Friday, March 26, 2004

Lifting Up The Curtain: Space Wars

Richard Foreman once said that the biggest problem in New York theater (especially the fringes of it) was real estate. Boy was he ever right. Foreman is able to continue what he does at least in part because he has a permanent home at the St. Mark’s Church, and can afford to rehearse for four months and perform for another four. It doesn’t hurt that Europe will pay large amounts of money to get him to come over, but that’s beside the point of this particular post.

The point of this particular post, you say? Never underestimate the power of real estate. Because right now, real estate is ruining my life.

In order for a play to be performed, it has to be rehearsed, obviously, and it order for it to be rehearsed, it has to have rehearsal space. The set for FYB is made up of several different areas, the largest of which is 12’ X 12’. Reason thus dictates that we need a space that is at least 12’X12’ to rehearse any single area and a much larger space to rehearse anything set in multiple stage areas.

But reason isn’t operating here. Economics is.

Plainly put, fundraising is not going as well as it should be by now. This is due to all sorts of reasons, many of them being economic, some of them being logistical, some of them being that no famous people are in the show etc. but what this means is that we don’t have enough money in the bank and we’re starting to freak out a little. Anything that can get cut, is getting cut, or at least withheld until the money comes in. So that means, no paying for rehearsal space unless it is absolutely necessary.

When I complained about this, I was given a choice: rehearse in a good space or have the set I want. The producers are right, and they shut me up pretty quickly. Here’s the rub, though: believe it or not, rehearsal space (the type, size etc.) really really matters (just like your office matters, just like your living room matters) and the free space is free because it’s mostly useless. One of the spaces has public restrooms in it and we aren’t allowed to keep people from using them during rehearsal. Try getting an intimate performance out of an actor while they’re worried someone will break in and poop during their big monologue. Another one is in a church in Brooklyn, while we have an actress coming from Inwood and there are loud, screamed swear words occasionally peppered throughout the show. Also, we have no idea what the dimensions of the space are. Then there’s the space where we can only rehearse as long as there are under seven people because otherwise they have to get a security guard.

None of these spaces are conducive to creativity, we still don’t know where half of our rehearsals (including tomorrow’s) will be, and it’s beginning to distract from the real work that we have to do. The only option right now is that I spend money out of pocket to book the rehearsal space myself.

This is a frequent dilemma in Off-Off Broadway theater—do you use money to get what you want? If you have some money saved up, should you blow it on your show? The only other thing I could do is yell at the producers to do a better job, but they’re working very very hard to do the best job they can and honestly, I don’t fault them for the fundraising shortage. So file this one under “get over yourself” I suppose. I would rather just spend my time directing, but I’m at the start of my career and who the hell do I think I am? Time to pick up the phone and book my ass some space.


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