Monday, April 10, 2017

A Family Business

This January, there was nothing I was looking forward to more than going to New York City for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters’ 2017 Conference. I have known about this conference and all it does for the Stockbridge and Pinkerton for quite a long time, as my dad has attended it for many years as a part of his job. However, I had never been a part of the conference myself and I couldn’t wait to return to the city to be involved. And, right I was to be excited.  

Mr. Cahoon and Emma meet with an agent to discuss an artist.
APAP is a conference that is a prime example of how business meets the arts. It is always a behind the scenes, almost secret part of the presenting industry. Because of my father’s job, I have always seen the technical expectations and the hospitality requests that come with a touring artist, but even from my perspective, I had never seen how the performer actually got there and all that that involved. However, APAP proved to be the perfect way for me to learn more about it. I’m not sure about the other students, or even the two teacher chaperones, but I found the Expo Hall and the business meetings very interesting. The Expo Hall is where all of the agents for every single artist being represented are available to talk and book shows with presenters from around the country. Mr. Cahoon and Mrs. Tartarilla continued to tell us how crazy the Expo Hall is and how we might not want to spend much time in there. However, I was intrigued by this business side that I had never seen, nor expected in this line of work. I sat in on a few meetings between my dad and potential agents to discuss tour dates, prices, technical demands, and for the agents to pitch new shows to them. I was mostly struck in this process by how much really goes into these careers. While going through career consideration processes at school, this helped me see that picking such specific career-driven classes is hard because so many skills are included in just one career. On the surface, arts presenters have a career in fine arts, music and theater. However, after experiencing something like this, you can realize that this job also involves business, marketing, and programming. This experience taught me so much more about this particular career, and also about the value of digging deep into every aspect of any career you’d like to learn more about.

The largest part of the APAP experience for most people is getting to see performances. These performances can come in 15 to 20 minute showcases, 90 minute shows, or anywhere in between. The first performance we saw was an off-Broadway play entitled Puffs, which we all saw together. It was the perfect way to start the trip. It kept us entertained and interested, making a good first impression for the trip. I was able to see a multitude of jazz artists during APAP, and some of them stood out to me more than others. My favorite jazz band was the Seth Weaver Big Band, though I also saw talents such as Cynthia Sayer, Nicole Henry, and Rodney Marsalis. I also found that at APAP, you can find extremely culturally diverse acts and be exposed to all new types of things. For the chaperones and the other girls, there may have been many new artistic experiences, but for me, it was Alash, the Tuvan Throat Singers. It is certainly possible that I am the only 14 year old that has been exposed to all different sorts of art since the day I was born, but it was part of what made my experience unique. For example, Cirque Eloize: Saloon was a popular favorite for some of our group members, but I did not enjoy it. However, I recognize that this is most likely because I have seen an abundance of circus companies perform, most of which are older and have more experience than Cirque Eloize. As the trip progressed, I learned that this is one of the best experiences you will ever be given to find the art you don’t understand, and find the art you love and appreciate, as long as you are open to exploring everything. For me, the art that I loved and that inspired me was Koresh Dance Company. Koresh’s work is the type of art that makes you step back and process what you are seeing and what it is making you feel. In my opinion, that is the most important kind of art. Their ability to evoke emotions and thoughts through movement and how they incorporate words, breath and percussion into their pieces will stick with me for a long time.
Koresh Dance Company was a highlight of the trip
The part of the trip that set it apart the most from the other attendees was my head on experiences with New York based artists. Because I attended the trip with my dad, I was able to travel around the city with him to meet with some of his old friends. This is part of what made the trip extremely valuable to me and that I think should be taken under consideration. The first group of people that we met in the city were Vit Horejs and Bonnie Stein. Vit and Bonnie run the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre. We met with them in their tiny apartment to return a puppet of theirs, and it was a great way to truly experience, though just for a moment, what it is actually like to live in New York City. Everything is small and tight, but it is clear that it is easy to get used to if you are there doing what you love. The other thing I learned on that particular adventure is how large New York City is. Vit and Bonnie live in the Village, and on the way to their apartment, I
Vit Horejs from Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre
took in how large the city really is. It seems like a completely different place all the way over there! We also met with a Pinkerton alum, Alyssa Dillon, who moved to New York after college to pursue a career in technical theater. Now, she is the Props Master at
Sleep No More, which is a production of Macbeth that takes place on a 5-story, interactive set. Being able to meet with Alyssa was a direct example of someone straight from Pinkerton that pursued what she loves and is successful in doing so. Seeing Alyssa living successfully in New York, doing what she has always enjoyed is a great way to just let us know that it is possible to do what you love outside of high school, and that what we are doing now could turn into a career. Soon before we left the city, my dad and I had one last meeting. We met in a small coffee shop with Rebecca Tucker and Nick Wilder. Rebecca and Nick are New York based actors who have worked on shows with my dad in the past. I didn’t take part in much of the conversation with them, but just being able to observe and listen was enough to get a good idea of how crazy their life as actors is. Rebecca and Nick live in New York City, but don’t get nearly as many acting jobs as they do in New Hampshire, Boston, Florida, and New England based national tours. They are able to make a living by living in New York City, but getting cast all over the east side of the country, which I find very interesting, considering that many people move to New York City to perform there. From this quick get-together at a coffee shop, the three of them made plans to bring Nick and Rebecca to New Hampshire and have them talk to our students about majoring in theater and pursuing it as a career. These are the types of things that are probably the most valuable pieces of information to learn on a trip like this. Since so much of what is talked about at school is all about career and college choices, I believe that we should all be given opportunities like this to honestly talk to people who have pursued our “dream” careers.

After getting excited about and attending the conference, I am aware of how beneficial this experience was. I learned so much and I want to make sure more people continue to learn these things. The arts are so important, and keeping the arts alive is important. To do this, even just at Pinkerton, I want to work to get more people involved and interested in this trip, because so many more people deserve to experience what I experienced this January.
-Emma Cahoon, Class of 2020

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

APAP 2017- Flow

Of the 33 performances I saw at the 2017 APAP Conference, the highlight of my APAP weekend was a performance of the Theater of War company. The experience was thought-provoking, inspirational and the most memorable.

Image result for theater of war productions
Bryan Doerries, Artistic Director of Theater of War
From the depression-era to the Cold War to the anti-war protests of the 60’s and beyond, American theatre has served as a platform for social commentary and action. Theater of War continues that tradition with community-specific, reader’s theater-based projects that address some of the most pressing social issues of our time. The company uses various plays to address such topics as PTSD, end of life care, police and community relations, domestic violence, substance abuse and addiction, gun violence and prison reform. Each dramatic reading is followed by a panel discussion between varied members of the community and a town hall style audience exchange.

We saw Theater of War actors deliver powerful scene readings from three plays: Antigone, Ajax and Long Day’s Journey Into Night. The Artistic Director of Theater of War, Brian Doerries, provided the audience with a little background on the readings and how they have been used to facilitate growth and change in communities. Readings from the Greek tragedy Ajax are used to promote dialogue about war and PTSD. Long Day’s Journey Into Night serves as a springboard for discussion about substance abuse and addiction. Theater of War’s most expansive project to date is Antigone at Ferguson which uses Sophocles’ Antigone to forge conversations about the impact of gun violence on communities and healing between law enforcement and the citizens they serve. That program has been expanded to include a gospel choir in lieu of a Greek chorus. I hope to see the full program of Antigone at Ferguson at Dartmouth College later this year.

Among the scene readings we saw, Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night seems the most relevant to students and families in Derry and surrounding towns. Even as I write this blog, hundreds of New Hampshire students are attending an opioid summit at the SNHU Arena in Manchester. With nearly 500 opioid related deaths in New Hampshire in 2016, the time is right to bring this particular Theater of War performance and panel discussion to the Stockbridge Theatre. I am excited to see that become a reality.

-Susanne Tartarilla, Associate Dean of Students, Theater Program Director

Friday, February 24, 2017

From NY to Derry

The cast of Doomsday Romance backstage at the Stockbridge.
If you’re wondering what caused the Flying Spaghetti Monster to invade the quiet rural neighborhoods of Derry a few weeks ago and land on the Stockbridge Theatre stage, ask the students who attended last year’s APAP conference in New York City.  Their enthusiasm for this talented Broadway’s Next Hit Musical group resulted in Pinkerton witnessing the creation of its very own musical, Doomsday Romance. Patrons roared at this talented and hilarious troupe’s creative spontaneity, and they were able to walk away with their very own souvenir, a download of the new locally world famous next Broadway hit, “The Flying Spaghetti Monster.”  If they wanted, they could purchase the entire score of Doomsday Romance, which the troupe created in mere minutes after the audience voted for its favorite from four “nominated” songs whipped up on stage based upon the song titles audience members had created and placed in a fishbowl as they entered the theater.  That night we sat in our seats hoping that our song name would be picked, experienced the thrill of a sorta somewhat actual awards show, and watched six people create a whole musical based upon that one slip of paper.  The audience rose to their feet at the end of that evening with sheer delight, all at our Stockbridge Theatre.

Jose Limon Dance captivated audiences with their new work.
And all because a group of our students and faculty rushed from one showcase to another in a three-day whirlwind APAP experience.  This year, to add to the excitement, Mother Nature threw in a major snowstorm that made us navigate slush and snowbanks to see the entire spectrum of talent that is available not only in America’s theater district, but from touring companies all across the world.  The highlights for me were certainly Elise Management’s dance showcase (for reasons that only a few of us PA attendees can appreciate!), particularly Limon Dance Company; the Estonian Piano Orchestra, with eight pianists playing four grand pianos; and the spectacular Cirque Eloize, which truly lived up to its billing as a musical acrobatic adventure. My first major takeaway, having attended a multitude of Broadway productions in my life, was the amazing talent that lies beyond the Times Square or Lincoln Center area.  I finally saw my first off-Broadway production, a spoof on Harry Potter that had Mrs. T and me laughing throughout—and fascinated by the two Potter groupies sitting in front of us.  I visited talent venues tucked away in buildings that the average tourist would only pass by on his or her way to St. Patrick’s or Rockefeller Center—one jazz concert at the Yamaha piano studio was particularly compelling.  Yes, I saw jazz. The second takeaway from all these experiences—especially as a result of visiting the three floors 
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Mr. Gaucher made sure that the students had ample snacks for the trip.
of talent exhibitions at the Hilton—is that the world of entertainment offers a wide variety of career opportunities for our students.  We focused on entertainers, but they are only the tip of the entertainment industry iceberg. Behind the scenes, the opportunities exist for artists and writers and business people and producers and designers and . . . the list goes on.  If our students want to work in a creative industry, there is a profession out there for them, and their experiences at the Stockbridge Theatre—and at the APAP conference—provide a great background for those who dream to be a part of the world of arts and entertainment.

-Peter Gaucher, English Department Head