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It’s 2012!

January 9, 2012

I must confess, it’s been a while! My absence has been a combination of working out the kinks in the master plan, getting through the notes from my ESPA Producing class and making sense of them and of course Nadolig (Christmas) which has managed to takeover three weeks of my life.

Christmas gave no time for reflection, which meant snatching a moment here and there for Five Thousand Mile Theater between shopping, working and spending time with my parents and wonderful husband. In these snatched moments I have managed to approve our new logo (which was blissfully easy), start working on the new website, and started up conversations with a few playwrights about producing a couple of readings this year, one playwright from Wales, and one from Israel… More about this later.

One thing I have learnt over this time however is that now I must prioritize and discipline myself much more if I’m going to raise $26,000 for the first production in March of 2013.

And so to introduce you to our new logo. I am so proud of this, Paul Cremin (originally from Ireland, now living in NY) has truly captured the spirit of the theater company, before we’ve even produced a letter. Thank you Paul. I will post his contact details up for any other budding producers as soon as he gets him site up and running.

Joe Breeden is working on the website for me, and hopefully this will be up and running soon (the site is suffering from Christmas delay syndrome which is purely my fault!).  Thanks Joe for your patience.

Yay... it's becoming more real by the day!

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Brooklyn to Mumbai by a Welsh Woman

December 5, 2011

Sometimes, I am amazed by technology!  Today, while sitting on my couch and reading through the Actors Equity Showcase rules I noticed that an old acquaintance of mine was showing green on Gmail Chat.  He was the stage manager for the first show I ever appeared in here in NYC, at the NYC Fringe Festival.  He has recently come to the city from India and was looking for some NYC experience, which he certainly had with us… good times.  G (as we liked to call him), is now back in Mumbai and working as an actor.  It was just so wonderful to be able to pick his brains so easily through the wonder of technology.

I sound like my Mam.

A little on Mumbai: Mumbai is labeled the cultural capital of India, Mumbai has a thriving theater scene and of course much of the Bollywood funding is sourced from and produced in the city. Mumbai is the fourth most populous city in the world, 20.5 million people live in the Metropolitan area (wow!).

As Five Thousand Mile Theater is mainly about working with minority language plays – a few language factoids:

  • At present about 80% of the Mumbaikars speak Marathi which has been heavily influenced by Sanskrit, Kannad and Telugu.
  • The Parsi or the Zoroastrianism community, who became a part of Mumbai from the 16th century speak in fluent Gujarati language. Almost 70% of the Parsis who inhabit in Mumbai city use Gujarati as a mode of communication.
  • Hindi is another popular language of Mumbai.
  • The educated elites of Mumbai converse in English (having found this fact online – I am unsure if this is still the case)

There are also many other languages spoken in Mumbai. I wondered; are there plays being produced currently in all of these languages?

The answer of course was, yes.  Just a simple google search tells me that Mumbai has art spaces and theaters funded by both the state of Maharashtra and through private funding, plays are being produced in many languages.

I was especially impressed by The National Center for Performing Arts (www.ncpamumbai.com). Looking at their calendar I see plays in Hindi, English, Marathi, Gujarati and some Non-Verbal shows – I write this with a smile on my face as I imagine the art space of my dreams, presenting works from all around the world, truly for everyone.  A Global Art Space.  Where would someone put a space like this I wonder?

Anyway… back to Five Thousand Mile Theater.  As I start thinking of the shape of the first two seasons (2013-2014) I am thrilled to be learning more about the world.

Things I have done, and have yet to do from last weeks To-Do List:

  • Branding: I have found two people who are interested in creating a logo for me (for free… yay!).  I will have meetings with them this week and hopefully have something to post by next weekend.  Fingers Crossed.
  • Email Blast: I have the email list (1,400) ready to go, and I have decided to send the first email next week, introducing the company (with new logo).
  • Website: Build a website.  I need to find a website designer… any ideas?
  • Collaborators: There is a whole post on this coming in the next few days.
  • Structure my “Asks”: I have given myself a provisional time line for the first group of ‘asks’ for donations.
  • Incorporation: Contact The VLA (Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts http://www.vlany.org) for some help.
  • PO Box: I have no mail going out yet… jumping the gun Melisa!
  • Stamps: Started contacting people for stamps… still don’t know what to do with them.

COMING UP…

How to chose collaborators

Budgets

Basics of finding a space in NYC

Actors Equity

Raising $50,000 in 1 year!

Which Plays and From Where?

Being Thankful… and so much To Do.

November 23, 2011

It’s Thanksgiving. 

As some of you may know, I am originally from Wales and only have six years of Thanksgiving experience.  In the beginning I really didn’t understand this holiday, it was too close to Christmas and then there is the whole Indians and Pilgrims living happily ever after thing…

As the years have gone by, I really have come to appreciate Thanksgiving – I was going out to buy sugar today and people seemed quite jolly, an excitement maybe for tomorrow? And of course the wonderful smell of pumpkin pie is always a treat (I actually just finished baking my first!).  Tomorrow will be the day for stuffing; stuffing turkeys and bellies, a day off for most and an opportunity to spend time with either loved ones or at dinner with friends (unless you are one of my bartending friends – then your day will be Friday).

Tomorrow I will also take a day off – no social media workings, paperwork research or plotting…

Today, I make my Five Thousand Mile Theater To-Do List (in no particular order): Completion Deadline: 11/30/11

  • Email Blast: With 1,400 email addresses databased into MailChimp (http://mailchimp.com/) and a blog on the go, it’s time to send something to raise some awareness before we move forward with donation hunting.
  • Branding: Five Thousand Mile Theater needs a logo and an identity.
  • Website: Build a website…argh.  No idea where to start!
  • Collaborators: I have already started working on my collaborator list (I will post about collaborators at another time when I understand it better myself) need to continue with this.
  • Structure my “Asks”: Make a first draft plan/time-line for raising money, I have decided to raise $50,000 for the first season (two shows) with the first show opening March 2012. Exciting Stuff!
  • Incorporation: Officially making Five Thousand Mile Theater into a ‘real’ company.
  • Non-For-Profit: Figure this whole thing out.
  • PO Box: Figure out the pros and cons of a PO Box.
  • Stamps: Find a way to get stamps from all over the world…don’t know why yet!

There is a lot more to do, but one step at a time.  Phew!

A big thank you to all who have always inspired me, and for you who gave me the nudge i needed to do this.

Also a shout out to my blogging friends Keen Company http://bit.ly/vGQsgz, “Lunar Energy” http://on.fb.me/uspgdy .

Mostly I am thankful for the support of all my friends and family – especially my wonderful husband who listens to me go on and on about Five Thousand Mile Theater everyday!

***

Five Thousand Mile Theater now has a Facebook Pagehttp://on.fb.me/sZVxk5 (why not like us?) as well as a Twitter Account – @5000miletheater – you could follow us too!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

My First Investor – After the Pitch!

November 18, 2011

Last week (as a class) we had the opportunity to pitch our theater company to a real-life producer, made of flesh and blood – I saw him with my own eyes and felt his hand as he shook mine.

The aim:

  • Impress Damon Chua (Executive Director, Keen Company – among many other credits) enough that he would personally give us our first seed money for our theater company.  $50!

Now, I don’t know about you, but the idea of trying to impress someone with my own ideas and passion is a terrifying prospect.  The fear of the sound of the ego inflating, the dry mouth when you realize that you don’t really know the answer to the questions, the hiccups that arise from thinking on your feet, argh… someone is judging me!

This is something I clearly have to get over by the time I send out the first round of letters for funding (that’s a whole other blog post!)

I should have known of course that anyone Carl (Forsman, Keen Company http://keencompany.org/blog/index.shtml) brought in to meet with us would not only be supportive, cool as a cucumber but know his sh*t so wonderfully that there was no need for such insecurities on my part.

After a reassuring welcome to the meeting – I was off… like a horse going for the Triple Crown.  (A confession – I remember nothing of what we discussed, it’s a blur of sweaty palms and reaching for words).

Following our meeting, Damon, (having met with nine other prospective theater companies) came in and spoke with us about our pitches and shared many insights into the whole process.  These points sounded so simple and so obvious and yet, we all lacked some of these qualities in our pitches.

Some Advice on Pitching (for money) – Some Simple Things to Remember:

  1. Passion – Passion is essential.  If you’re not passionate about your project, why would anyone else be?  Luckily, this is something I have in abundance… I mean really, I’m Welsh how can I not be feisty.
  2. Personal Connection – Between me and the project.  The “Why”. The connection between minority language and theater for me is so clear – as a Welsh speaker, I grew up reading and watching plays that changed my life, and I miss having them around me in NY.  I can only imagine how many other people feel the same way in this city about their own language/culture.
  3. Be Specific – About your project. Argh… this I found difficult, and during the pitch I remember thinking “I need to work this part of the project out better”.  My main concern being, how do I source these plays and how should the translation process take place as I want to save as much of the cultural flavor of the country in the translation as possible.
  4. Be Honest – It’s ok not to know everything. Another difficult one for me as I have a tendency to roll with my mouth.  I am the queen of Bull and vulnerability is not one of my strengths.  Need to work on this!
  5. Collaborators – Who are your collaborators? This is where I currently am in the project.  Who do I want, trust and need – and of course who will do it for free at this point?

Funny thing is… Damon seemed to like my idea for Five Thousand Mile Theater (finally a name!), and awarded me the seed money (split 50/50 with my fellow class mate and lovely guy Phil).

What does this mean?

  • I have my first donation to my new theater company.  $25!
  • Shit just got real.

A Mission…a New Company.

November 4, 2011

This week is all about the mission – the artistic vision behind the company.

It’s all very clear in my head – in fact if you could capture the images in my brain (BFG style) then it would all make perfect sense and I would have no reason to write this post, but to articulate and indeed to write the idea…well… at first it simply didn’t seem possible.

I have been stuck on this all week, couldn’t think of a thing to write – but in listening to Carl tonight (Forsman – the Sherpa of my vision! You will hear much reference to him I’m sure over the next few weeks), I realize that i don’t need to impress anyone with a floral presentation of an idea, I’m no Dylan Thomas, instead I should just be true to the central feeling, the driving force behind the creation of this beast.

There will be much re-drafting of this, but here is my first real attempt of sharing my vision of the company with you. (As i haven’t yet decided on a name yet – the company will be represented by @*&! for now):

  • @*&! Theater is dedicated to telling the stories of a lesser heard voice – the voice of the indigenous, the minority and the marginalized.  We will present the works from regions that are often far from view and celebrate these works by supporting them on their first heroic journey to New York City.  At @*&! Theater we explore the tonality, flavor and fabric of the world because great stories transcend all barriers of race, sex, religion and nationality.  We have all arrived in the United States from somewhere, whether it be yesterday, a generation ago or four hundred years ago – these unknown foreign plays, from sometimes obscure places, contribute to the cultural patchwork that is New York City today.  By introducing audiences to a brand new cultural experience we hope that these works will help us all understand ourselves just a little better.

Conception to Creation

October 25, 2011

To Conceive according to Free Dictionary.com :

1. To become pregnant with –
  • This is the obvious of course – and certainly not something that I have any interest in doing any time soon.  Not literally anyway.  Let’s keep going…
2. To form or develop in the mind; devise: conceive a plan to increase profits.
  • So the plan is to start my own theater company.  There!  I said it… having worked in NY for almost five years directing plays for other people up trees, in bars, parks in August, theaters and lobbies, I have finally decided to grow some balls and start my own theater company -one that can stand alone in the mass of the Downtown scene and Off Broadway being.
3. To apprehend mentally; understand.
  • There is no way that i could have come to this decision fully without the incredible guidance, sarcasm and support of Carl Forsman of Keen Company (http://keencompany.org/blog/index.shtml) with whom I’ve been enjoying my Thursday nights for the past four weeks (at ESPA’s Producing and Directing class).  His insight, experience and again, sarcasm, makes the idea of starting up my own little Theater Company actually possible, and above all – he is a master of confidence building to all of us mini producers sitting in a circle.
  • Apprehending mentally in this case I suppose is the second step after conception – but who am I to argue with FreeDictionary.com
4. To be of the opinion that; think: didn’t conceive such a tragedy could occur.
  • Did I ever think that I would be starting my own theater company?  Well of course, it’s been a dream of mine for many years (I am hesitant to say since I was a child – I wasn’t that forward thinking, more into lolly-pops and Barbie dolls); but did I ever think that I would be writing a blog about it?  No!  In fact, I am sitting here in disbelief of my ego right now, but hey ho – everyone else is doing it right?  I am of the opinion however that writing this blog may give me clarity throughout this process, almost act as my gauge and therapist (because they are damn expensive here in New York), and maybe even help others who are going through these pains of labor – to show where I’ve gone right, and of course where I went wrong (fingers crossed for not too many of those ay!)
5. To begin or originate in a specific way: a political movement conceived in the ferment of the 1960s.
  • And now to begin.  This is indeed the first step.  I have scribbled down my map and it’s time to navigate – without my GPS app it’s a daunting thought, but with great friends, fantastic guidance and lots of love for theater I know I can find the way.

To quote a very handsome man: “To begin at the beginning…”

One Minute Plays at Jimmy’s No 43

October 11, 2011

Moments are just that, mere moments – they happen all day and are forgotten, some are more poignant than others and will live longer in our memory.  And to capture one of these moments on paper feels much like chasing a lost bird out of the house.  Frantic and sporadic – then once caught, exhilarating, which is only topped by the relief of the release into the outside world.

These moments actually lived as a series of one minute plays at Jimmy’s no 43, and will again this Sunday at 59E59 St Theater – and as I was sitting at Jimmy’s No 43, reflecting on the evenings presentation while sipping a wonderfully strong Belgium Beer I thought of how wonderful it was to be engulfed by the pic and mix of twelve writers imaginations.

A taste of my own from the evenings festival:

Joining the Line

By Melisa Annis

 Two soldiers.  One lies in the arms of the other.  The able soldier (JAMES) is distraught the wounded soldier  (JOHN) calm as the air around them.

JAMES

Tell me a story – I’m shitting my self and I need a distraction.

BEAT

JOHN

Ok… I’m a fantastic dancer –

JAMES

You?

JOHN

Yeah, me!  BEAT Before the draft I just danced.  Tap – won competitions all over.  Did a commercial and all, for a local diner.  You didn’t see my face, just my feet.  No one knew it was me, but I didn’t care – I knew it was me.  And I was good.

BEAT

I can’t wait to dance again when I get home.  I have a girl…at home…terrible dancer.  Do you dance?

JAMES

Nah.

JOHN

You should learn.  When you dance – it’s as if the whole world outside of that moment stops.  (fading) The clouds move so quickly that your soul spins out of control.

JAMES

Maybe I can come and see you at one of those competitions.

JOHN (fading even more)

It’s like floating on the air.  Bright and light.  I can hear the rhythm. (taps his fingers on the stage in rhythm.  Suddenly it stops)

Black out