6 Lessons Learned About Producing in Non-Traditional Spaces

The weather is heating up, and so are things here at donna scott productions! As we head into the summer (and our next project !!!), it would be foolish not to take stock of the lessons we’ve learned so far this year. This winter we produced 2 shows in 2 non-traditional venues, and a whole lot of lessons were learned by all 3 of us – below we’ve each listed just a few of them.

The DSP 3: Glynnis, Donna, and Tonya

The DSP 3: Glynnis, Donna, and Tonya

Donna

  • Don’t Go It Alone: This season is the first time I’ve produced with Glynnis and Tonya, and working as part of a team made Carrie Ann’s Kiss and Shiloh Rules more successful than they ever could have been if I had done it by myself. Every decision, challenge, or perceived setback seemed so much less daunting knowing I didn’t have to face it on my own. (It also doesn’t hurt if your co-producers happen to share the same taste in wine as you do.)
  • We’re All In It Together: When I set out to produce theatre in the South End neighborhood, I didn’t realize how much the existing community would embrace us. So many of the individuals and businesses there were excited about bringing theatre to South End and offered to help us. When working on a creative project, it’s easy to get tunnel vision/become fixated on your creative process, but looking around at the place you’re creating art for and including them in that process can benefit everyone.

Tonya

  • Hold Out For Dream Cast – They’re Out There! Casting Carrie Ann’s Kiss and Shiloh Rules was not quick or easy. At times it seemed we would never have a complete cast for either show, but eventually were able to fill each role with the actor who ended up being the perfect fit. On either side of casting, it’s hard to hear the word “No,” but “No” always means that the right person is getting ready to get the opportunity they deserve.
  • Adapt to the Space: When I first started working on Shiloh Rules in CAL, I thought the show would be performed in the round. After a week of rehearsal, I quickly realized that we needed to change the configuration of the stage to a more traditional proscenium set up. This meant changing seats, lighting, entrances/exits, sound, and just about everything! While nobody wants to make that kind of adjustments 3 weeks before opening, I knew that I had to serve the play, performers, and space.

Glynnis

  • Talk Is Cheap – TAKE ACTION! This was first my experience being a producer, and it was so empowering to take action and be a part of making a show happen. In the beginning of my career, I felt so desperate to work and kept waiting for the perfect scenario to present itself. It takes a thousand times more hard work to create your own opportunities, but it’s definitely worth it. Stop talking about what you want to do and DO IT!
  • The Deli Menu at Common Market Is AMAZING Seriously y’all, after months of rehearsing in South End, none of us ever got tired of this place. I’m partial to the Cobb salad myself, but you can’t really go wrong with anything there.

The biggest lesson we’re learning as we continue to produce is that theatre is changing. There’s no blue print or road map for how to produce and create. You have to flexible and realize that any plan you make is going to change. All we can do is take what we’ve learned and run through the open doors together!

Full Speed Ahead!

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New Year – New Partners – New Collaborations – New Projects in 2015

It’s been a while since my last post, but don’t be fooled! Just because I haven’t been blogging, doesn’t mean that I haven’t been working, scheming and dreaming. 2015 is shaping up to be an exciting year for donna scott productions. I’ll be ringing in the New Year with a whole list of “New” things that I’m excited to share.

  • New Partners! As I’ve said before, I am a huge fan of MORE when it comes to creativity, so I am taking my own advice and adding more people to my team. Tonya Bludsworth and Glynnis O’Donoghue are joining me as co-producers for the coming season. Tonya Bludsworth originally hired me as an actor for her first production of Carrie Ann Kiss and we became fast friends and partners on many other projects ever after. I had admired Glynnis’ acting when I saw her in a show years ago and then I saw a piece of her writing on stage. I knew I had to meet her and encourage her to keep writing, and we became fast friends and I realized she had many talents, including a fab producer brain! I feel so lucky to have them both officially on board. You can find out more about them on our Creative Team Page.
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    But why stop at taking on individual partners? Why not partner with an ENTIRE NEIGHBORHOOD? That’s right. This season, donna scott productions will be partnering with Historic South End to bring theatre to that part of Charlotte. If you’ve never been to South End, you are missing out on some amazing food, craft beer, shopping and visual arts. More on what we’ll be up to specifically later on in the post!South End Logo

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    Just a sampling of the kinds of fun you can have in Historic South End!

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  • New Logo! To reflect our expanded team and mission, I asked the talented Anthony Proctor to update the donna scott productions logo, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the result (see below). Those red ladies look ready to take on the world!
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    The dsp logo!space
  • New Projects! So I’ve got a fabtastic team and fresh looking logo – how am I going to put them to work? I’m so glad you asked! In early 2015, donna scott productions will present a staged reading of critically acclaimed Carrie Ann’s Kiss by Tonya Bludsworth (playwright and producer – I told you she was good!) and a full production/ run of the historical comedy Shiloh Rules by Doris Baizley. For more information about these projects, check out our News/Press page!

Lastly (but not least!), I’m thrilled to announce that donna scott productions was awarded a Cultural Project Grant and a Special Project Grant by the Arts and Science Council. These upcoming projects were made possible, in part, with funding from the Arts & Science Council, the N.C. Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources, and the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art.
(Check them out at http://www.artsandscience.org)
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To keep up with me and my new partners in crime, be sure to subscribe to this blog, like our Facebook page, follow us on Instagram and Twitter (you know the social media drill)! Here’s to an exciting and productive 2015!

What do we have in common with Diana Nyad?

“I have three messages. One is you should never never give up. Two is you are never too old to chase your dreams. And three is it looks like a solitary sport but it takes a team.” – Diana Nyad upon completing her lifelong quest to swim 110 mi. from Cuba to Florida.

Diana Nyad’s recent achievement is truly inspiring, that’s for sure. Anyone that holds that kind of drive and determination and physical stamina to achieve an endurance goal of this nature will certainly give us all pause. But it occurs to me that there are so many people that I know that are involved with theatre in Charlotte and they are also living  breathing examples of these words.

-The playwright who was told by a teacher in middle school that she didn’t have talent for writing, so she didn’t, for a long while. And then many years later as an adult she picked up a pen and wrote one successful play, and then another.

-The mom of two that really wanted to start something of her own. She didn’t know how it could work, but just knew she’d figure it out somehow. Now she runs a theatre company.

-The actor that had a dream of the kind of theatre she used to do and an idea that people would still be interested in it. She’s revived a defunct company and is now producing.

And these are just the top three I can think of, off the top of my head. Surrounded by the Nyads of Theatre, I am constantly reminded  to never give up, that I am never too old, and that it takes a team.

Theatre taught me to Thrift

(This post originally written for the Metrolina Restore Blog)

I do love vintage items and that has been my primary focus when thrift shopping. However, my introduction to the Metrolina Restore, specifically the one on Wendover in Charlotte where I most often shop, is the fact that I am an independent theatre producer perennially with very little budget for sets. We have to borrow, reuse and recycle and repurpose everything we can–many times from our own houses and friend’s houses- to keep the costs low. But whenever I need building materials for sets and such that I cannot borrow but must purchase-I head to the Restore, cause that’s where the real deals are, people!

Sets for theatre, like shows, are many differing styles and time periods defending on the production. The Restore has been a consistent resource for me for all of them. In a show I produced in 2010, The Dixie Swim Club, the set designer thought it would be great to have a sliding glass door on the set of our 1980s beach cottage to allow the characters to have scenes on their patio. This a very sexy set design element that typically I would never have been able to afford, but I put on my positive attitude hat and headed off to the Restore. Positive attitude counts when shopping because luck shined on me that day–all doors, including sliding glass ones, were 50% off–yahoooo! I think I paid $12.50 for my authentic beach house sliding glass door and my crackerjack set team installed it perfectly:914518359_wwdsc_0130

Chandler McIntryre, Tonya Bludsworth and Stephanie DiPaolo in Dixie Swim Club. Note the beautiful sliding glass door in the background! Photo taken by Weldon Weaver

Well, I have learned a lot in the last two years– the primary thing being that the Restore is NOT just for building materials: furniture, pictures, accessories–they have it all! The upcoming play I am currently producing, Least Likely Friends calls for a very modern New York City apartment set that we are building. Some choice furniture items from the Restore will be getting there moment on the stage yet again.

We got 3 of these fantastic lamps silver stick lamps with white shades- they were actually marked down from the listed price when we picked them up:

Lamp from Restore

Also this snazzola glass and chrome side table that is a perfect fit for modern NYC apartment life:

LLF side table

And, books. We needed lots o’ books for the built in book shelves on the set. This picture of friendly helpful Restore employee Ashley from Julia’s says it all:

LLF Books Tonya

And we also got a great rug…but more on shopping the Restore’s rugs and carpet remnants (TEASER!) in a not-too-much later post. But, hey, now you’re curious about this theatre show with the cool set and want to know more about THAT, right?! That’s the playwright/ director Tonya Bludsworth in the pic above with Ashley and you can check it all out here: Least Likely Friends Website. We open on June 12, so once it’s all up on stage and set is finalized I’ll do a pictorial update so you can see the Restore items in action!

Update: fantastic set of Least Likely Friends, built by set designer Whitney Yale, with some items from the Habitat ReStore on Wendover:

Pic on the right was before we painted the floor!

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We actually went back to the restore and found these two fab pedestal tables that worked in the apartment as well:

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We had a fantastic opening weekend– and along with the great story and acting. the set is getting lots of kudos. We have one week to go! Check out the show here: www.leastlikelyfriends.com

Baptism By Fire is Fun!

(This post originally appeared as part of the Charlotte Magazine Revue Blog Takeover Series)
Mixed metaphors aside, sometimes, you just gotta pull the trigger. And I am not talking about guns, people…I am talking about situations. Ideas. Events. Creativeness. Cleverness, even.
Space is THE BIGGEST COMMODITY for those of us in Charlotte in the Indy Theatre biz. It goes like this: You have a great idea for an event or show but you need a space to execute the idea. Spaces are expensive and usually booked waaaaay in advance. But sometimes, as you are confidently throwing your idea out there into the world, some fabulous forward thinking person that has access to a space buys in on your idea and you are put in a situation where you need to act quickly and seal the deal—possibly more quickly than you originally intended or planned.
Case in point No. 1: Chickspeare at NoDa Brewing
Susie Ford, owner of NoDa Brewing and Sheila Snow Procter were friendly aquantances. Upon a visit to the brewery, Sheila started talking one day to Susie about the Shakespeare group that she co-founded that at one time did shows in a brewery, and how fun and popular it was, etc, etc. Susie thought this was so fantastic and wondered if it would work at NoDa Brewing…and hey, maybe a food truck could be involved and here’s a few open dates, whaddaya think? Sheila agreed to jump in and pull the trigger-even though it meant she was gonna have to do something she hadn’t before: simultaneously act in and produce the show. This is no cakewalk, fyi. But, if you’ve been lucky enough to get a ticket to one of these fun ChicksBeer evenings, you know that they are now incredibly popular for NoDa Brewing and sell out whenever they are announced; it’s a perfect marriage of arts event and festive venue that’s a win for both groups involved, but wouldn’t have worked if either party hadn’t been willing to just go ahead and strike while the idea was hot.
Case in point No. 2: Yes and…Fest at Snug Harbor
Drea Cunningham had a fantastic idea for a local theatre arts fest that would showcase original work, improv and Indy theatre groups around town. She wanted it to be a benefit a worthy group: The Possibility Project, a group that allows Charlotte teens to create their own theatre piece and then present it to an audience. She knew Jason Michel, a partner at Snug Harbor and knew he was a supporter of the arts—he loved her idea and agreed with a pretty quick date less than 2 months away. She sent out a call with the opportunity to present to some groups around town and they agreed to make it happen—and on a rainy Sunday afternoon she produced her first ‘Yes and…Fest’ at Snug Harbor, complete with theatre companies presenting current work, a comedian, an improv short film, fun improv games for the group in-between sets and a special performance of a brand new piece by some of the teens of The Possibility Project. Such a funky arts way to spend a couple hours on your Sunday Funday…and yahoo!!! Tweeting, instagram, and social media sharing of the event was not only allowed but encouraged. Big win for all involved and there’s another one in the works for late summer/ early fall.
In both of these situations, the timbre of the event perfectly fit the venue, and for successful producing this is a crucial factor. More crucial than that—you have to be willing to strike while the iron is hot–cause sitting around and just talking is just that-and baptism by fire is a good way to learn stuff.