I’m on the board, it would be kind of silly if I didn’t.
Why am I on the board? Good question. Lord knows I’ve been burned in the past by getting more directly involved with theater companies. What helped me over my trepidation?
Workhouse Theatre Company is good people. I found that out by working with them.
2012, the marriage amendment was on the ballot for the upcoming election. I’d been working with Project 515 on a touring show to local colleges and community groups but I wanted to do more.
I had a script already written, previously commissioned and performed at Allegheny College in 2009. It was a comedy – a brother and sister each marrying the man they love in a double wedding ceremony, officiated by a transgender woman pastor who lost her church when she transitioned. One of the groom’s brothers is leading protests outside the church, and a cop there for security takes a shine to the lady minister.
The theater company I had been working with made it clear they didn’t want to do another play of mine right away, even though there seemed a compelling reason to produce it now rather than later in Minnesota. So I went shopping around. I’d worked with The Flower Shop Project before on a couple of projects, and I’d been meaning to find a project on which to work with Workhouse Theatre. Neither of them felt they could handle the production solo, but both agreed it should be done, so I suggested they collaborate and co-produce.
During the production process, Mark Webb, Executive Director and resident lighting designer at Workhouse, noticed how well everyone was getting along – a common cause will do that. So he started talking with Bethany Hummel from Flower Shop about merging the companies. And so it came to be.
One thing Flower Shop brought with it was the Greenhouse Project, a vehicle for developing new plays. We got to build a play submission process and a monthly public reading series with audience feedback that treated writers and their work the way we all wanted to be treated. It’s over halfway through its second year now.
Workhouse also got the education programming that had been its starting point eleven years ago up and running again. We even read through piles of new and established plays and put together a season with which to relaunch the company.
Then we lost our space.
The owner of the building decided he wanted to repurpose the space as a rental for retail and he had a ready tenant. Producing theater there, where Workhouse had been for nine years (and won an Ivey award while they were at it) was no longer a viable option. They graciously allowed us to continue to do the play readings there once a month, but come the end of year two of the readings, even that will be going away.
Why’s a new space so tough? Venues are few but there seem to be enough to go around, right?
Workhouse is a north Minneapolis, Camden neighborhood-based theater company. To continue the mission we started, we have to find a viable space in that part of town. It’s been a long search but we’re actually starting to get some decent leads just recently.
What we really need, though, is a full-time staff person with the theater as their day job. We’ve got someone ready to make the leap. We just need to front two months’ salary ($10,000) and then they become a real estate agent meeting, community relationship building, sponsor securing, board member recruiting, grant writing, marketing machine. To find us a home, to alert our audience to our imminent return, to raise the money to rent and renovate our new home, not to mention find month three and beyond of his salary, and of course, those lovely production costs involved in mounting a full season of theater. The board is all volunteer and we’re butting up against the limits of what we can do when we’re all preoccupied during regular business hours just trying to pay the bills (and some of us work the night shift).
My marriage equality play, But Not For Love, grew a lot in the rehearsal process with Workhouse. And it reminded me that theater still has a purpose. Workhouse wants to fulfill that purpose. I want to help them get there. Richard Jackson is a great director. Kat Pepmiller created some wonderful costumes. Foster Jones was a key part of a terrific ensemble cast. All these folks (plus Mark and Bethany) helped grow the new version of But Not For Love, and joined together to help form the nucleus of the new company. Add on Casey Franklin our friendly lawyer type, actor Glen Stone, and the recently recruited Jane Froiland who’s taken on the education programs, and that’s our current crew. These are people with whom I want to continue developing my plays. And help develop other people’s plays. To present stories that people might not see anywhere else. To bring theater to a part of town that needs and deserves it. I’m a playwright in residence currently in need of a residence.
So that’s why I give to Workhouse.
If you can join us at the March Midday Merriment event on Saturday, March 28th (12noon to 3pm) at Northgate Brewery (783 Harding Street NE, Minneapolis), we’d love to see you.
If you can’t be there, but you still want to help, follow this link and give as you’re able
You can also use this handy link.
A gift of any size helps us get a little closer to a new home, and a return to producing mainstage theater again.
Thanks for whatever help you can give.