It is possible that many of you are unaware that the last Common Wealth production was over two years ago. Some of you may have wondered why you haven't received an email, or seen our blue disk logo lately.
The answer is simple: Common Wealth was a personal endeavour, funded through my job in the Research Triangle Park. In 2016 I relocated to Atlanta GA, and planned to relaunch. However, in the way that corporate America works, the relocation has resulted in another relocation to the U.K. in 2018.
While this means that Common Wealth will not be producing in NC, or GA, or the US, there is a strong probability that we will be producing in the UK. When this happens, our mission will change slightly: plays from the US will replace those from the UK as we continue to focus on 'overseas' English voices.
When the newly relocated Common Wealth debuts you'll here about it here first.
Thanks for all the support during our tenure in NC: a dream came true under those long leaf pines and blue skies.
cheers -- gregor
As I sit in the lobby of the theatre, listening to the traffic outside and the play underway inside, I'm filled with the warmth of contentment. I tune in to the actors going through lines we've spent weeks dissecting, discussing, debating. I hear the audience laugh, gasp, react. I'm aware of the wind pushing through the gaps in the front door, bringing the chill of the rainy winter night outside. If I peer around the corner I can see the saturated glow from the stage spilling under the auditorium door. All these sensory inputs wash over me as I sit outside the space, updating the website, settling the box office accounts and checking on bookings for tomorrow. I love this part of my life; and I love that I share it with a wonderful team of creative souls: my actors, designers and crew for Small and Tired: Kit Brookman's endlessly fascinating meditation on love and family.
All that said, I am now in the fallow period of the process. As much as the audience, I am a receptor of the production. I've done my job: helping direct the show to this destination. For now, I am front of house, box office, greeter; anxiously ensuring everyone who wants to can experience the play before it closes on January 23rd. And because this is the fallow period of my creative process, part of me is working on the next show, the one that has auditions next week, starts rehearsals in March and opens in May. It feels a bit like cheating on my current production, a bit like moving on, but I remind myself, as character tensions boil over in the next room, that the only reason I can think about my next endeavor now, is because I am so fulfilled and contented by the one that's playing out tonight.
Two years ago, on Thursday March 14th 2013, Common Wealth Endeavors opened its first production. The play was Canadian, written in English by a young playwright, and spoke to the young in age and spirit, and those who could still remember being so. Ours was the US premier of the play and addressed a 21st Century phenomenon that applies as much to Americans as Canadians: the quarter century crisis, both a social and political phenomenon swirling in the zeitgeist. With all these characteristics, THE INNOCENTS, by Daniel Karasik, set the DNA for this new theatre company. I couldn't have hoped for a better launch vehicle and it gives me great pleasure to remember the exhilaration and chaos of our 14 day rehearsal period. Thanks to all who embarked on the first endeavor!
The weather in North Carolina has been trying these last two weeks, so I understand why folk have stayed home, close to the fire and the hot chocolate, but as the great thaw begins, consider catching our Double Bill of ELEVATOR and CONTRACTIONS before they end on March 7th. Judging by our reviews and our audiences you’ll have a fun time!
It’s been ages since I’ve had the chance to write about the Common Wealth Crew and our Endeavors. Of course it’s because we’ve been busy with life, holidays, excursions to other theatres in the area, and planning our 2015 offerings.
First up is a double bill of one act, dark comedies from two young writers: Jess Sayer from New Zealand and Mike Bartlett from the UK.
Jess’s play is ELEVATOR, which I saw at the Auckland Fringe in 2013 and immediately asked for the rights. It’s a really intriguing mixture of genres, condensed into the tiniest playing space and with some exceptionally keen observations on family/friend dynamics. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it and share my opinion that, at just 24, Jess is a talent to watch.
CONTRACTIONS was Mike Barlett’s second play and was originally produced for the radio before having a successful run in the offices of The Royal Court. It’s been translated and produced all over the world and I think when you experience this ink black comedy you’ll understand why. It speaks to the every day, mundane, oppression of corporate life, and how that seeps into our personal matters as well.
So those are the plays. Short, under an hour, but rich and engrossing. Both take place in small spaces. So we are building a tiny stage. I hope to see you soon.
BULLY BOY is moving into Common Ground Theatre today! We leave the (relative) security of the rehearsal room (thanks Duke Theatre Studies) and move into ‘the space’.
This is when it starts to get intimidating. In five days time (June 12) we will have our first audience. It’s a pay-what you-can-preview but that doesn’t mean we can’t be less than ready.
Sets, costumes, sound and lighting all have to come together in five short days. And lines have to be firmly committed to memory. And characterisations finely tuned. And programs printed, volunteers sought, crew drilled, cast calmed.
This is how the ‘magic’ happens: a lot of sweat, some blood (yes really) and as few tears as possible. Tickets are on sale. We run for three weeks June 12-28 Thu-Sat at 8pm with two Sunday matinees at 3pm. Please come and tell us if our efforts were worthwhile.
2013 was a great start for Common Wealth. Our first production THE INNOCENTS was well received by Triangle audiences; BULLY BOY, our two night fundraising reading raised $500 for Iran Afghanistan Veterans of America; and MANY MOONS was recognized by The Indy Week as for Best Sound Design, Special Achievement in Ensemble, Best Direction and Best Production.
Our first production of 2014 is a full scale, three week run of BULLY BOY. We’ll be returning to Common Ground Theatre from June 12th to June 28th. Tickets are now on sale at our normal prices. The performance on June 12th is a Pay What You Can preview with a minimum of $5 cash only. You can reserve for that show on line and make credit card bookings for all other performances.
More details will follow as we get closer to the opening.
Looking forward to seeing you all again at a show soon!
So the reviews and previewers have written quite a bit about our production of MANY MOONS by Alice Birch over the last few days. Here’s a list of links to the latest reviews, previews etc:
It is so gratifying to see this level of response to the play and the production. Do yourself a favor and buy a ticket before we sell out!
Occasionally you read a play and know that you just have to share it with other people. Either the subject matter is especially relevant, or the writing is beautifully lyrical or the playwright is an important new voice, but some aspect of the script lifts off the page and you know that this is a play that has to be seen. So far, in the short history of Common Wealth, we’ve presented a rehearsed reading of a deeply relevant play for North Carolina; the US premier of a work by an emerging Canadian writer; and now we’re about to present a work that combines all three aspects: MANY MOONS by Alice Birch.
The play has, so far, only been presented in London, back in 2011. If it wasn’t for the staff of the National Theatre bookstore I wouldn’t have known about it, but they pressed it into my hands and recommended that I read it as soon as possible. Thus started the process of obtaining rights, finding a cast and crew, securing a venue and ensuring that we do this impressive script justice.
I really hope we find an audience for the play. This will be the US premiere and the cast and crew are finding it an affecting piece. The writing is beautiful, the subject matter is hard hitting, and the cast are delivering performances of great nuance and sensitivity. All in all this is proving a dream project for me and with the first night only 10 days away the Triangle has the opportunity to be the first US community to experience Alice Birch’s debut full-length play. I hope that the word gets out and that others outside our area will get to see this work but for now, please click the link in the menu above or click here to buy your tickets now for the US premiere at Common Ground Theatre in Durham NC.
Many, many thanks to everyone who turned out for the rehearsed reading of Sandi Toksvig’s BULLY BOY at Common Ground Theatre. Not only did you provide the team with some very specific and enthusiastic feedback, you also raised $500 for IAVA! So, thanks and very well done Common Wealth Clan!
The response to the BULLY BOY readings means I’m now actively discussing bringing the play back for a full run during Summer 2014, and also looking at obtaining the rights to tour the play throughout North Carolina. Now that’s exciting!
On the same night as the first reading of BULLY BOY, I received confirmation that Common Wealth has the rights to a fascinating new play by a young British playwright: MANY MOONS by Alice Birch. Half the cast is already in place, the search for suitable male actors commences soon, and production meetings are being scheduled. And thus the second ‘main stage’ endeavor for Common Wealth begins. My little adventure is taking on a life of its own.
Look for performance dates and further information as we get closer to November. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your summer, and don’t forget you can help fund a Common Wealth endeavor by following the link to Fractured Atlas on the main website page.
It has been a while since the last posting on this blog. Non-Common Wealth life has taken priority, and plans have had to change; mostly because of positive opportunities. The “season” that has been foreshadowed on the website has had to be postponed. The New Zealand one acts will be staged some time in 2014 and the South African play will also be pushed out to a future date. The former because I will be in rehearsal for a brilliant new play at Manbites Dog Theatre, so can’t find the time in the Common Wealth schedule to mount ELEVATOR in September; and the latter because my co-conspirator in the production is unavailable for a while.
So, what to do when plans go awry? Read and read and read and read.
And so I have been. And I’ve found two plays that I think will entertain and challenge and move the Common Wealth audience.
The first will be mounted as a rehearsed reading in aid of PTSD and in collaboration with Delta Boys. We’ll be back at Common Ground Theatre for two nights only in mid August. More information to follow shortly…
The second is a new Australian play from an excellent young writer that I’m hoping we can get rights to. If we do, that production will go up for two weeks in November.
Sparse though it might be, that brings you up to date on the Common Wealth happenings over the past two and a bit months.
Enjoy the summer!
At some point in your life you stop caring what other people think. Or so I’ve been told. I actually think that’s one of those urban myth aphorisms that people say to other people to make them feel better. What I really think is that if you are a creative being (and I think all humans are) then you always care how your creativity is received. Maybe you care less about how some folk respond and more about others. There are definitely folk whose opinions I value more than others but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care at all.
Which brings me to the subject of this post… coping with reviews. I say coping because that’s really what you have to do. Whether they’re raves or rants they need to be coped with.
You’d think that raves would be easy to cope with but they’re not. They can even be damaging, unless you classify them the same way that you classify the rants: as one person’s opinion. A nice, supportive, affirming opinion but an opinion all the same. I’m always grateful for positive reviews but have learnt that it’s my own instincts that I have to trust. I know when I’ve done good work. But I won’t deny that it’s great to have it recognized by someone else.
Why then can good reviews be damaging? Well sometimes they can lead to a sense of invincibility or complacency. Sometimes they highlight behaviors that are best left unstressed. Sometimes they’re also just wrong. And of course vice versa for the bad reviews. Sometimes they’re right.
What is hard to reconcile for me though is when reviews, of the same show, from the same night, are at opposite ends of the spectrum. I mean really opposite ends: love it and hate it. That’s when I have to remind myself that a review is just an opinion from an individual. And everything that makes up that individual is brought to bear when they write their review: life experience, gender, politics, age, self-awareness, aesthetic, sexuality, nationality, sense of humor, pretensions, education and on and on.
So reminding myself (and the cast and crew) that a review is just one person’s opinion helps me cope with the good, and the less than good. Which then only leaves the relative influence of the reviews to address: even in this social media, online, interwebby world the hard copy review wins the influence battle. Maybe that’s because it has the imprimatur of being in ink on dead tree. Maybe it’s because theatre goers skew older that hard copy still has influence.
Whatever the reason, the less than good hard copy review can completely outweigh any number of stellar on line reviews. But it is still just an opinion. And that’s how I cope with them. One opinion to be weighed against all the others: especially to be weighed against the opinions of the audience and, for me, those are the opinions that really count. A sold out show, folk who go out of their way to thank you, raves or pans on Facebook, these are the reviews that I don’t ‘cope’ with. These are the ones I learn from and value.
For the audience is the final link in the chain, the final piece of the puzzle, the reason we do any of this. So if anyone’s opinion should be valued, it’s the audience’s and as members of an audience we should always have our own opinion, and we should share it, as far and as wide as we can. Especially if it runs counter to the louder voices of the professional reviewers – there is truth in the balance of opinions and wisdom in the crowd.
Final dress: almost the end of the process and the start of the run. It’s a funny old process this putting on plays. I love moving in to the theatre. The hard (emotional) graft of the rehearsal process is behind you. You have a set and props and lights and music and effects to deal with now. The notes become extremely granular. The world of the play exists and all you’re doing is tiny, imperceptible tweaks to reach the level of excellence we all strive for.
Opening Night: No nerves. Just anticipation. Will the audience laugh, will they enter into the world, will they make the final connection to the circuit of the show so that the energy flows?
The Run: Routine, fun, exploration. Things go wrong. Life intervenes. The show is an organic, living thing. It changes from night to night. It is a joy to watch. This is probably the closest I can ever come to feeling a fraction of what parents feel. It’s scary, intense, overwhelming pride and love for the brave souls who ventured on this endeavor with me two (yes, only two) weeks ago. I am blissful even in the face of dying power supplies and overloaded cell networks.
And soon it will be over. But on to the next show. Rinse and Repeat.
The process of creating a show is full of tests and traps and hurdles and hopes. You try and pass the tests, avoid the traps, leap the hurdles and trust your hopes are not misplaced. And you do this while taking point for the team of actors, designers and crew that have placed their trust in you; trusting that you will pass, avoid, leap and lead them to a happy ending.
It’s a supreme act of ego that’s also paradoxically humbling. But for every hurdle that’s successfully leapt (leaped?) a little tension is released and you begin to believe that maybe you weren’t totally insane sinking money into an unknown script, a condensed rehearsal period and a truncated run.
All that to say: THE INNOCENTS cast completed their first off-book run tonight with the least number of line calls I’ve ever experienced. Hurdle leapt with air to spare. I will sleep well tonight.
And wake refreshed to face battling with the online suppliers who sent the wrong product, misquoted their sizes and downright scammed the description of a prop laptop! The bliss and despair of directing a play all in the course of four hours.
Theatre is by its nature ephemeral. Yeah sure you can take photos, even video a performance or two, but by doing so you’re actually creating another medium of art. The medium of theatre is live performance in front of an audience – and each performance is therefore unique and irreplaceable. I believe that it is because of these characteristics that we are driven to think of the next show as soon as we start the process of mounting our current show. We know that the current experience must end and so we plan the following experience to keep the magic alive.
Plays are also hard to find, plays that resonate, plays that work for your venue, your collaborators, your community. New plays are even harder to find. So, when you walk into a basement theater in the business capital of New Zealand and get blown away by a new play by a young female writer that you can cast immediately from the pool of actors in the Triangle; well, you just have to snag the rights as soon as possible.
It’s too soon to make a formal announcement but the second show for Common Wealth Endeavors has been discovered and retained. There will be a show after THE INNOCENTS. So book your tickets now for our debut and join the mailing list to be the first to hear about our follow-up!
I know that traditionally a first reading marks the beginning of the process of putting on a play. You get to meet the cast and technical crew. You’re introduced to the set design and costume sketches. The director talks about their vision and how much fun everyone is going to have. First readings are nerve inducing but also a gentle introduction to the more nerve wracking process that lies ahead.
However I’m pretty much convinced that photo shoots are the best way to start the play production process. They are just so much fun! Seeing the actors go through their process for the camera is thrilling. It’s the first time you get to see a glimpse of the subconscious work they’ve been doing since they were cast; and it blows my mind, makes me proud and sets my nerves a tingle.
So FYI: the photo shoot for THE INNOCENTS just wrapped, Alex Maness is an artist and I am beaming all over. Onwards!
It takes time to start anything worthwhile. Yet the longer it takes, with luck, the longer it will last. Common Wealth Endeavors has been a gleam in my eye for so long it seems unbelievable that most people are still unaware of its existence. However in the last month there have been some great leaps forward: a functioning website, a fiscal sponsor, an online ticketing site, a Facebook page and soon a Twitter account. All the trappings of a twenty-first century company. Next is a quality debut endeavor to show we’ve really arrived.
THE INNOCENTS by Daniel Karasik will, I hope, be that debut with a great cast, a talented crew and a unique script. All the stuff in which excellence can thrive. The show opens March 14th and tickets are on sale now. There’s more information on our main website. I hope you’ll join us. Keep checking in for behind the scenes updates as we prep for production.
It is hard to have a project underway and not be able to talk about it. Especially when it seems to be exciting, provocative and possibly groundbreaking. But, like any parent, you don’t want to talk about the infant before it is a definite reality. In this case it is just a set of ideas, a direction, a couple of payments and some churning research. However, let it be known that there is a project underway and it will be big and it will see the light of day in some form this coming year. So keep coming back for more snippets. When we’re ready to reveal, we’ll do so here first . . . and then Facebook second.
Because I kept being asked by other actors and directors to do stuff that didn’t have a home. There are many companies in the Triangle and no shortage of good theatre but when it comes down to it, there are only so many dollars to go around. In the end, if someone wants to do a show passionately but can’t get an established company to buy in to the idea, then you have no choice but to start a company of your own. And that is how Common Wealth came into being.
The debut show was going to be SCORCHED, which I read about on a visa renewal visit to Quebec City and suggested to Kevin Ewart. Kevin liked it enough to want to direct and asked if I could find a producing company. Impulse 1. At the same time Lucius Robinson was burning to do Equus and asked if I would play Dysart. Impulse 2. Meanwhile I had a selection of scripts burning a hole in my daydreams. Impulse 3. Add all that together and Common Wealth burst into being.
As if it was that easy or immediate, but this is as good a creation myth as any other. In reality many moons passed and other scripts have come to the fore. But that’s another story.
With hope (and luck and an audience) Common Wealth will survive long enough for this beta season to become renowned in myth as well.