Kristen Coury is the Founder and Producing Artistic Director of Gulfshore Playhouse and is currently directing An Enemy of the People.
Given the fact that I have spent my life in the theatre, I am often found ruminating on what it is that makes “theatre people” so special. I have talked in this blog about how actors are the great metaphysicians , and talked about how designers can make magic onstage with light but I don’t believe I’ve talked about theatre makers as a whole, and that means actors, directors, designers, and members of the production and administrative teams. Here are three of the ways in which we are different from many others:
We know how to work to them. In fact, we thrive on them. Have you ever heard the phrase “the show must go on?” Well it’s true, and it is truly adhered to in our world. We have dates over a year in advance of when we need to have the next season chosen and the design team hired. There are preliminary and final drawings of the scenery, sound plot, light plot and costume renderings. And we know it all has to happen on time and under budget. (And I mean “under budget” which is not easy when you are also racing to a deadline.) That deadline is opening night. We know the curtain will go up at 8pm and we’d better be ready. And somehow, miraculously, we always are. Two points in the column for theatre-makers as “magic makers.” Somehow, we magically always pull it off.
We make something from nothing…all the time. Whether it’s figuring out a new way to secure the donation that keeps us in the black, or solving how to do a large-scale musical with only 10 people and two pianos, we are always up for the creative challenge.
Many of our “creative challenges” center around how to best utilize our space at the Norris Center. For our current production of “An Enemy of the People” we have 9 people onstage and three discrete locations in the text, with only 20 square feet onstage and two dressing rooms! And yet somehow, thanks to scene designer Charles Murdock Lucas and his six doors, four amenable actors, and a very resourceful wardrobe team, we made it happen. Two more points in the column for theatre-makers as “magic makers.” Somehow, we magically make it work.
This is the big one.
Theatre people make choices so often on faith, we don’t even realize we’re doing it. “So you wanna do a 10-person, 2-piano version of My Fair Lady on a 20×20 foot stage?” asked the owners of the rights to My Fair Lady. “Yes,” said we. “Well, okay, but we don’t know how it’s done so you figure it out, and we’ll lease your version to other theatres once you’ve done it.” “Okay,” said we. And here we go. And, yes, two points to the theatre-makers as “magic makers” for somehow always getting to the finish line.
We jump into new productions, bring new hires from far away, and dream of new buildings which will house our Tony Award-winning regional theatre all with that same amount of faith. We know, and have always known, that our future includes a 400-seat state of the art Mainstage, a 175-seat studio theatre, and an education wing to bring light, joy, and creativity to as many of our region’s youth as possible. Luckily, we have people like Patty and Jay Baker who are great visionaries, and are showing great faith in us, with their $10M matching gift. And now, thanks to them, we are able to run forward toward our exciting future with a whole lot of vision and a whole lot of faith. I look forward to getting that deadline.