Reflecting on Theatre and Social Change

From organizing the company bookstore to painting giant sheets of wood with chalkboard paint for an interactional lobby display (photo below) to learning exactly how much work it takes to apply for a liquor license to researching Filipino organizations we need to reach out to in order to advertise for auditions for our upcoming show– my jobs at Company One have varied a lot in the past month, making the time fly by. The idea that I’m over halfway done with my internship (and my summer) is unbelievable. 

One of the many interactional lobby activities for Astro Boy (I made those chalkboards!)
One of the many interactional lobby activities for Astro Boy (I helped make those chalkboards!)

Since my last blog post, I’ve debriefed with my supervisor about the LMDA dramaturgy conference (and learned even more in our almost 2-hour long conversation; about theatre history and the Regional Theatre Movement which helped create regional theaters across America, how Boston is not only one of the most gentrified cities in the nation but one of the most racially divided, how dramaturgs at Company One and at various theaters work and what they do specifically, etc.), I’ve helped out with lobby set-up for Astro Boy, and I’ve seen the show twice. It opened to a pretty good review in the Boston Globe and NPR covered it, too (listen to the radio segment here, or read the review here). 

I find I’m learning even in the most “mundane” tasks I’m asked to do at the theater. For instance, while I may sit in the lobby for many of the auditions I help with and do simple things such as sign actors in and gives them their sides (scripts to read for the audition), I get to see how important it is for actors to be polite to the person doing that, I get to debrief with the casting director after every audition and see what he thinks about actors and what he looks for, and I get to know the plays for which we are holding auditions. By organizing and ordering books for the company bookstore, I’ve learned about award-winning playwrights and plays I had never heard of before and am getting a glimpse into the incredibly vast ocean of theatrical literature we only barely dip our toes into with an undergraduate theatre education. Every single day at Company One, I learn something new. 

The lobby for Astro Boy, which I helped set up during tech week
The lobby for Astro Boy, which I helped set up during tech week

Watching Astro Boy reminded me how much I love theatre and reaffirmed my desire to become a director. Seeing a show at Company One is an incredible opportunity because they aren’t a super-polished, generally “safe” (ie non-risk-taking) regional theatre. They worked on this show in their female playwrights XX Play Lab and have been developing it since. As a company that strives to make theatre accessible to a younger, more diverse population, they have lower ticket-prices and, unfortunately, a lower-budget than most companies. But this theatre is so important as I, along with many others, have learned so much about Astro Boy— the comic of manga artist Tezuka, a huge artist in Japan. Just by seeing an 80-minute play. I knew nothing about the artist or the comic before working for Company One and now I’m fascinated by Tezuka’s life and his comic, Astro Boy. I’ve also seen an incredible, new take on mixed media in the theater involving projection, animation, drawing, puppetry, and live music, giving me ideas for future work I might produce in theatre. 

Theaters need to be doing more work like this, and hopefully smaller fringe theaters like this are having an influence on the larger regional theaters out there so educational, culturally diverse theatre will be more widely produced on a larger scale. I hope to take what I’ve learned about non-profit work, professional theatre, and representation in theatre and apply it to all future work I pursue in the theatre world and otherwise. And I mean it when I say I can’t wait to learn what I’ll learn in my last month of my internship at Company One. 

Thanks for reading.

Alison Thvedt ’15

Week One, Company One

I’ve been with Company One Theatre for exactly two weeks now, and while I know this blog post is supposed to focus specifically on my first week, I just had to wait until after the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of The Americas Conference I attended this past weekend so I could include it in this post (it was, as expected, an incredible experience).

But first things first: the first week. As soon as I started at Company One, I was thrown into the thick of things as I spent my entire first weekend helping organize and run auditions and callbacks for our next season. I’m working mainly with the casting director this summer, and my main projects involve the audition and callback processes for the company. Basically, I do what I did that weekend– help prepare for and organize the actual auditions– and I also work in the office (photo below) to do things like organize resumes and headshots and format audition notices, on this lovely street in Back Bay lined with theaters, jazz clubs, and delicious-smelling restaurants:

Company One is the resident theater at the Boston Center for the Arts (BCA)

So, casting is my main focus. But, I’m also doing general office work and will be helping out with tech week and the performances for our summer show, Astro Boy and the God of Comics, by Natsu Onoda Power. Those duties vary a lot; for instance, I’ve worked on the program for the show, I’ve done inventory and organized the books and plays we’ll be selling in the lobby during the show, and I’ve applied for a liquor license (again, for the company, so we can have a bar at our performances, not for me).

And then, last Wednesday, my supervisor turned to me and asked, “Alison, do you know what dramaturgy is?” To which I embarrassingly said, “Kind of… dramaturgs do, like, research… right?”

“… Why don’t you go to this dramaturgy conference this weekend?”

And I did, I went to the LMDA annual conference in Boston. Not only did I learn a huge amount about dramaturgy and theater, but by the end of the conference I realized how much more I have to learn. Dramaturgs do do research, by the way, so I wasn’t technically wrong in my hesitant answer, but they do so much more and their duties vary so widely. From providing actors and directors and designers with the information they need to accurately and truthfully present a play, to helping plan a season for a theater company, to reaching out to communities and connecting the audience to the performances, to setting up interactional lobbies during shows– and so much more– dramaturgy is an under-discussed, under-appreciated, and incredibly useful job in the theater industry.

I got to go to a variety of talks, such as  “hot topics in dramaturgy” (which included philosophical dramaturgy, post-memory dramaturgy, living as an artist, and a poetic response of what it means to be a dramaturg), a panel on the relationship between dramaturgy and academia, a key-note speech given by Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Wesley Morris (photo below), a networking panel, a panel on the future of theater, and a talk on dramaturgy and diversity. I was especially thrilled that I got to go to the dramaturgy and diversity talk and discuss how to make the theater more diverse in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and ability, because we, the theater world, are so far from being accurately representative of our actual population right now.

photo 2
Wesley Morris as the keynote speaker at the 2014 LMDA Conference

And that’s also one of the reasons I wanted to work at Company One this summer; the theater works to produce diverse plays that represent our population and increase accessibility to theater– and having theaters with goals like that (as, honestly, all theaters should have), are so important.

I’m so glad I was able to use my Brandeis connections and find out about the internship at Company One (I contacted an alumna who had interned there before e-mailing in my resume and cover letter), and I can’t wait to see how much more I learn about professional theater, non-profit theater, diversity, art, and the business of theater in the next eight weeks at this company.

Alison Thvedt, 2015