Could you talk about how that's happening.

Diane: Yes, absolutely. I think one of the key things for people to know is that I really believe that having artists on artistic staff at a theatre is really paramount to the way that the work is produced and developed. I come out of an ensemble. I was in an ensemble for a eleven years at Teatro Campesino. At the time, we didn't realize the definition of what we used to do, which was devise work.

But, with collective creation or collaboration, and we did a number of works that we would create together as an ensemble that Luis Valdez would eventually script, but that we would improvise, and then we toured extensively across the United States and in Europe. So, that's my background. Obviously, and I've done many other things besides that, but that was really the core of my ... I created my values system that way through collective creation. There's a great ... the whole notion of what devise is—

David: Can I, can I, uh wait. Can I come in through that? Hang on to that. You just said something I wanna really make sure that people hear. You created your values in that experience, and those values are guiding what you're doing now. I want to ask you, Diane, do you think that you discovered them or did you create them in that circumstance? Were you a new person as a result of that or did you find your voice as the person you'd always been there?

Diane: You know, I don't think I found my voice quite there because I was in a collective—

David: Uh-huh, well, just your values there.

Diane: ... and so the voice ... now my values, that's a different thing.

David: Yeah.

Diane:What I realized was that my voice would eventually represent the community that I came from, and that I really believed that I had a place in the center of my community, and that my voice as an artist would always reflect and try to inspire and try to tell the stories of my community. So, I never felt that I was an artist in a vacuum. I always felt that I had a community, and that I would wanna do work that had resonance.

And, that the fact that I was an activist, you know, obviously the Teatro Campesino was an activist organization. They were an activist theatre company, and uh, we did our work to inspire our community, and to instill cultural pride at a time when that was a very new thing. I learned, as an actor, to make choices, and to follow through on those choices, and I really believe that, that's what an activist does is that you choose to do something and that you follow through with that choice and that is an action. You follow through with that action and that makes you an activist. And so—

David: Yeah, well it's the root of the word. It's all the same word.

Diane: Yeah, that's exactly right. You're acting, right?

David: Mm-hmm [affirmative]—

Diane: And so, this became core, so that when I moved to Los Angeles in the '80s, in the late '80s, I came with this. When I became an individual artist, I knew then I was an individual within a community and that, that community would support me as I created my own work. Because I was loyal to them, they were going to be loyal to me, and I still believe that to be true. So—

David: Yeah, the reason I came in on that was because it's this question of the values and where they come from. I see us trip up quite a bit by ... as a field where we pick our values out of the air. Things we would prefer to seem to be true. But, you're talking about something else. These were true for you, and then you moved out of those.

Diane: That's right.

David: And it happened that the values that have real community power, real contributive power to the direction and access for a group of people. Your values are rooted in who you are, and I don't know. I'm making too much of this, but I just can't—

Diane: No, no, no, no, but I do think that when ensembles create work that they have ... I mean it's like any organization. You have a mission statement, or you have a value statement, you have a belief system, and if there's a choice between, and this is just an example. But, if there's a choice about creating a work that you wanna tour versus creating a work that is gonna be premiered at a regional theatre and owned by the regional theatre, and if you're gonna tour it, it's only gonna be through this, you know, co-pro and say, you feel like you're gonna lose some ownership over that work.

DavidRight.

Diane: Your values are gonna help you decide, you know what, I'm gonna stay with the kind of touring that I'm currently doing because that's what I believe to be. This is a great opportunity, but it's not what I value.

David: Yep. Yep, yep.

Diane: You know what I'm saying? I mean it just helps you make those kinds of decisions as you go. I do this kind of theatre. This is how much it's gonna cost. If you can't pay that, I'm so sorry.

David: Right.

Diane: I believe this to be my worth. I mean these are just examples of where that system could come in. There's a—

David: Okay, sorry. Yeah, I think so too, and I'm glad that we took that detour, but I derailed you right at the point of talking about what you did then with those values when you moved into this work at CTG.

Diane: Well, so, I could feel about five years ago that there was a real upswing of a new generation of ensembles that were coming into their own, and really all over the country. I thought that most regional theatres, and obviously I work in a very big one. Most regional theatres were only doing work that was primarily playwright driven, and occasionally that's not to say they weren't supporting companies, but occasionally they would do it. It wasn't a kind of real track to how you're gonna develop work by hyper-collaborators, right?

David: Mm-hmm [affirmative]—

Diane: So, I pitched this idea of supporting companies, and we decided to go ahead and do it, with obviously some really great support from the Mellon Foundation. We set up a commissioning system, which was to support companies and also hyper-collaborators, which mean two or three people are creating a work together. And, also this notion of giving what we call a completion commission. The completion commission ends up after three years of being my favorite.

David: Yeah.

Diane: The reason that, that's my favorite it's because it comes into a process perhaps halfway into it, or maybe a fourth of the way into it where we can clearly see where the direction is taking, where the piece is taking, and we can come in to support it more likely in the end to produce it because we know more what it is going to be. It's a great way of supporting a company, even if they already have a production.

So, for example, we're doing Universes's Party People. Universes was commissioned by OSF, Oregon Shakespeare Festival. They've committed to a production, but the guise, Universes needed more research money and they needed more time to develop their script. So, we gave them a commission, completion commission, knowing that they were gonna go off and produce their show, premiere it at another theatre and that we could produce the show after that premiere. And, also having an investment of the piece beforehand, so that it didn't matter to us if we didn't get the premiere or not. What mattered to us was that we were helping these artists complete their vision and support it as much as we could.

So, that's a really new way of thinking about you don't need a premiere. You know, you don't need the premiere production, and you can still be invested in the project. You can still feel that, that project is your own. So, for me it's a great new way of looking at how we can support ensembles because, also, you can't always bring an ensemble to your company to do a workshop. There's fifteen people, you know.

David: Right.

Diane: How do you do that? How do you afford that, and with the completion commission, we've discovered that we can support a company in their own time, developing their piece in front of their own audience so that it's true and authentic to who they are. And then our staff, two or three of our staff can go to Austin, Texas and see workshop and give notes on that workshop, and really still be involved, go see the premiere, and then know that we can bring that show to our space. So, it worked on various levels.

David: This is to me, what we'd be talking about, this is where it goes around, but this is exactly what I've been talking about resource alignment.

Diane: Yes.

David: That you have an interest in helping to support the development of a project, and you have some resources to back that interest, and they're best spent in that way, both for the art, and for getting the dollars to go as far as they go.

Diane: That's right.

David: And, yeah. It's just fantastic, and there's some great projects, so just check off a couple of the other projects that you've done with this because this is really great stuff.

Diane: So, Party People, and then we actually gave a completion commission to Rude Max, I've Never Been so Happy, and of course, you know, you were very much involved in that project, as well, at the arena. I think when you do this kind of work, you let go of a couple of things. One of them is this idea of having ownership of the piece and that you must be the company that premiere's the work. You have to let-

David: Ownership, yes. Sole ownership yes, yes.

Diane: That's right. We've let that-

David: I'm gonna come back to this question in a second.

Diane: Right. We've let that go.

David: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Diane: So, for example, The Elephant Room. We commissioned it. 

David: Yeah, great example.

Diane: We supported it. Oh my God. You know, we did research. We did workshops, and finally it got to the point where it was like, wow, we've taken it as far as we can take it, you know, both dramaturgically and economically. We need help. So, that's where you came in, and you said, you know, I really like this piece. Let's see if we can help. There was more dramaturgy in terms of the arena, and there was also another opportunity to do it at Philly Live Arts. And so we let the piece go out into the world. You know, we said, go, go. They did it at Philly Live Arts. It went to the arena, and now it's coming back to the Douglas.

David: Yep.

Diane: And we commissioned it.

David: And the other piece of that was what we were able to do at Arena ... it's all of these conversations we've been having at the  panel and we should talk about that a little bit on this call but-

Diane: Yeah.

David: ... 'cause what we were able to do from Arena was say here's how we can help. We can give you the resources that we would otherwise been producing it ourself, go produce it in Philadelphia for your own audience. Use your own collaborators, we'll come up, and you know, it's the same thing that you were saying with Party People. So, they were able to use the Arena resources. We were able to be involved there, that extent, and then the run came to Arena and we had another little bit of rehearsal process there, so it continued to develop there, and then it went on. And now it's ... St. Ann's had a big piece just by-

Diane: Right, exactly.

David: ... doing it in New York, changed again, and now it's coming back home.

Diane: That's right. I forgot the St. Ann's. That's right. Exactly. So, the fact of letting work go that you commissioned because the work is affected by those other participants, and you have to trust that the artists ... this is the way that the artists know how to develop their work.

It's a little bit more of a presenting model, in which many people commission a work, and then they all take turns presenting that work. It also helps us in not feeling ... and I guess it's from our Production Manager. She really, in a discussion earlier this year said that, you know, sometimes we don't wanna feel like a hotel. We wanna feel like a home. When we present too much, people feel like we're a hotel.

David: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Diane: So, this idea of being able to commission and feel like we've really worked on this piece, and then share the piece, and then it comes back ... that still feels like they're coming home.

David: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Diane: Do you know what I'm saying?

David: Yeah.

Diane: The other thing that we've discovered in terms of this new model for us is, for example, Rude Max had ... oh my God, what is the piece that was a swinging pendulum.  It was very-

David: Method Gun? Method Gun.

Diane: Method Gun, thank you.

David: Method Gun.

Diane: They had Method Gun, and we did Method Gun here in LA during Radar LA at the Douglas, and our audience got to know them, and we presented that work. Then, when we did I've Never Been So Happy, this is a work that we actually commissioned, and so they came back a second time, and people knew their work, and so it developed a fan base for them.

Last year we presented in Radar LA, in which CTG is partner, a big partner. We did Neva, the Guillermo Calderon piece that he created with Teatro En El Blanco, his company in Santiago, Chile. Then, there was an English translation that was commissioned by the public. And, now, we are doing Neva again, but in English this time in a collaboration with South Coast Rap and La Jolla Playhouse, and we're doing a mini tour. Each of us are going to take a week of this show, and present it in our ... so, it's site specifically in our rehearsal spaces because the show actually takes place in a rehearsal hall. I mean we'll do it in a rehearsal hall. SCR will do it in a nice little black box, and La Jolla will do it in a kind of very appropriate smaller space. So, this is yet another model that we've developed as we've been supporting more company work, you know.

David: Yeah.

Diane: So-

David: The model is really underutilized nationally, and I'm glad to hear you talk about it. It's a staple in San Francisco. Somewhat in Chicago, but really people don't get in their cars. They don't travel these distances. We think of them as very close, but they're not.

Diane: They're really not.

David: And the market, this touring market is really crucial to artists, you know-

Diane: It really-

David:... the continued life at work.

Diane: So, here's how that works. Okay, so the regional theatres were very used to doing co-pros, so we'd do a co-pro with McCarter, The Goodman, and then it comes to us, right?

David: Right.

Diane: We just did this with Danai Gurira's, The Convert. So, we're used to doing co-pros, but we're not used to doing tours where in three consecutive weeks the show goes to each different space, and the three big regional theatres in Southern California are not used to sharing a production in that way, but we're used to doing co-pros. So, it's a very ... what's familiar form that we're taking and tweaking to better suit shows that are created by companies and playwrights.

David: Yeah.

Diane: You know. So that's another thing that we've developed and we've began to learn by really focusing in on this kind of work.

David: Yeah, and I wanna make sure that we get you guys to document some of this stuff as we're going 'cause there's so much learning going on there. It's fantastic.

Diane: There really is. And then, the other thing is that obviously in the field there's a lot more support for ensembles. I mean the network of ensemble theatre is really starting to really grow and create networks and doing their mini convenings in different towns across the country. That's really helping ensembles develop their work, and getting the work out. And then, certainly, the New England Foundation for the Arts touring grant, which you and I are on the advisory panel is really, really, very, very important to the work. And, you know, as usual we're all trying to figure out well what are we calling this work, you know.

David: Yeah.

Diane: Is it, you know, collaborate, you know, collective collaboration? Is it hyper-collaboration? What are we calling it? We had this discussion at NEFA, and the word devise has been really being bantered around, and talked around. Mark Russell uses it at the, you know, in the public.

I found a really great book by this woman named Alison Oddey titled Devising Theater that really sort of helped me put what that means in perspective, you know. And she describes it as being something that devising work happened mid-century last century as a reaction, you know, right before this whole '60s explosion happened, against the kind of traditional patriarchal system of theatres and basically playwrights, and generally men. And, that this was a way of making the development of new work more democratic. It's a really, really good book and it really puts that word in perspective. I think, you know-

David: Her last name is O-D-

Diane: Oddey.

David: D-E-Y, if people are looking for it.

Diane: That's right. Alison Oddey Devising Theatre. It was printed in 1994. I think it's all good. All those terms are good. Devising is good, hyper-collaboration is good, collective creation is good, you know. And each company has their very different ways of working. I really think that the reason that our current program here at CTG is successful is because of all of the other outlets that are happening across the country.

David: Yeah.

Diane: As well as inside the country, but inside the theatre, we have a number of different outlets that we can produce the work. We have Douglas Plus, which we developed about four years ago, and that is shorter runs of work, and it allows us to invest in a Tim Crouch work that's a lot more adventurous and might be a little more dangerous for our audiences. We'll do a shorter run of that piece, and people will get to know that artist. And then, maybe the next time we do Tim, it'll be in our actual subscription season once people are a little used to his style, you know.

So, it really has worked in our favor in developing the artist, getting to know them, and then our audience getting to know them. And of course-

David:I'm sorry, go ahead. Finish.

Diane: And then Radar LA. We did Radar LA for the first time last year. It was very, very successful here in town.

David: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Diane: So, a lot of the work that we can create through this program, we can throw into producing during the Radar LA Festival, either on one of our stages, or in the Festival at another venue. So, that's another really great outlet for us. And then, of course, you know, either our taper or the Douglas.I think when you're creating this kind of work, sometimes you create a work and you think that we have the audience, and we don't. We worked with the Jude family, and that was a real challenge. Once they came up with the work, it was tough to figure out, well, do we really have an audience for it, and is it okay for us, and it is, to let it go in the world, and to try to say, hey, maybe this is better suited for St. Ann's Warehouse, you know. So, you have to be able to say, and be able to continue to support the work outside of a peer system here within theatre.

David: Yeah, these go in so many directions. We do, right there ... What you're just talking about right there is the implementation of a set of values.

Diane: That's right.

David: And you're talking about your role, you're personal role, Diane because you've been a champion of this internally and you've had supporters inside Center Theatre Group, but this is not the way Center Theatre Group was created. It's had to grow new bones and grow new wings to be able to do this. And so, it's coming up out of your values, but it's also what Center Theatre Group is now adopted as a set of values in terms of its relationship to the field and to the form.When you let something go, you're letting the artist continue the journey with the work because you remember you're a citizen of the community.

Diane: That's exactly right. That's exactly right.

David: People are learning that behavior. It's not been natural, but it's coming more and more evident that people are operating and the institutions are starting to operate with this sense of citizenship-

Diane: That's right.

David: ... at its core, community at its core.

Diane: And you remember-

David: Yeah?

Diane: Oh, I just to ... remember what you're going to say. But, you remember years ago the big discussion was Premiere-itis?

David: Yeah.

Diane: All of us wanted to, you know. Well, when Michael Ritchie came on board he didn't have that. That was not one of his values. That was not one of his… I must own this piece, which really helped because he was like, yeah, sure. Let's let it go. You know what I'm saying? He had a core value that then he could understand this notion of we don't need to completely own this and it cannot be anyone else's.

David: Right.

Diane: And that really helped in expanding. It's really. It's really good.

David: Well, you've done something even more nuanced that I love, which is ... attacking this question of ownership from what does ownership actually mean? Which pieces are important as a motivator within the organization or within your donor base, or whatever, and which pieces are just habit or bad habit.

But, you started earlier in the conversation. You used that word ownership and you used it in a very particular way, which was, you wanna feel some ownership of your role in the community of people who are supporting something. People inside your building that we're here too kind of thing. I think we experience this all the time in Arena. I'm not getting at it very closely, but the people who are at work in the organization need to understand how their work has facilitated, has mattered to this thing-

Diane: Yeah.

David: Whether or not we trying to produce it or whether we produced it ourself. That part of ownership is really important for people on a daily basis, but it doesn't have to be total ownership of the project, the future of the project.

Diane: That's right.

David: We're the only ones who ever had anything to do with it.

Diane: That's right. You can share that. You can share that. And that's where I think we're starting to come around to understanding that notion that, that's okay, and at least we have that. The really great discovery that we've made with Rude Max was that, you know, they premiered the show. It's about the west, you know, and debunking stereotypes of the west, and they have this whole carnival outside of the theatre in their grounds. They have a very large theatre in a very funky area of town, very cool, and it's dirt outside, and they have this carnival with all these western games, right?

David: Right.

Diane: This sort of supported the dramaturgy of the piece.

David: Right.

Diane: And when we wanted to move it to LA, they were like well, we wanna do the carnival, the shindig. We're like oh my God, well we don't have a backyard. We don't have a yard, and they're like, well, we can use the lobby. And we're like okay. So, we created, in support of I've Never Been so Happy the show a shindig, which is like doing another show in our lobby, right? A pre-show, and actually it was a half hour intermission so that everybody could come out and play games and the whole thing, and people would dress up before the show and sit in the Douglas dressed as a cowboy or, you know, senorita, or whatever. The audience just completely ate it up, right?

David: Right.

Diane: In some instances, that notion was more fun than some moments in the show because the show was a premiere and needed to go to the next level. Not everything worked that we all realized this, but the shindig was just like amazing, so you had a couple ways of entering the show, and some people, they didn't wanna participate in the shindig, so they sat in the audience for that half hour, and they brought their drink, and they had a little nice time with their people that they came with to visit. So, it was a great way if there's a lot of intersection.

And as our staff, our prop department loved being the artists creating that, so that they got an opportunity to be the artist. I think that's the core of what our staffs want is that they have talents that they want to implement and they want ... and that's why when we develop work here at home, they're able to just fulfill their artistic and creative needs. That's what you want to be able to do.

On the other hand, once we cleared that and we said well, that was a great way ... it was like, you know, the, you know, a peak moment of audience engagement. We have now looked at every show we have to see what we can do that's not as hyped as the shindig, but that is fun and interactive with everybody with our audiences. So, we've created games to play before the shows that have something to do with the dramaturgy of the piece that we're actually going to do.

David: Okay, so who's doing that? Is that something that's coming out of the artistic department? Like who's working on-

Diane: So, that is a collaboration.

David: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Diane: That's definitely a collaboration with our literary department, so our dramaturgs, two of them, as well as at moments our education department.

David: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Diane: So, it's really made us crossover and departments within our theatre are working to create this, and the actual very, very active staff at the Douglas who is really engaged ... really loves being able to host the audiences in new ways. So, it's actually three ... the staff at the Douglas, education, and literary.

David: Yeah.

Diane: So, it's really-

David: I wanna come back to the Douglas, too. Oh, finish your thought. Sorry, Diane. I keep-

Diane: No, no. That was it. That was it.

David: Okay.

Diane: I mean the Douglas offers us a great opportunity because they have a great lobby versus the Taper, which is our challenge because there is no lobby. What do we do, you know, so—

David: Yeah. Another thing that we shouldn't go off over here is that the Douglas opened, what, seven years ago, six years ago?

Diane: I wanna say it's almost eight years ago.

David: Eight years ago?

Diane: I wanna say it's almost been-

David: Yeah, that makes sense.

Diane: See, 'cause Michael—Michael has been here seven years, and Gordon had one season.

David: Oh, he did?

Diane: So, I think around eight years.

David: Something like that, but anyway, it took you guys a number of years ... a period of three maybe four years, and you might even say more, to figure out what was the rhythm of that place and how to program it. What was the relationship to the audience? What was the relationship to the community that it's in, 'cause it's in Culver City.

Diane: Yeah.

David: It's not next door. The organization somehow remained committed to it, through all of that time, even though there was a lot of learning that went on.

Diane: Yeah. Yeah.

David: And then that learning was hard.

Diane: It was very, very hard, but also, it's only a 300 seat venue, and that was easier for some reason to program. So, it gave us ... it was liberating. We didn't have, you know, a 750 seat theatre or a 710 seat theatre to program and the economics were a lot easier to manage. And, from very, very early on ... I mean in Michael's first season, he programmed All Wear Bowlers—

David: Yeah.

Diane: ... which is Geoff Sobelle and Trey Lyford's piece, which has no text.

David: Right.

Diane: That was even before I started doing this initiative.

David: Right.

Diane: Michael kind of sets a stage for hey, that was pretty cool and pretty weird, and what else is there out there? And then, the second season, I had gone to Under the Radar, and I saw Teatro de Los Andes and El Sol Amarillo, and The Yellow Sun, from not Bolivia, but, oh my God ... yeah, Bolivia or was it Peru? And we programmed it. It was an amazing piece. So, from very, very early on, we were starting to do these experiments. I think that there's the taste of Michael. There's a taste also of Kelly Kirkpatrick, who also really had a affinity towards, you know he loved the civilians. He and Steve, he brought them in. He had a relationship with Matt Sax, you know. All of us contributed to the kind of ... you know, what we were doing in terms of this sort of non-traditional pieces. It took us about five years.

David: It's an experiment on every level 'cause you had to figure out like is it a subscriber house, is it not a subscriber house.

Diane: That's right. That's right.

David: What artists? Are we trying to get the Taper audience to come over here? All of those things, you went through many permutations.

Diane: Wait, it did go through many permutations, and you know, the first season was basically west side subscribers, who now thought, oh yeah, we're gonna have the Taper ... The Taper West. And then, as they realized, oh, it's not the Taper West, we started losing those audiences and other people started going, and our single ticket sales really started zooming up and we got a few more people to subscribe, and the audience became more diverse and they became more youthful, and then it became our star. It really ... it's where our creative mojo was focused on. We talk about, wow, the Douglas is so fun, and now our challenge is how do we transfer what we've learned at the Douglas in a very difficult economic times to the Taper. And that's a big challenge right now.

David: Yeah. Wow. So, we can just keep going and going. I know you have to run, so I don't wanna make you late for your next thing. Quickly-

Diane: Yes?

David: Can you describe ... 'cause I don't wanna do it. I always do the talking, but can you describe the NEFA program and what you think is happening there? 

Diane: The NEFA program I find so integral to the growth of the ensemble movement right now because what it does, is it is attempting to create a touring network on various levels. So, if we're going to, you know, grant, say a, you know, Latino theatre company, which we did, where are their touring networks? So we're creating one on that level. If we grant Universes, which we did, what are their difference from Latino Theatre Company? What are their networks if we do, you know, The Wooster Group, wow. There's a completely different touring network, and then some companies do all of them, you know, they go from one level to another in terms of where they perform

So, it really is helpful in deepening and developing that touring network so more companies can get out nationally, and get them to depend on touring as a means of some support in their sustaining their companies ... not all, but some support, economic support. I just think that's really great. I don't think we ... you know, it's really six grants a year, so it's not a whole lot, but I know we saw this huge jump from last year to this year in terms of the people that are applying.

David:  Mm-hmm [affirmative]—

Diane: Right? And the specification of the grants.

David: Yeah, where they're coming from.

Diane: And where they're coming from ... all over the country. My God, you know, all over the country. It's really exciting.  The quality ... you know, when we first started, work samples were not very good, and now work samples are fantastic. I was just mentoring one of their companies and I just got a work sample here and like, wow. This is really sophisticated, you know, and the education of many ... you've gotta have that work sample. It's very important. That's a very different thing at a regional theatre. You cannot get a work sample from a equity production, so you gotta think about that. I think that, that's real—

David: Although that's changing now. The rules have changed somewhat. I think people should be looking at what are the actual rules now because you guys ... I mean, we at Arena too, we're able to film more now than we ever were.

Diane: You are so right. You're so right. No, no, no, you're so right. It is. That actually is true. That actually is true. Maybe I'm talking about two years before, but you're right.

David: Yeah, but it's recent, and people haven't caught up to it yet, so we still get those.

Diane: That's right. That's right.

David: We still get those.

Diane: But you're—

David: But the bigger disadvantage is that other people have known it and so their work samples are like wow, and the people who assume it can't be done, don't, and they don't show up so well.

Diane: That's absolutely right. That's absolutely right. So, you know, I mean all of us are learning—

David: Yep.

Diane: ... and sort of coming up together. I just think it's an amazing grant. I feel like I wanna focus more on West Coast. You know, I always feel like we don't have enough out here.

David: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Diane: That's been one of my goals is to really ... and I think with Radar LA, that's really been very, very helpful.

David: Yeah.

Diane: And try to curate a lot more LA based companies and get them out in the national scene. At the conference, I did a breakout about, and we talked about relationships between ensembles and large regional theatres, but one of the things I was talking about is, you know, when you're devising a new work, or creating a new piece, you know, are you thinking about who your audience is, which we always used to. We knew who our audience was when I was in the Teatro. Do you know your audience, and are you creating your work for them specifically, and do you have an audience, and are you developing that audience and making them loyal because you're loyal to them. Those are all questions and I think they have to do a lot with what the values are of the companies, you know.

David: Mm-hmm [affirmative]—

Diane: And the work that you're doing, you know, from what does it have resonance? And that's always a very, very important thing too. Always ask when you're creating a new piece, you know. Sometimes I think some of our LA companies, and I can only speak from my region ... you know, don't think about those questions, you know. And the work is very small and doesn't speak to a larger group, and certainly if you want a larger audience, you know, you have to think about those things.

David: Yeah. Well, and you know I did a lot of calls for the Harlem week that we're doing right now. Everybody I talked to, I talked to all these producers and they were all talking about it from basically a community organizing viewpoint, you know, and I think you're coming to this conversation with a similar set of values. We're actually doing something very specific and it has to do with building community—

Diane: That's right.

David: ... and making work. Work is a way to build community, and in the interactions that are offered and the way the lobby functions, and the way the ownership does or doesn't transfer. All these things are endemic to community building and the questions that need to be answered about who's the community get answered in community organizing. They often don't in ARC.

Diane: That's absolutely right. That's absolutely right. I think out of my own personal challenges—

David: Yeah?

Diane: ... I'm so happy to be doing this conversation because I have so much on my plate that I don't sit down and write. I write—

David: Right.

Diane: ... but I don't write, you know, for ... I think it's important for us to note what we're learning as we go, and I don't have enough time or make enough time for that and that's one of my things—

David: Hey, you know, how about we do this? How about I call you on a regular basis, and you tell me what you're learning?

Diane: Hey, man. That would be fabulous. Let's do that.

David: That'll be easier for you.

Diane: It would be.

David: Okay, because you know that's what happens. People don't have the time to sit down and write 1500 words and you know, if you're like me, you start writing then you start editing before you're finished and pretty soon you're back to three words, and you can't get going. But if I just end up talking to people, then all this stuff comes out.

Diane: It's really great, David. It's really great.

David: Yeah. Well, that's what we're gonna do. We're gonna have regular phone calls.

Diane: Let's do it.

David: Alright.

Diane: Let's do it.

David: Alright, well then, then we can stop for now and we'll pick up the rest of it later. Thank you so much, and we'll probably be talking to you very soon, Diane.

Diane: Okay, thanks, David.

David: Thank you.

Diane:Take care.

David: Bye.

Diane: Alright, bye.

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