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Increasing the footprint of our residency at the Straz

10 years ago, Straz Center (then the TBPAC) president Judy Lisi offered us the position of resident theater company in the Shimberg Playhouse (still a fresh name for what was just the Off Center Theater).

That was during the run of Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane, which we co-produced with the Straz as part of their Play Series.  We’d co-produced one or two plays a year from 2001-2003, starting with Dracula, to help them fill out a play season they believed should be offered to their patrons and also to help us begin to build a reputation since we were still relative newcomers. After Beauty Queen, Judy felt like we were standing on our own two legs well enough to take over, which allowed them to turn those resources toward other programs in need of development.  She told me they’d been producing plays because they felt like they had an obligation to since plays are often difficult to tour, and she felt there was a hole in their programming.
We were honored by the position, and elated for the benefits the residency provided us — namely the ability to book our whole seasons onto the calendar a good year or so in advance, allowing us to offer a real season in advance, and therefore season tickets. In addition to that we were able to start talking to artists further out about contracts for shows, helping us secure the best talent at the right times of the year.
10 years and another McDonagh play (also directed by Paul Potenza) in The Lonesome West, and we find ourselves moving back into co-producing with the Straz — this time next door in the Jaeb.  We’ve used the Jaeb for one-night to single weekend events like The Guys, but we’ve never produced a full run there. This is a big step for us, one we’re really excited about.
The plan for now is to produce a summer musical together (this year it’s Return to the Forbidden Planet – in planning well before Mark Leib’s recent Stages of Growth article, btw) which will be something fun for the whole community, and something that’s reflective of both the Straz and Jobsite. In addition to this summer musical we hope to offer one additional production in the Jaeb a year which could be a musical, could be a play, or maybe even something else entirely. This brings us up to 8 productions per year at the Straz — 6 in the Shimberg, 2 in the Jaeb.
We have no intention of “leaving” the Shimberg.  This is not about simply “moving next door.” It’s about making better use of the spaces available to us at the Straz, about increasing our collaboration as two organizations that have a lot to offer one another, and about increasing the variety of the works we produce. There have been plenty of shows we’ve passed over all these years because they simply wouldn’t fit or otherwise work in the Shimberg.  This works the other way, too, some shows would simply work better in the Shimberg than the Jaeb. Now we have both to play with.
It’s also about growth. With these extra shows and extra revenue, Jobsite grows as an organization and we are able to grow the potential weeks of employment AND rate of pay we offer artists. The Jaeb has more seats, more seats is more tickets, more tickets is more money …
In addition to the Jaeb news, we are also working on a plan to grow the number of performances we make available to the Straz for weekday school matinees. Performances this year of both Fahrenheit 451 and Much Ado About Nothing went very, very well and we look forward to the upcoming season’s school matinees of both Macbeth and The Hound of the Baskervilles.  By 2014-15 we hope to be up to at least three productions a year that we can offer in this manner. One might be a show completely targeted to youth audiences or families. Don’t worry, we can do a youth/family show and it still be a “Jobsite” show. Hold the jokes, folks … 🙂
The Straz is a great facility, with a great staff and visionary leadership. I’ve been so incredibly invigorated about the future — immediate and distant — while in recent meetings with Judy and the new chief programming & marketing officer Georgiana Young. We feel like we have a lot to contribute to this collaboration on the other side of things. This is a partnership built for success and for the long haul.
To all of you who’ve helped get us here — our deepest thanks. This is also a time where more than ever we’re going to need our community to rally around us as we try to make these new steps. Please, if you’ve been on the fence let this be the year that you get those season tickets (the early bird offer expires 7/15) or make that donation.  Your support ALWAYS makes a difference.
Hope you can make it out to New World this Sun. from 2-7 p for our first-ever rummage sale.  Loads of awesome costumes, props and furniture.  Cold delicious import and craft beers, crispy gourmet pizzas. Should be a great time.  Come hang out for a few.
-dj
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