Quita smiles with her arms crossed over her lap.
Senior Program Director, Theater

Over the course of the year, I have attended presenter conferences, talking to artists and presenters in Seattle, Minneapolis, Atlanta, and then New York City during APAP. Many of the conversations have centered on “risk” – artists who want presenters to take a risk and present their work and presenters who want to present a more diverse fare but are concerned about alienating their audiences and risking future attendance.

“You see, while I do understand the economic reality of touring and of presenting dance in general, the finances are unrelated to my sense of success. I want engagement...genuine connection that sparks curiosity and creativity. My metrics are harder to track and I think that they often frustrate grant makers. My metrics range from stories from participants to new projects that evolve or doors that open in people's minds or careers. They require time to develop and often tenacity to track down.”\The purpose of this panel was to introduce the idea of artists and/or small presenters who take on large projects but spread the risk by sharing the production and activities with other presenters or artists. The feedback that we received indicated that the session was helpful and intriguing, especially to artists who are having a hard time getting performance opportunities and presenters who have small budgets or are interested in the type of performance not usually encountered in the APAP marketplace atmosphere."

On January 12, inspired in part by this quote from Karen Krolak, I moderated a panel titled Peer to Peer Presenting – an old/new way.

The panelists for this session were:

  • Eric Bass, Sandglass Theater

Sandglass Theater partnered with the Vermont Performance Lab to bring Cry You One¸ a collaboration between Mondo Bizarro and ArtSpot Productions, two New Orleans based companies and a recipient of a National Theater Project in 2012. Cry You One is an outdoor performance that journeys into the heart of Louisiana’s disappearing wetlands. It celebrates the people and cultures of South Louisiana while turning clear eyes on the crisis of the vanishing coast. Sandglass is a very small puppet theater company with a small presenting program. They neither had the land or space that would allow them to bring a work that they were truly excited by and only by engaging the community in activities surrounding the performances and utilizing the resources of Vermont Performance Lab (including the corn field), were they able to make it work.

More on the Sandglass experience can be found here and here.

  • Karen Krolak, Monkeyhouse

Monkeyhouse: When Monkeyhouse’s artistic director Karen Krolak decided to bring Fleur d’Orange, a Moroccan dance company, to Boston for a residency and performance through NEFA’s Center Stage program, she knew it was going to be a labor of love – mostly labor. To begin with, Monkeyhouse was homeless, having lost its performance space of many years. It was going to take many, many partnerships to present this work but she was determined to make it happen. It took 13 partners, some long term and some new for a residency that brought in diverse audiences for all of the events. More than 50% of the audience that came to the workshops and/or performances were new to Monkeyhouse. The residency strengthened their partnerships and increased audience awareness of Monkeyhouse.

Karen Krolak’s blogs on the experience can be found here and here.

  • Park Cofield, Network of Ensemble Theater

I asked Park Cofield of the Network of Ensemble Theaters to be a part of the panel because, as the program associate responsible for the NET/TEN grants, he has an intimate knowledge of how artists are working to promote peer to peer exchange and presenting. The Network of Ensemble Theaters’ Travel & Exchange Network (NET/TEN) grants are intended to create new opportunities for reciprocal exchanges with peers and colleagues to share information, techniques, inspiration, expertise, and performances among ensembles. These grants support more than performance exchange, they support the networking that needs to happen in order to create the in depth partnership experience like the ones created by Sandglass and Monkeyhouse.

More info on the NET grants, including the upcoming April deadline.

All panelists were invited because they had been involved in or provided support on projects that were both large in scope and intimately entwined with their vision. The conversation in the room ranged from “who do I contact if I want to get support for a festival when I have no space to do one?” to “how do you convince others to participate?” to “would you do it again?” Some of the questions were very practical, related to current or future projects. While the questions posed were varied, often the answer was the same: we couldn’t have done this project without the relationships that were built and strengthened before and during the process. It was the relationships built with the community, with other presenters, with businesses that made these intricate, large-scale projects possible for these small presenters. Having the support of the NET/TEN grant, Center Stage, or the NTP grant was invaluable because those resources helped leverage other resources. But, ultimately, it was because of the importance of the project to their missions and the developed strength of the relationships built during the process that both Monkeyhouse and Sandglass said yes, they’d do it again.