We’re combining so many elements of theatre, music, and movement in our new adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s “A Little Princess” that we can’t capture all of them in a Tweet or Facebook post. Instead, we’re turning to our blog to give you a sneak-peak into this unique south shore community theatre production that takes a multimedia approach to the classic novel.
There are plenty of adaptations of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel, including films and musicals, but we didn’t want to repurpose someone else’s interpretation. Our artistic director, Andrew Child, created a new script highlighting issues that resonate with contemporary south shore audiences. Instead of presenting the story as a period piece, we’re examining classism and xenophobia through methods accessible to all ages.
2. A Choral Experience
While our adaptation isn’t a musical, per se, there’ll be music. Our cast, comprised of south shore community members of various experience levels, is busy learning a challenging piece of choral music – Gustav Holst’s “Rig Veda.” The piece captures the fantastical elements of Hodgson Burnett’s novel while providing various moods and tempos to accompany the challenges and joys that protagonist Sara Crewe faces. It also creates a soundtrack for the next element of our adaptation.
3. Moving to Music
Our production isn’t strictly a dance piece, but in rehearsals, our cast creates stylized movement to accompany “Rig Veda” and elaborate on Sara’s stories. They’re using found objects, from bed sheets to stuffed animals, in imaginative ways that keep the narrative moving. Both kids and adults will enjoy our cast’s craftiness while trying to keep up with all the pieces of the performance on stage.
4. Locally-Crafted Puppets
Have you missed Wild Wood Creation’s puppets during the Suburban Summer Theatre Surge? Don’t worry – Joe Wood built a special monkey puppet specifically for this production, and we’ll also be using shadow puppets like the ones seen in “The Witches.” We know kids loved interacting with the puppets during those performances, so we wanted to bring them back for this year’s children’s piece.
5. A Night Outdoors
It’s summertime, so sitting in a stuffy theatre isn’t an appealing prospect. Fortunately, our production is outdoors in the Fuller Craft Museum’s courtyard (except for our sensory-friendly Saturday matinee). We’ll have seating, so don’t worry about bringing a blanket or chair. Enjoying theatre under the stars adds to the play’s mystical elements while giving you an excuse to enjoy warm summer weather.
6. Sensory-Friendly Matinee
We want all south shore families to feel welcome at our productions, but we know that traditional theatrical spaces are problematic for children with autism (or other special needs) and their families. To make this production accessible to all families, we’re performing a special sensory-friendly Saturday matinee at 2 p.m. This indoor performance eliminates loud noises and other potentially frightening effects, and audience members can talk and come and go whenever they want.
Interested in bringing your family? Get tickets to non-sensory-friendly performances of “A Little Princess” (July 21-23) here. Tickets to the sensory-friendly performance are available here. You can also call 774-240-1013. To keep the performances affordable for local families, they’re just $5 for children and $10 for adults, with all proceeds going directly to the Fuller Craft Museum.
Spread the word, and we hope you and your family can join us for this unique south shore theatre experience!
Gavin Damore oversees communications and outreach for Artists from Suburbia.
Back when we began planning the Suburban Summer Theatre Surge, Andrew and I knew we wanted to invite the south shore community into the workshop process for a new play.
Workshops are often closed-door affairs – directors, playwrights, and actors rework and rewrite without the prying eyes of an audience. What if we don’t think of the audience as “prying eyes,” though? What if we see them as collaborators who are just as important as any member of the cast or creative team? After all, our goal at Artists From Suburbia is to bring people of all experience levels and backgrounds into the performing arts’ creative process, and we know that not everyone wants to or can get up on stage or work behind-the-scenes.
We decided to fully tap into south shore community theatre’s potential by opening our workshop process to the community, allowing audiences to give feedback to help develop a new play over the course of the summer. Given the success of his play “The Werewolves,” (it’s even going to Manhattan Rep this summer!) we invited Alex Moon back to write “Les Nuls,” a new comedy exploring revolution, strife, and mayhem at an 18th-century Parisian café. After a successful public reading, the creative team is preparing for the second reading on July 10 at the Brockton Public Library, and we’re excited to delve into the process for these three reasons:
1. There’s Humor
Remember all the dead bodies on stage during “The Werewolves”? Forget them. While “Les Nuls” explores dark themes and turbulent times in French history, Alex approaches them with a lighthearted tone to address the ludicracy of violence, war, and classism. We’re excited to tackle these tough topics with a sense of humor - after all, we all need a laugh, especially on a Monday night in south shore suburbia.
A community-based theatre initiative can’t exist without inviting our entire community into the creative process. While the playwright, cast, and creative team have been making discoveries in the rehearsal room the past few weeks, we’re excited to see the insights that our fellow south shore community members bring to the piece. Every audience member interprets a play differently, so we look forward to hearing reactions and suggestions as we got back to the drawing board before our next staged reading.
3. There’s Talent
We were overwhelmed this year by the caliber of performers that came to audition, and we’re happy to have so many talented artists involved with the reading. Additionally, we have Corinne Mason and Ally Madden, the creative team behind “The Werewovles,” returning as director and dramaturge respectively. We’re excited to see the talents of all these dedicated artists culminate on stage for south shore community theatre audiences to enjoy.
You can still reserve free tickets for the second staged reading of “Les Nuls” on Eventbrite. We hope to see you there!
Gavin Damore is a cofounder of AfS and oversees all outreach and communications.
Pride Month With South Shore Theatre
When we put out a call for plays addressing “unheard melodies,” we received numerous entries exploring the lives of GLBTQ individuals. After much deliberation, we finally settled on two plays for our second evening of original one-act plays on June 9 at the East Bridgewater Public Library: John Minigan’s “Easter at the Entrée Gold” and G.L. Horton’s “The Gender Agenda.”
We’re thrilled to present these works as part of our Suburban Summer Theatre Surge. We believe it’s important to have queer representation in the south shore community theatre scene, especially during National LGBTQ Pride Month.
Here’s why we’re particularly excited for these staged readings:
Easter at the Entrée Gold
John Minigan’s play explores two Catholic school teachers struggling with their sexualities, but unlike many plays that address the tensions between religious teachings and queer identities, the tribulations of main characters Leverett and Peter don’t vilify the Catholic Church. Rather, Minigan explores the characters’ nuanced predicament through a conversation at a luxurious Montreal hotel.
Minigan’s play also addresses oppression’s long-term effects. When rumors about Leverett’s sexuality emerge among his students, the stress becomes too much, causing him to drive up to Canada to isolate himself. Our society tends to think of oppression as a overtly hateful act, such as a taunt or an assault, but more often, It manifests as years of microaggressions. “Easter at the Entrée Gold” provides a short glimpse into the consequences of small, everyday words and actions. We think this is important to explore with south shore community theatre.
The Gender Agenda
Representation of transgender individuals typically skews young. Older transgender individuals obviously exist, and many were pioneers in the queer liberation movement, but we don’t always see this represented through theatre, arts, and media. We’re excited to tell a story of a trans individual who isn’t in their 20s with G.L. Horton’s “The Gender Agenda,” a play exploring the life of Jan, a church-going woman who socializes with women upwards of 30 years old.
“The Gender Agenda” also disrupts typical narratives of trans* lives by exploring Jan’s intersecting identities. Jan doesn’t frequent usual queer spaces. She’s a tech professional and a Christian, seeking validation in these not-always-queer-friendly spaces. As much as queer spaces are important and necessary, some queer individuals want to be able to socialize and work in cisgender-dominant spaces. Horton’s play shows how something many people take for granted – being involved with a community church group – is rife with difficulty for trans* individuals.
Interested in exploring these south shore community theatre works with us during Pride Month? Be sure to reserve your free tickets to our evening of staged readings. We’re already half-way sold out, so don’t wait to take part in Artists From Suburbia’s Suburban Summer Theatre Surge!
Gavin Damore is cofounder of AfS and currently serves as communications manager.
People don’t want to sit in the dark for three hours and watch reenactments of family dramas.
This was my biggest take-away from travelling to four different cities over the course of a week and talking with non-profit theatre administrators. As traditional patrons and subscribers age, younger audiences aren’t taking their place since theatre is often seen as a stuffy, uninspiring event.
Here on Massachusetts’ south shore, Artists from Suburbia is changing that perspective by combining community and fringe theatre elements. Our work with community members from a wide range of experiences is most visible during our audition process. We make our auditions as stress-free as an audition can be so that anyone can engage in south shore community theatre. Keeping these three principles in mind during our audition process ensures that we’re taking the stuffiness out of theatre:
2. No Time? No Problem.
We encourage south shore actors to audition in-person, but we understand that isn’t always possible with work schedules, family matters, and other commitments. Engaging the community means accommodating hectic schedules, so if one of our three audition nights doesn’t work, we accept video auditions.
We’re also upfront with rehearsal commitments. With our Suburban Summer Theatre Surge, we created rehearsal schedules of varying intensity so there’s a project for every south shore community member.
3. All Artists Welcome
We take our commitment to creating opportunities for marginalized artists seriously, so in addition to choosing works that represent marginalized voices, we actively recruited queer and disabled actors to work with us on pieces reflecting those experiences. Theatre doesn’t always make room for these voices, so we ensure engagement through specific outreach. We’re also careful with the wording in our casting calls - instead of wondering whether Artists from Suburbia fosters an inclusive creative space, we want potential performers to be sure of this from the moment they see a posting.
Given our successful turn-out this week at the East Bridgewater community TV station, we think we’re in good shape to flood Massachusetts’ south shore with affordable, professional-quality theatre during the Suburban Summer Theatre Surge. Call-backs are this week, so expect our official casting announcement soon!
In the meantime, get your free tickets to the first reading of “Les Nuls” on June 15 and our second evening of original one-act plays on June 9. Space is extremely limited for both events, so be sure to sign up now! Tickets for other events during the Suburban Summer Theatre Surge will be available soon.
Gavin Damore is a cofounder of Artists from Suburbia and oversees communications.
Three Reasons We Love South Shore Theatre
Boston’s south shore has a vibrant theatre scene, from long-standing organizations such as The Company Theatre to newer groups such as South Shore Theatre Works. Why do we love being a part of this eclectic group? Here’s just three of the many reasons:
2. The partnerships
Along with supportive audiences, the south shore is filled with organizations and businesses willing to foster our community’s creativity. For The Suburban Summer Theatre Surge, we’re working with the Fuller Craft Museum, Ames Free Library, Owling Dog Art Gallery, and other local organizations. We’ve been humbled by their willingness to collaborate with us, and we know that south shore community theatre’s vibrancy wouldn’t exist without their support.
3. The people
South shore theatre consists of talented people from all experience levels and backgrounds. From seasoned theatre professionals to parents taking to the stage for the first time, audiences see a wide array of residents showcasing their talents. Bringing artists from truly diverse experiences creates unique collaborations that are inclusive to all south shore residents, regardless of their resumes.
Interested in being part of the south shore theatre scene? Sign up to audition for Artists From Suburbia’s Suburban Summer Theatre Surge. We have parts for all ages, and we specifically have roles for transgender women and women living with physical disabilities. Visit our Facebook event for more details, then e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up for a time slot on May 15, 16, and 17.
Gavin is a cofounder of AfS and oversees communications.
According to Theatre Communication Group, subscription tickets to nonprofit theatres dropped 5.2% between 2011 and 2015. Older subscribers are aging and new theatre-goers aren’t as keen on committing $300 to a single theatre company.
Last month, I visited four cities – Chicago, Louisville, Washington D.C., and New York City – to learn how regional theatres attract millennial-generation theatre subscribers. Here are five take-aways every theatre management professional, whether working in south shore community theatre or a large nonprofit theatre, should keep in mind:
2. Partner with young professional organizationsYoung professionals’ organizations are always looking for events for its members, and Actor’s Theatre Louisville taps into that need. Their partnership with Young Professionals Association of Louisville brings in new audiences while helping millennial-generation theatre-goers network amongst each other. It also makes theatre-going a habit among millennials rather than a once-a-year special event.
3. Flexibility and affordability are key
Let’s look at Steppenwolf’s Red Card program again. Millennial theatre-goers don’t always have lots of money, and they don’t want to be tied down to specific dates. $100 for six events comes to around $17 a ticket – no more than seeing a movie – and card-holders can book dates whenever it fits their schedule.
4. Join the social conversation, but don’t pander
Theatres have tried to live-tweet their productions, but it usually comes across as pandering. Instead, acknowledge the social conversation already happening. For example, if you search for Shakespeare Theatre Company on Twitter, you’ll see plenty of millennials talking about their latest excursion to the theatre, or even looking for a last-minute ticket. Monitor what people are already saying and become a part of it.
5. Buzzfeed is just as good as The New York Times
Don’t overlook online publications. Past Broadway producers might have seen a feature in the New York Times as the ultimate press agent victory, but to reach millennial-generation theatre-goers, pitch outlets they’re reading, such as BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post. Don’t just abandon traditional outlets – they’ll always carry weight – but make sure you’re paying attention to the digital realm as well.
Traditional subscription models may not work for millennial-generation theatre-goers, but theatre management professionals shouldn’t interpret this phenomenon as millennial disinterest in theatre. Rather, it is the pricing models they don’t like, and we must adjust to those changes to cultivate a new generation of subscribers.
Gavin Damore is a cofounder of AfS and serves as communications manager. He will be overseeing social media and outreach for our Suburban Summer Theatre Surge.
My first involvement with Artists from Suburbia, and the group’s inaugural production, was a presentation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches, adapted by David Wood. I have enjoyed performing as a children’s magician for several years, so I was excited to take part in a children’s theater piece. I find performing for young audiences very rewarding. Unlike their grown-up counterparts, children have no shame in their natural reactions. When they laugh, they laugh so hard that they cry and snort. I have witnessed children genuinely shriek and gasp in amazement. Additionally, there is often an opportunity to expose children to something new. I am always proud when parents share with me that I was their child’s “first magician”.
Leading up to The Witches, I felt that helping to create children’s theater would bring similar joys. I was especially excited that we would be tackling that specific story. Roald Dahl was a major part of my childhood, both in and out of school, and The Witches was so exciting to me at a young age! It was one of my first exposures to horror and the thrill of being scared. However, during the rehearsal process for the play, I began to worry if the production would truly be suitable for children. I had no doubt that they would be entertained by it: there were puppets, brightly colored costumes and props, and even a well-timed “fart” joke. But would children really “get” the story? Would they be able to understand that sometimes a hand-puppet, a shadow-puppet, and a live actor were all representations of the same character? Would they be confused by live actors pantomiming while their character’s voice came from a speaker across the room?
During the performances, I was happy to learn the answer to these and more questions. The children in the audience didn’t just “get it”; they got past the “higher-concept” elements of our production and were able to enjoy the story we told and all of its humor and horror. Perhaps most important of all, they were able to take pride in watching a piece of theater that did not talk down to them but instead challenged them. Isn’t that what we all hope for from good theater? I took away a valuable lesson from this process: never underestimate an audience of children. I gained a refreshed sense of respect for my young audiences at my many local magic shows.
I’ve always known they are entertained by my act, but I now know that they are not just passively entertained by my goofy “magic words” and gags or my colorful props. They really understand what they are watching. These children know that I am not a wizard and do not have real magical powers. They accept that I am performing mere illusions, and their entertainment comes from the knowledge that what they perceive to have happened does not match what actually happened. There are children’s entertainers who make a living convinced that all children need to be entertained is a chance to scream their heads off and a couple of cheap, flashy gags. These acts will entertain passively, but ultimately be forgotten. Challenge a child to think and to imagine, and you have given them art that will stay with them. Plus, a well-timed “fart” joke can be invaluable, no matter what age group you are performing for.
Ethan Child has worked with AfS before as a puppeteer and a lighting designer. This summer, he will be designing lighting and projections for A Little Princess, or What Happened at Miss Minchin's. More about Ethan's work as a magician here.
As many groups have already published, it is often difficult for a theatre group to directly respond to immediate political actions. In dealing with licensing and contracting artists, most troupes have to establish a season a year or more in advance. We, at Artists from Suburbia have had our upcoming Suburban Summer Theatre Surge laid out for months. There are ways that we can look at our programming and see what it says about our current situation and there are ways we can draw connections. Because of our mission statement, our season was already intended to be one which stretched and tested our own inclusivity while challenging our audiences’ senses of empathy. Across the nation, artists are responding to the current political climate. Talks and articles about the artist as a citizen are popping up left and right. It has become imperative for artwork to help us move forward, to help us move onward and, it seems, that those individuals who are not ready to do so, are being left behind in the dust.
On November 9, I read a trusted favorite play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as part of a project. Originally, I was looking forward to reading something that would take my mind off of the election results and would distract and amuse me. I have never been so struck by the oppressive relationship between Hermia and her father, Egeus as I was that evening. Oberon’s possessive remarks about Titania had never shaken me so much. This comedy that had always made me smile seemed to be suddenly tainted by a world that many of us were not aware of.
Every play is different now.
Obviously, certain works have begun to strike chords with us all. George Orwell’s 1984 and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale are resurfacing to the top of the bestseller charts. J.K. Rowling is having a field day drawing connections to her own stories. Hardly a day can pass before it seems like someone is sharing a video from Charlie Chaplin’s The Dictator, or television shows like House of Cards or the border-wall-centric episodes of Arrested Development on social media. We are ready for artwork and stories which tell us how to respond to the world we are living in.
Below, I have compiled a list of the top ten plays that, in my opinion, should be widely read and presented in the coming years.
- Artistic Director, Andrew Child
There are people who believe that artists live in a fantasy world, so encumbered by their own imaginations that they don’t see the world as it really is. We at Artists from Suburbia ardently oppose this idea. What, we ask, is life but a multitude of ways in which individuals experience and interpret it?
With the current political climate, it has become ever more imperative that we, as a society and as a community, think about the struggles of other people. This requires imagination and this requires listening to one another: these two things together are the fundamental aspects of an artist in the theatre community.
Actors, playwrights, directors, and everyone collaborating within a production team and contributing to the creation of a work in theatre, is called to have a greater understanding of their own experience in order to equally understand others’ perspectives so that the story being presented to the audience is genuine and affecting.
For an actor to realistically embody a character, they must imagine what that character was doing before they stepped into that scene. They must think about what the character wants in that specific moment and they must distinguish the intentions of each singular sentence their character speaks. To act is to participate in a psychological exploration of someone who is not one’s self. To spend the time outside of one’s own head is the very definition of empathy.
Audience members attend theatre to witness a narrative separate from their own. Many people turn to performance as an escape from their own world, yes, but those who truly delve into and understand what is being represented to them cannot stop themselves from connecting parts of what they are seeing to themselves. They can sympathize and empathize with the characters they see on the stage, no matter how different their own background may be. The theatre is a great equalizer in this sense. It reminds us that we are all human after all.
This is why theatre is such a valuable weapon now - and has been ever.
Ally Madden is a frequent collaborator with AfS and will be serving as dramaturge/ assistant director for this summer's new play workshop.
Medieval theatre was similar to American community theatre, with home-made sets, costumes created by town craftspeople, and locals gathered to watch family and friends’ performances. They worked with townsfolk’s talents to tell Biblical tales, complete with anachronistic jokes and references that resonated with audiences. Some became local stars, with people clamoring every year to see them play a favorite role, and the guilds that produced the plays used sets and props to showcase their skills.
The plays that medieval Britons produced brought about the warm, fuzzy feelings we associate with modern community theatre. We imagine our friends and family performing, with everyone watching and clapping. We think of the solidarity and camaraderie it brings, reminding us of why we love our communities. Underneath the medieval fun of putting on a show, though, were scripts that asked difficult questions about values and morality. Of course, in such a top-down society, only so much could be challenged, but subtle moments addressed poverty, greed, and other problems affecting townsfolk’s lives.
Community theatre can easily just be the former, presenting fluff that makes us feel good without actually benefitting people in the long run. Of course, it should be a fun experience, but to truly benefit the community, it needs to also incorporate the latter. It needs to address concerns of local people and voice ugly truths that we might suppress as we go about our daily lives.
Last summer, Artists From Suburbia found a balance between entertainment and challenge with our Evening of Original One Act Plays. We asked Massachusetts-based playwrights to submit their writing, leading to staged readings of plays confronting classism, fascism, and loss. Rehearsals weren't all doom and gloom, nor was the final performance. We had our laughs and so did the audience, but with those moments of joy and humor came explorations of societal issues.
This summer, we’re once again giving local artists the opportunity to explore problems affecting the personal and public spheres. We want artists to enjoy coming to rehearsal, whether they're old pros or first-timers, while also bringing new and marginalized voices to the stage (or, in our case, an available public space).
Our goal is similar to medieval thespians - entertain audiences while challenging them. With every production, we strive to fulfill the need for fun and introspection on Boston's south shore.
Gavin Damore oversees all publicity and press for AfS. His expertise in social media and public outreach have ensured packed houses for all of AfS' projects thus far.