I just stand behind you and wait for you to say "hey what's up?" but I do that because we've worked together before so I know your style.
So Bad Habit Productions does the super wonderful (though not unique to them) by including in their process a debrief for designers and stage management close to the end of the run of the show. Not only does this allow everyone to air concerns about the process, from hiring to performance run, it gives designers and SMs (young and old) valuable feedback on their performance.
As freelancers, we don't have the structure of corporate world, where performance reviews are routinely scheduled. So being with a company that does some sort of production debrief where you can get feedback from peers and supervisors is always better than the alternative.
So this debrief, the biggest feedback I got is that I need to lend more time to the designers needs in tech! I focus a lot on the actors' comfort level and integration into the space, but I am sometimes leaving the designers in the dust and don't give them the time they deserve in that week. I think this stems from my focus on "must start running this show like it's the real thing as soon as possible, that's what will get us ready best." However, I need to move past that mindset and remember that the designers, as the Managing Director put it "only have that time to add their part of the craft" and value that time - the time of tech week is not just for me to get as many runs under my belt as I can before opening. It's time for them to do their work and me to run when their work is done.
Related to this, I need to have better communication with designers in tech - namely, I need to be clearer to the designers that their needs are paramount and we can hold whenever THEY need to, not just when director or I need to. I think the solution to this is having a clearly laid out speech before tech begins to all in the room; the "this is how we're going to do tech" speech. I do typically do this, but my speech is primarily about the vocabulary and structure of holds (to avoid false starts, actors taking off before all designers are checked in and ready, etc.), the necessity of patience, and the focus on the goal: a great end product. In the future, I'm going to include language in that speech affirming the designer's "right" to call holds and the procedure they should follow to do that.
It's encouraging to get this feedback from people I know and trust. Having this feedback reinforces my philosophy that I should learn something new from every show I do. That's one of the joys of working in theatre - every show is different, every time. I may be young, but I think anyone in production who's worth their salt values the feedback of debriefs and uses it to further their craft. Those who don't...well, they're not much fun to work with.
The IRNEs were incredibly exciting. Company One received awards for Set Design and New Work. AND this little show I worked on (it wasn't actually little) with Bad Habit won FOUR awards: Best Actor, Best Director, Best Ensemble, and Best Production of a Play (all in the small company category). There were some really fabulous shows also nominated so to be counted in that company was honor enough. But to win was humbling. And no I didn't really win anything - but to have been such an integral part of a play that wins best production I don't think entirely excludes the stage manager :)
The short history of community theatre in Massachusetts - pretty much all the ones in Eastern Massachusetts sprung up in the 60s-70s(earlier? I won't pretend to be an expert, but this article by the AACT is an interesting read); that boom time for Regional repertory theatres. While those reps were springing up, all the amateurs wanted to get up on stage too out in the suburbs. Taking over churches' function halls, or town hall and high school auditoriums. Teach the kids how to be a part of it too; "Come see our production of Grease! Everyone has fun!" The community theatre was (and is) a place of bonding, family, and good clean musical theatre (or deeply penetrating dark stuff for those adventurous groups), everyone pitching in their personal resources for the endgame. Here's where a lot of community theatre started - and still is.
Because a lot of these community theatres have been around for so long, they have got producing DOWN to a science within their own group. They know the space they're producing in and have strong relationships, they have the tech resources, they have a process set.
Here's the plight of the community theatres I've worked in: human resources. The leadership is tired and way overworked - there's usually the "guy who does lights and sound because he's always done it," the matronly director who pulls it all together in the end, someone's friend who got roped into running the box office and concessions. But they desperately WANT help and young energy. Especially on the tech and admin side (ask me how many community theatre gig offers I see come my way as a stage manager...). Sure they can get high school, even middle school kids to help out, while teaching them in the process. But what they need are college-trained, youthful professionals to add some fire to the long-standing flame of their company. So, where is this energy?
The Boston area is full of higher ed theatre-training: Emerson, BoCo, BU. But, the college-grads and 20 somethings are all in the city. They're trying to make (or have made) their way into fringe. Which makes sense for those pursuing a professional career. Fringe is the first step, gets you the connections to mid-size, leading to the bigger regional houses (Hunt, NSMT, ART), giving you the cred to go somewhere else (bright lights, bigger cities).
Here's the rub: I have seen community theatres way better equipped than fringe and (every so often) even mid-size to create great theatre. Due to their many years of continued preparation and the often long-standing membership, these community theatres have resources and connections out the wazoo. They have their own space, or strong relationships with a certain space in town, and it doesn't bankrupt them. They have a long-developed patronage with the ever-present "this is our town" spur to incline audiences to their productions.
Is our goal, as young theatre artists, to further our career by working with companies with a reputation in the city? Or are we truly looking to create theatre? If the latter, what are we doing in Boston with companies that can barely secure rehearsal space (not through any fault of theirs, simply because it's the city and space is a luxury) when there's 20 some odd companies with the backing of a whole community of resources in the surrounding towns?
How do we rectify this; these resources and companies out in the suburbs and the young creative manpower to act on them being in the city? The clear impediment is transportation. I couldn't get out to Wakefield, Burlington, Lynn reliably without a car. Do we set up a network of transportation? People in the city make it happen for Stoneham Theatre.
It will be interesting to see what happens in 10 years, when the current members of these community theatres just get too tired to keep doing it. Who takes their place? Does the company just fall in on itself with no strong leader? Young 30-somethings who used to pursue theatre and left it for the sake of stability get involved and take the place of old leadership?
I think that last suggestion is where it's most likely headed. But as young artists trying to make theatre, let's not ignore the strong community theatre presence around Boston. Let's connect with it.