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:

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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.

My MORE is MORE Charlotte Arts Philosphy

I get oh-so-very tired of the ubiquitous “less is more” credo. It seems that we are being told constantly to accept or be happy with less: less stuff in our lives, less busy-ness, less carbs, less work, less technology, less soda blahdy blahdy blahdy blah and it is just so bo-ring to me!  I do get the general theory behind simplifying it all, but I am not sure I like the practice of it–as generally applied to everything in our culture, and as the current consensus would have it.  I will happily admit, there are certain things of which I will always unabashedly want MORE; many of them are chocolate and that goes without saying. However, in terms of Charlotte’s arts scene….I consistently find  myself hoping for MORE of certain very specific things and I will continue to make it my mission to do everything in my power in my small portion of the world of Charlotte to facilitate these big ‘ole wants. I scoff at the idea that less is more–in my book only MORE is truly MORE!

And, to that end, here is my personal Charlotte Arts MORE is MORE list:

1. I want MORE Charlotte writers to get their voices heard. 

We need more diversity in perspective, always.  I especially encourage female writers because they are the least represented in all mediums. And since women are over 50% of the population, our stories ARE universal. Period.

If you are a writer of any type and I know it, I will tend to ask you everytime I see you if you are writing. I do this not to bug, but because  I do genuinely want to know and because I believe encouragement of this typically solitary artistry is crucial. Whether it’s poetry, theatre, a novel, spoken word, music, a screenplay–we need more voices. Write MORE, CLT people!

2.I want MORE Charlotte artists to become self-producers.

As artists, even when we are currently involved in a project we are all  typically clamoring after our next job. The only way around this is to take a grand leap and employ ourselves part of the time via producing our own projects. Although self-producing is not easy, it will afford you a modicum of control over your artistic life that you will not have otherwise. It is simply a way to ensure that you are always working on a project in which you believe and of which you absolutely want to be a  part. It puts you in the proactive driver’s seat: ‘I am creating something!’ versus the reactive waiting game: ‘I sure hope someone chooses me.’ It is wonderfully empowering to be the Creator of a project. Self producing allows you to take back some finite control of your artistic life. That feeling of control is worth a whole lot in this business and as a result all of this is good for your career path, your psyche and ultimately your art.

So if you ever happen to ask me, even in passing, about producing or show an inkling of interest in this at all,  I WILL sit you down and share everything I know to help you become the show runner of your artistic life. I happen to think that the more artists that we have that understand this business aspect of things, the faster and stronger we will grow as an artistic community. We’ll have more creative artist-driven projects being born right here, which will be fantastic. In addition, the knowledge of what happens on the other side of the process will ultimately add value to your presence within a project as a cast member/artist because you will better understand the bigger picture of the project as a whole. Wanna know more? Ask me, you’ll get an ear full.

3. I want MORE information sharing and arts crowdsourcing in our community.

I have seen recently something that warms the cockles of my heart here in Charlotte—arts orgs aiding other arts orgs here in town, helping to get the word out about projects and events. We are a small community and we need to do MORE of this. The adage ‘the high tide rises all the boats’ really does apply here; together as a larger group we are much stronger than if we choose to exist in our small company-oriented vacuums. So helping each other out in this way is good for the karma and the community.

This is the reason I ADORE twitter. Twitter contains infinite amounts of sharing and sourcing of great ideas all swapped freely in relation to theatre, independent film and the arts in general from all around the country and worldwide. If you aren’t on twitter yet you should be, even if it’s just to lurk around a read a bit, which is an easy way to start. Twitter is a medium based on engagement though, so get yourself a fun twitter handle and a funky avatar (remove that ugly egg please!) and hop on. I consistently re-tweet articles and links from around the web about arts life in Charlotte and other places, Charlotte cool stuff to do, interesting places to eat, drink, meet, etc. so follow me @donnachronicles and say hi, and I will follow back.

These are my primary MORE is MORE wants for this week for Charlotte; I find they change daily at my personal artsy whimsy and with my creative mood. Do tell–what would you like to see MORE of in the CLT arts scene?

Summer is for new projects! And, fun podcasts and interviews-

…..and there are a few floating around in the ether that have been seemingly wanting to gel for sometime now! It’s all very exciting and we’ll announce here soon. And, sheesh, yeah–we’ll be blogging away about them too, cause shared information makes us all wiser, smarter, stronger, and rises all the boats for us here in the arts in the CLT.

In the meantime,  I had a great interview experience with Dr. Nancy Berk, of the fun & fab ‘Whine at 9’ weekly Podcast, whose sassy motto is “There’s nothing wrong with a little whine, especially if it leads to laughter, solutions and strategy.” Love. It.  And, her too,  by the way. This lady’s doing a lot of fun and informational stuff in her own right. Books, tours, speaking engagements-and that’s only the beginning–check her out.

You can hear my  full interview with Dr. Nancy here. We cover a lot of ground in less than 20 minutes, including the continued success of the short film Aphasia and some upcoming theatre projects in the pipeline….

Theatre without a net. Wait…

Several weeknds ago, I flew without a net, theatre-wise.

I was asked to be a director for one of the six short plays presented as part of 24-Hour Theatre Project at Theatre Charlotte. This is a special theatre boot camp event where, in the course of one 24 hour period, a play is written, cast and fully produced on stage. Typically, the rehearsal process alone takes a full 3-4 weeks or more for a non-musical, just as a point of comparison.

Anyone that is familiar with theatre knows that one of the most thrilling things about it is that it is live, so there is always an element of excitement connected to the performance. And because it is live, any number of things can happen during the course of a performance that are COMPLETELY UNPLANNED, adding an element of unknown for everyone involved, including the audience. It is, technically, acting without a net. But, those of us that participate on a regular basis have many different rituals and tricks that we utilize in attempt to control the chaos that eventually becomes the art. So a theatre project where all of the existing givens are now variable unknowns is pretty darn unnerving. And somewhat intimidating. Included in these unknowns, by the way, was the overall theme of the plays. The writers themselves didn’t even get that piece of info until 8pm on the night they were to start writing against their 12 hour deadline.

Anyone that has ever worked with me on any project knows that I work to conquer and control the variable unknowns that live and lurk in my theatre world.
As an actor, I check and double-check props and costume pieces prior to a show, even though there are typically additional people tasked with doing this. I create lists of my clothing changes and props needed between my scenes, print out copies and post at all stage entrances and exits. I figure out my ‘plan B’ for the times that the prop phone doesn’t ring, an actor doesn’t enter or drops a line, or drops a glass, etc. I do love rehearsal, and have been known to schedule extra time for work outside of the original set schedule. When I step on stage I forget all that planning and let it go, but these organizational items provide structure for my process.
As an independent theatre producer, my planning takes on a whole other level. Typically, I pick my pieces over 2 years in advance, and secure any producing partners, funding and sponsors. I cast and hire tech personnel as much as a year in advance of the project. I even pre-purchase costume pieces, props, and opening night gifts if I see something that I think will work within the confines and themes of the show. I work from tabbed and divided notebooks, keeping track of it all as I go. I have been told, repeatedly, in my producing career that I set deadlines for things “too early”. But I start early and consider myself a practical realist; something inevitably will happen that is unexpected and if everything else is already tied up, decided upon and generally done, then there is time to deal with the unknown surprise issue(s). Yes, I know: this means I plan for the surprise. But, it is how I prefer to work and it feels practical to me.

So you can understand why being a part of something like the 24-Hour Theatre Project should send me into override. And I am guessing Ron Law, Executive Director at Theatre Charlotte and a project partner of mine for three years running considered this about me as well, but asked me to be a part of this project anyway- for which I am very grateful. I was surprised, to say the least, at my personal reaction to all of this. Instead of feeling nervous, I found it all absolutely exhilarating. The whole thing became about quickly identifying and utilizing the opportunities that were immediately presenting themselves. I got lucky, and was gifted with an incredibly witty, well written and workable piece which I later found out was written by Charlotte Magazine writer Jenn Grabenstetter. Bonus: It had a well placed twist of a punchline about a timely topic. The actors were game to ‘mine the funny’ into comedy bits that really worked well with the structure; and here I learned something. As a director, there is nothing better than coming up with what you perceive as a funny bit, watching actors execute it perfectly and then having it kill in front of an audience. The entire process felt like it was somehow on organic fast forward! When the actors got up to do their one and only performance that evening, they took it to the next level, and as I sat on the back row in the dark of the theatre with my fellow directors at the jumping off point, I felt really proud of all the unbelievable work that everyone had done in that one 24 hour period.

I am currently working on development of several brand new theatre projects about all of which I am very excited. The collaborations are ones that I have been thinking about and working toward for some time now. The juggling should prove to be interesting because they are all very unique pieces at different stages of development. I certainly don’t have it all figured out yet-but strangely, that’s not bothering me this time around. I am now flying without a net… and I think I like it.