Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Board Strength

posted by brad at 10:19 AM
Since our inception, Board Development has been on our list of priorities. Look at any great arts institution and behind the artists, nix that, BESIDE the artists, you will no doubt find a strong Board of Directors. A Board that is active, influential and passionate about the growth of the organization.

We feel very fortunate to have such a board at Furious. When we first started thinking about bringing on "real" board members (not just friends or other artists) and giving someone other than the six founders a say in the company... it was a little nerve wracking. Giving up power was a scary thought. What if they wanted to change all of our plans? What if they wanted to fire all of us? What if we reached a stand-off on an important vote? We had heard such horror stories anecdotally from some pretty savvy theatre veterans as well as in our various readings and research of board development war stories. Regardless, we knew it was something we had to do.

What we found, and continue to find is that boards are not something that you "have to do" as a non-profit. Rather they are something you should want to do. A strong, creative and active board is your best weapon in the fight to not only stay alive, but to thrive and grow and to develop into an "institution." And giving up power... is merely empowerment for others who are much better suited for it. Which is a good thing. If your recruiting is doing you justice (and ours certainly is) you're going to find people with many more resources, connections and a farther reach than you. So, give them power. Let them help you manage the business and the organization so that you can focus on the art. We are so much better off in year 4 than we were in year 2 and it has much to do with our board. Their strength as individual professionals and as a collective, what they bring to the table, is tremendous.

Visit our list of board members (bios coming soon) here. Soon enough, most of the "artists" will be rotating off of the board as we continue to bring new members from the civic and community arenas onto the board. We are going through another round of recruiting right now and are pleased to say that we'll be adding a few new members soon.

Our board continues to prove to us what an incredible asset they are to the company and our work. They have big ideas and a big vision and the know-how and resources to help us make it all happen.

Our Board of Directors meeting last night, which was incredibly productive and encouraging, was the impetus for this entry. Thanks for reading.

Here is a fun blog entry from Stephen Eich (currently of Geffen Playhouse) recalling board discussions during his time as Managing Director at Steppenwolf.

Be Furious.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Late Night Heat Wave

posted by Katie at 3:30 PM

We are now going into our 4th week in this incarnation of Furious' Late Night's imMEDIAte Theatre. For those of you that don't know, imMEDIAte Theatre is a totally improvised show based on audience suggestion and news of the day. Currently, it is running every Saturday night @10pm in rep with Back of the Throat until August 19th. We are continually learning how to fine tune the process of making this show be as entertaining and sharp as possible. Though each show has indeed been entertaining and dare I say, thought provoking (we hope), they each have their ups and downs. The second week proved to be thought of most consistently as the "best show" in this run. While this miffed me at first, I am now understanding why. #1 We were all confident. #2 We were all energetic. #3 We were on the same page and we basked in it.

Here are the things I constantly have to remind myself to make this show (not to mention the rehearsals ) great:

-If you are over-heated, so is your audience. Don't give them a chance to dwell on it. (This past Saturday it got up to 107 in Pasadena.)
-If you are tired, so is your audience. Suck it up! Fake it! Have some caffeine! Something.
-If it is a small crowd, force them to care even more. And don't drop anything, ever. If you don't hear a chortle on every damn funny thing you say don't give up on the scene, or your audience will too.
-Keep the energy up, always.
-And most important, never relax. If you expect somebody to go up, make yourself that person. You can be lazy when you're dead. But when you're on stage you are a servant of the piece. Serve it.

Rock on, ImMEDIAte. Rock. On.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Extended Throat

posted by brad at 5:16 PM
We recently announced an extension for our current production: Back of the Throat.

It will now run through August 13th.

Also, our Late Night show - imMEDIAte theatre is up and running again. Saturday nights through August 19th. Come check it out.

Be Furious.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

What's with the name change?

posted by brad at 3:04 PM

Playhouse Board Member Martha Williamson celebrates with Carol Burnett after the unveiling of The Carrie Hamilton Theatre.

Some of you may have seen information in various papers regarding the Pasadena Playhouse Balcony Theatre becoming the "Carrie Hamilton Theatre." We wanted to give you all the scoop so that you felt completely informed and in the know about what this means for FTC.

On Monday a small private ceremony was held at the Playhouse to officially rename the Balcony Theatre to "The Carrie Hamilton Theatre at Pasadena Playhouse." This is happening due to the generosity of Carol Burnett and her close friends who have pledged and donated 1 million dollars to the Playhouse's capital campaign, which includes a plan for renovations to the (former) Balcony Theatre. The gifts were given in honor of Carol's late daugther Carrie Hamilton with an understanding that the theatre would receive her name if the 1 million dollar goal was reached. It has been reached and so an event was held to commemorate the success. Coverage of the event could be seen on Entertainment Tonight last night.

As of Monday, that space will now be known as "The Carrie Hamilton Theatre" and the theatre (where we produce) will undergo much needed renovations later this year, into early next year. We will most likely produce one show off-site (at another theatre we hope) before coming back to produce as the resident artists of the newly renovated theatre. The theatre will get new HVAC, new electrics, plumbing, seating, etc. Which means, soon you'll have a beautiful new space to enjoy FTC productions.

We are proud to be associated with such a classy, thoughtful and generous (and of course talented) individual such as Carol and we are also proud to be a group of artists working in a space whose namesake was a daring young artist who was fearlessly passionate about her art and cared about the people she hoped to reach through her art.

So, now we are known as: Furious Theatre Company - Resident Artists of the Carrie Hamilton Theatre at the Pasadena Playhouse. Hope that helps clear up any questions. It's a great thing.

Be Furious.

When "Art" = Box Office Poison

posted by Damaso Rodriguez at 2:02 PM

A couple of days ago in the Chicago Tribune, Chris Jones wrote a commentary about the soon-complete 35th anniversary season at Steppenwolf Theatre (see excerpt and link below). The season was particularly daring in that it featured a full slate of world premieres of challenging new plays. Apparently, they suffered for it at the box office.

I found this to be both inspiring and troubling. Steppenwolf has always been our greatest influence. Their very existence, the fact that an ensemble of actors built a powerful and influencial theatre company from the ground up, on some level underscores our own existence. The fact that 'they did it' seems to suggest to idealists like us that 'we certainly can too .... there's a reward at the end of this if we just stick to it'. So, hearing that they struggle in their effort to produce new work can be sobering.

This year, we're presenting a darkly comic, but ultimately disturbing, look at ramifications of 9/11 followed by a play that examines a double-murder suicide in reverse (it's also quite funny by the way). We know these are hard sells, but this type of material is at the very core of what we do. It's the kind of theatre we're most passionate about. And, we think there's an audience out there for plays like these. People who want a visceral experience. People who want to see something they haven't seen before. People comfortable with getting a little uncomfortable for a couple hours.

Steppenwolf at 35

By Chris Jones
Tribune theater critic
Published July 16, 2006

"Anniversary seasons typically deliver self-serving, festive retrospectives. But in honor of its 35th birthday, the uncompromising Steppenwolf Theatre Company gave Chicago audiences seven difficult and brand-new plays of varying quality but considerable substance, picked without regard for commercial appeal, the delivery of spiritual balm on troubled times, or even, given the ample representation of postmodern novelists, previous playwriting experience.

The sobriety and weight of the themes on offer, the level of the works' overall intellectual sophistication, and the shows' pounding, relentless criticism of liberal, urban, overeducated Baby Boomers made the jaw drop -- and, at times, ache.

Richard Greenberg's "The Well-Appointed Room" dealt with the aftermath of 9/11. Don DeLillo's "Love-Lies-Bleeding" pondered euthanasia. Cormac McCarthy's "Sunset Limited" articulated a strong case for suicide. Bruce Norris' "The Unmentionables," which opened last weekend, features torture in its second act. American hypocrisy was on view all year long.

Most regional theaters would have hesitated to produce a single one of the works in the current Steppenwolf season (which can now be viewed as a whole). Steppenwolf willingly took seven doses of box office poison in the name of its art. Back to back. Especially because it took an inevitable and fiscally sobering toll on subscription levels, it's an accomplishment worthy of note and admiration."

To read the rest you'll have to go to the Trib's site and register for free: Chicago Tribune Commentary by Chris Jones.

Jones, who writes so passionately about the Chicago theatre scene, goes on to analyze the season in depth. His writing makes the theatre seem so important and relevant and vital and exciting that I long for a voice from L.A. that can tout our scene with as much conviction.

Friday, July 14, 2006

9/11's effect on LA stages

posted by brad at 2:25 PM

What do a Patriotic Stripper, a Famous Sock Puppet and a Cow have in common?

Back of the Throat. Recent Tragic Events. The God of Hell.

Pasadena. North Hollywood. West Los Angeles.

Listen here to a combo review of The God of Hell and our production of Back of the Throat on KCRW's Theatre Talk with James Taylor.

Go to LA Weekly and read the back to back theatre features on these three productions by Steven Mikulan.

Why is it that all three of these plays opened within 2 weeks of each other with Los Angeles Premieres in the summer of 2006? I don't have the answer... just the question.

Regardless of the different story lines and different years that they were written, they are all three about the same thing. How our world was forever changed by the attacks of 9/11 and how individual people's lives have been changed because of it.

Interestingly enough, two plays are set in the northern midwest. Sam Shepard placing his story in rural Wisconsin and Craig Wright (as he tends to do) sets his story in Minnesota. Two are about intrusive investigations. All three are about normal people in abnormal situations. All three are dark comedies. No doubt the subject matter is a dark one, and how better to try and deal with where we're all at right now than by trying to find the humor in all of it... which ultimately leads us to both the absurdity of it all and the inescapable fear too.

With all the similarities between these plays and their themes and characters, despite some very different approaches, styles and situations... the critic's can't help but lump them all together too.

Some of the company has been out to the Geffen to see The God of Hell and we are working on a date to get over to North Hollywood and see RTE as well. Don't forget, we're doing Craig Wright's newest play this fall... GRACE.

Go see a play or two. or three.

Be Furious.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Great Place To Be

posted by brad at 1:13 PM
Today a short feature ran in the Pasadena Weekly about our production of "Back of the Throat." The first paragraph said:

"Check out any season of theater at the Pasadena Playhouse, and you’ll find yourself treated to a wide array of genres befitting one of the nation’s most famous stage institutions. In fact, the theater’s current productions are a perfect example: On the main stage, you’ll find two musicals about marriage, while in the smaller Balcony Theatre upstairs, you’ll find a darkly comic drama that explores how far US government agents should go in questioning Arab Americans as terror suspects."

More proof positive of the beneficial partnership between us and Pasadena Playhouse. Not only are we thankful for being hosted in the Balcony Theatre, being recognized as the resident artists of a major regional theatre with a national reputation and the having access to the resources of a major theatre institution ... but it is also nice to know that people out in the community and industry are starting to recognize both the importance and success of the relationship. We are good for the Playhouse and the Playhouse is good for (and to) us.

Back in 2004 when we were having conversations with Playhouse leadership about the possibility of a long-term partnership, we both had a clear idea of why it would be/could be/should be a good thing. Not just for both of us, but for the theatre scene and for our community. If we take a snapshot of what's happening right now, one would be hard pressed to argue against it.

1. The Playhouse has monumental shows happening this fall (Laurence Fishburne and Angela Basset in Fences - c'mon that's HUGE!) and will be announcing another great season for 2007. That is great for us. We win by association.

2. FTC is producing to great critical acclaim in the Playhouse's Balcony Theatre, bringing young audiences to the Playhouse campus and developing relationships with emerging writers. Great for the Playhouse. They win by association.

But it goes deeper than just association. There is a great admiration from both institutions for the other's leadership, staff and artistic goals and the Playhouse is helping to groom a new generation of theatre artists and administrators through their generous hosting of our company. Some of us have even been given opportunities to work at the Playhouse. Bottom line, we're honored to be here at such an exciting time and to be part of a truly unique and (so we think) important relationship.

Be Furious.