An open forum to discuss the past, present, and future of Elmira Little Theatre
Wow...this is great Stephen! Thank you so much for creating an area that we can all talk about ELT!! I agree with you that there is a feeling in the air that comes with change. I enjoyed talking with everyone at Meg's and have heard so many wonderful comments about her efforts!! As president of ELT I am happy that she accepted the chair of the play selection committee. I have always believed that this process should be open and input should be gathered from all who want to help with faith in Meg to follow the process thru and present a great next season for our audiences! I know on my end I have a huge learning curve of what to do as president. I am definitley open to suggestions and your ideas for other committees were great. I look forward to reading this blog and all the great input!!Thanks again!!
Dear One and All,Stephen you raise the age old issue of quality in our, or any theatre group's, production. If we focus on only doing the best, most professional productions, it logically follows that only the most experienced and talented directors, actors, design, and tech folks get to do a show. Thus, we become insular, gain a rep for being clickish, etc. Unfortunately I believe we do not have the resources for a second tier of shows in which to foster talent growth and skill development. The new EDGE program is attempting to meet this need. But I fear we do not have the resources in money and people to develop it into a true training conduit. (I.E, experienced directors and actors willing and able to mentor folks who are doing shows for the first time)To my way of thinking we need adopt a more informal approach to talent development and skill growth. I would like US to encourage directors to not always cast the best of the best, but, instead, cast a few folks who have an interest/burning desire so that they can develop their talents. I, for one, would love to see us foster a program of mentoring/shadowing all backstage positions. We have so few people who actually know how to design lighting, sets, sound, do construction, etc. This knowledge needs to be passed on. This protects us somewhat from burning people out and raises the number of skilled folks to choose from. At least that is my hope. Marty
I fully agree that this is the perfect time to stand back and assess the future of ELT. As far fetched as it is, might it begin with a name change? The group is no longer focused on just "Elmira" and what does "Little" refer to? It implies "inferior, small thinking"? Might the Twin Tiers Regional Theater or some such name be more appropriate. Clemens Center Resident Theater Company?
2 years ago, I offered to paint a new sign for the outside of the building to replace the shabby version that exists. I offered twice. Maybe it fell on the wrong ears. It was left that a piece of plywood would be provided and I would give of my services. The offer still stands. The building is very uninviting.
In regards to quality, what if ELT developed more overt relationships with existing theatrical training resources? Heather's dance program, Meghan and Jeffrey's theater and dance workshops, 171's dance and music programs, CCC's theater program, Stanwyck, etc. could feed into ELT's productions. These programs could be linked as resources on the website or Facebook page. Perhaps we could organize audition, acting, and design workshops when shows are not being produced. The ELT building could take on another dimension while satellite locations could regionalize ELT's presence. Certainly, there are models of community theater that could generate some ideas about how to avoid becoming more insular. Winchester Little Theater (http://www.wltonline.org/) in Virginia has a model of rotation that makes certain the company is well-rounded. One season a person may direct and during the next season he or she serves as actor, stage manager, costumer, or set crew, etc. They have an expectation that everyone will particpate in all areas to improve the overall quality of the season. This deepens the pool of talent while inviting new people in to become trained.
I was thinking about the comment about the parallel between ELT and the printing/publishing industry in regards to dwindling audience numbers. I would like to report my findings that readership for online news is at an all time high. One example is Jeff Hackett, comScore senior vice president, said "... even as print circulation declines, Americans are actually consuming as much news as ever... it's just being consumed across more media…” Never before have so many people read so much. I know the point here is that people are no longer relying on print sources for their news and entertainment. So what is the response? Close up the Washington Post? Shut down the New York Times? No, the response is digital media. An evolution, and certainly a revolution, is occurring in communication media. Can we not draw some parallels between our audience development efforts? Are we carrying on business as usual when the world has changed so dramatically? Ask any young person about the relevance of ELT for them? This digital generation is not devoid of appreciation for the arts and we should be targeting them as potential audience members and directors. Just look at the extraordinarily talented members of who have participated in our recent productions who are under 30-years-old. People make time for what appeals to them. Theater is an unmatched art form. There is nothing like the experience shared between the actor and audience members. I am not suggesting that we produce virtual performances because that would miss the essence of the experience. Audience members will attend but we must offer them something that speaks to their world now; not 5, 10, or 20 years ago. We need to re-think, re-imagine, and re-define our organization in order to survive.
Meghan, thank you so very for your positive energy, your willingness to open your house to ELT and providing an opportunity to open up a positive dialogue of change. For the first time ever, I actually feel a part of ELT, despite serving on the board, various committees, acting, designing and directing for ELT. I felt more passionate, support, fun and love was expressed for the organization than I've ever felt before, these last 3 weeks. THANK YOU!