I log on to SPTimes.com today and see a story on All the Great Books (abridged) that another company opens on Friday, which also mentions the fact that we will be doing our fundraiser weekend of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) Nov. 10-12 and will also be doing All the Great Books (abridged) in Jan. and Feb. and that we premiered Shakespeare, The Bible and America locally.
I’ve already had a few people contact me today with a “Hey, did you know …” message. I do.
A few community theaters in the area have done the shows after us, and apart from the time it ended up in the paper that is was our group doing it in Tarpon Springs when it wasn’t, it’s always been fine. We still do what we do.
So, that might sound pretty weird, huh? We’re going to do a show a mere month and a half after another company? Since I’ve had interest, and since one of the cool things about this blog is that I can give folks an inside eye of what we do, I will try to do just that.
It’s true that we’ve premiered the abridgements of Shakespeare, The Bible and American history. We skipped the Western Civ. Musical, just because we didn’t think it was very good. All the hands that worked on those shows also helped put together the sketch comedy treatment of the best of the Brothers Grimm. Director Katrina Stevenson (who actually also directed Shakespeare before she came to Jobsite) along with myself, Shawn Paonessa and Jason Evans have five and half years experience and chemistry working together in this format. We remount Shakespeare about once a year. We’re still finding new things and changing it up even as we rehearse for this encore weekend. That kind of freedom and trust is rare, and really only comes with time.
We were aware of Books as a show well before the rights became available. I’d been in contact with Reed Martin, one of the writers, trying to lock down the rights, which were held up by the publisher and he wasn’t exactly sure why. I’d gotten approval to get them in advance, and set about getting everything locked up. We went back and forth and finally I got a contract in the mail and thought we were all set.
Then I got a phone call. There was some sort of clerical error and another company was also issued a contract. Crap. Well, I’ll be honest, my head sort of flew off about the whole thing. I made lots of calls, sent lots of emails and not all of them were pleasant. I felt like we’d invested all this time and effort on these shows, and had built up a bit of brand identity. We know we don’t own the material, but it still doesn’t mean we haven’t invested a lot. Each of our productions enjoyed largely sold out runs, we’d made a ton of TV appearances for the shows, each one was chosen as a Top 10 production of the season. So after several discussions and bending on all parts, we kept our contract. We just lost the actual premiere for the area.
Despite the chapped ass, we all decided this situation, though not ideal, would be fine. After all, we know for a fact that less than 15% of our audience comes from across the bridges (about half of that is St. Pete/beaches and the other half is Oldsmar/Clearwater), and we pull extensively from the north and east – much more than we actually thought. We also feel, as I said before, that we’ve built a bit of brand identity on the work. We’re very convinced of what we have. We have people that come back again and again. Internally, the shows have even been dubbed “the franchise.”
The shows are crowd pleasers and they sell tickets, which I’m sure wasn’t lost on the other company as well. Inexpensive to produce, small cast, high on return – it’s what every artistic director is looking for. I had to be objective about that whether I felt like a toe had been stepped on or not.
We also have to be honest that it’s never just the script, but what’s done with them. The scripts themselves are fairly loose and open to improvisation based on where you are, current events, skills the actors might have etc. It’s encouraged. The dynamics, interactions and overall feel also changes depending on the three clowns you have in the show. We’re not at all like the three originators of the show, just as I can guarantee that the show in St. Pete will be wholly unlike ours.
So we move on. Our commitment to these shows is not a one and done thing. There’s also probably not very much audience overlap here, and there’s plenty enough business to go around for everyone. Hell, maybe people as an experiment and go see both shows. We’re up for the Pepsi Challenge.
To be fair it looks like everyone wins here, right? The companies, the writers, the publishers and the public. It’s maybe even a little exciting that there’s some blood pumping through the veins of this theater community. That has to be a good sign, right?
And now you know, that’s pretty much the whole story. It’s not as exciting as you might think, is it?
We’re already about 70% for our Shakespeare fundraiser weekend next week. Sat. night, as to be expected, is going fast. We’d love to see you out! And don’t forget about the final four shows of The Pillowman!