WARNING: The opinions expressed below are DEFINITELY those of The CoLab Theatre Company! Learn more at www.colabtheatre.org!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Making Music

Hello all. This spring I have had the pleasure of being a "reader" on a senior thesis type project for some Tufts students I work with in the Music Department. This project was to complete a minor in Media Studies and Communications (or something along those lines...see I'm a very well informed reader ;-) ) and was called Music for Free. These students are hoping to be able to make and market their music as post grads and started this year by producing an EP. Though the full EP hasn't been released yet they are well on their way. They won Tufts Battle of the Bands and will performing between Drake and OK GO at Tufts Spring Fling this weekend. Their process and approach is really similar to what we're doing here with theatre. They have produced, recorded, mixed, and edited their EP so far absolutely for FREE. Amazing. And the music is pretty kick ass too. Take a look at their Blog www.loriandandymakearecord.blogspot.com. And stay tuned in, these kids are going places.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

In Which Kenny Can't Shut His Big Dumb Mouth

I'm extremely opinionated. I'm sure that's a shock to anyone who reads this blog. But believe it or not, I have a tendency to open my big stupid mouth at times when most tactful people would deem it wise to clam up. Thus far in my life, this practice hasn't hurt me or my artistic/career goals. However, I do constantly struggle with the possibility that I might someday cross the fine line between opinionated and overzealous.

I bring this up on account of some issues transpiring right now completely unrelated to the theatre. I reserve this blog purely for issues and topics related to theatre, the arts or living life as an artist. Therefore, we need not go into details here. But to make a long story short, I've totally lost it and wailed on some pseudo intellectuals over the last few days. I found myself sniping and tearing to pieces (rather snarkily I might add!) students and professors commenting on some issues related to a topic I barely care about. I don't have a strong opinion on the issue... I just, quite frankly, can't stand intellectuals who argue like cable news pundits. So instead of arguing with their point... I just satirize them in an attempt to unmask them for who they are: talking point hacks.

Anywho, this is supposed to be a blog about art... So what does this bring me to? My question: What is the role of an artist in today's society? It's a boring question, I know. But the answer I propose is unusual.

The stereotypical answer is that artists these days are either of the "Art for art's sake!" variety or total commercial sell outs. Neither of these is totally true, though neither is totally false. For every assembly line churned high budget turd production out there, you'll find just as many masturbatory black box disasters out there. It's true, and we all think it. That's okay.

So I'm here to go out and say: Art for art's sake is stupid, foolish and a byproduct of ego inflation. For centuries, art was about ritual. It was about tribute. It was about politics and religion. It was about something higher.

In the classic theatrical text "Impro" Keith Johnstone writes of stone carving statues of a particular indigenous people. I cannot find the book, so I'm unable to cite exactly, but he writes that these craftsmen did not carve out figures according to a preconceived notion of what the figure should look like. Rather, they believed that there were figures that already lived inside these blocks of wood. Therefore, rather than thrust their ego and prejudice into the figure, they sought to release the essence and soul of what already resided there.

I think that is the essence of what makes great art. I'm not saying there should not be any more political plays. I'm also not saying that I don't enjoy the occasional 1960's Neil Simon laugh riot. Hell, I even like Andrew Lloyd Webber on occasion. But when an individual, artist or intellectual, seeks to impose his will or vision on a work or discussion, he cheapens that art. Humans, as individuals are fallible and petty. It's when we strive for something better that we truly accomplish great things. Don't deny that part of your craft.

To revisit a theme from a previous post, Paradise Lost is a brilliant play not because of the political message. It's brilliant because Clifford Odets captured the essence of what already existed in his time. The struggle and passion of Americans who still believed in America despite the collapse of their economy. Moreover, the struggle of a good honest man who struggles to maintain morality even in the face of financial ruin. As a Marxist, it would've been easy and convenient to impose a deep rigid political message into his plays. And while he did have deep radical left opinions, his text didn't read like a political text. It was life. It was truth.

As quoted by the A.R.T. website:

"It is my hope that when people see Paradise Lost they're going to be glad they're alive. And I hope that after they've seen it, they'll turn to strangers sitting next to them and say "hello".
Clifford had it right. He didn't impose a message based on ego onto his work. He carved out a story based on the life and truth of his characters. That's something we could all learn to strive for.

Seriously, what a jerk...


If you are curious about the enemies in question, check out his political sniping on the comments page of this University student newspaper... yep, he's that petty. This is just one example of the time I wasted the last few days.

Warning, I use some offensive language. But that's mostly for my own amusement. Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Persona: n. an individual's social facade or front
- MLM translation: Basically the you you put out to the world, what you want people to see. The person you create for yourself, the best you, you can be.

Personality: n. a set of distinctive traits and characteristics
- MLM Translation: The inherent you. Sometimes you show it to people, sometimes you try really really hard NOT to show it to people. Stripped down and honest, selfness.

As a performer I definitely try to keep these things somewhat separate. I always want to be putting my Persona forward. Not that it isn't influenced by my personality, how could it not be? But it is the best parts I pick and choose. It is natural. Everyone does it. But I find, it gets tricky in this business to keep hold of the innate you and not let your Persona take over sometimes.

Networking, self-promotion, auditions, performances, blogging...sometimes it feels like I'm always on. Not only that but most of the time I find most of my personal conversations having to do with theatre. Most of my free time is spent seeing shows or going to workshops and other arts events. And most of my friends are theatre people. And when anything has to do with theatre, I turn on the Persona and stifle the personality. It's where "the life" takes over really living and I become a big blur. The competition and pressure of this business and the expectations we all have of ourselves can be overwhelming, it causes what I am dubbing "Persona Take Over". So I'm using this post to show my true colors. Even the ugly ones. You know, like puce.

I love camping. I like being touristy and going to nerdy things like the Bunker Hill Monument and Orchard House. And reading, and driving aimlessly, and wasting an entire day doing nothing but sleeping. I am moody. I get irrationally angry (like I throw things at the wall because I can't find my left shoe). Sometimes I can be really mean. Like really unnecessarily mean. And controlling. I like to be in charge. A lot. And as put together and organized as I want to seem, my room is perpetually in a state of horrifying disarray (hence not being able to find my left shoe). These are things I keep out of my Professional-Theatre-Mary-Liz. Which I'm sure is good for my life in the theatre. I mean no one wants disorganized super-bitch on the rampage in their rehearsal room. I know that.

But as much as I love theatre. As driven as I am to keep working and growing and connecting, as important as it is to me, I can't do it if I'm not a whole person. If I don't take the good with the bad. If I'm not honest, if I don't let the real personality show...or at least admit that it exists. It's the flaws in me that make me who I am. And letting my Persona take over takes away the traits and emotions that make me whole. I think it's easy to forget that in this business. Or ignore it. Or hide it. But, I feel, that losing yourself, letting the work consume you, only serves to eventually stifle growth and work and connections. It isn't as interesting. It isn't real.

So here I am. Mary-Liz. Fun and professional. Sassy and smart. Moody, angry and nerdy.

Not so blurry.

Monday, April 26, 2010

In Which Erika Embarks on an Adventure

Tomorrow, at the miserable hour of 3:30 a.m. I will embark on a fabulous, fabulous adventure! I'll be flying out to Seattle where I'll meet up with one of my best friends from college, Lauren. Over the course of the next ten days we will explore Seattle, brave crossing the Canadian border, take our car on a day and a half ferry ride, and eventually end up in the gorgeous town of Sitka, AK. I plan on looking for moose, fishing, hiking, wreaking havoc in Vancouver, fending off bears, fending off fishermen, and of course saying hello to Sarah Palin and Russia for all of you. I'm beyond excited. I've got to get to bed, but I will be sure to keep you posted on this exciting journey. (Preview: It's going to include a ton of rain!) Enjoy your next week and a half kiddos, I'll see you when I'm back on the East coast!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Adding to the playground...


Call for Submissions!

We are currently seeking short plays dealing with the theme of family, growing up, home, moving out, etc. The chosen piece become part of an ensemble event in the late summer. Works need not be in final draft, as we are willing to workshop! Deadline for submissions is May 31st, 2010! E-mail submissions to colabtheatre@gmail.com !

Friday, April 23, 2010

South Park and The Freedom To Choose

I don't know if any of you have been keeping up with the South Park controversy, but I had some thoughts on this particular issue, as it pertains to the question of an artist's responsibility.
To bring you up to speed: In 2006, South Park aired a two part episode in which the depiction of the Prophet Muhammed was debated. A show within the show was censored out of fear that the citizens of south park would be targeted for violence by outraged fundamentalists. In the end, the characters decide to allow the program to be aired, and nothing of consequence ends up happening. This episode was written in response to the Danish cartoon crisis in Europe and attempted to open a dialogue on the double standard of satire. Trey Parker and Matt Stone had animated the conclusion to depict Muhammed innocously, but Comedy Central blocked the image. This, despite the fact that Muhammed has been depicted on South Park in a 2001 episode without incident.

Earlier this week, they revisited this theme and were censored once again by Comedy Central, who aired the episode with edits and bleeps not approved by the Parker or Stone. Subsequently, the previous episodes, which had been available to stream, were taken down and replaced with apology messages. Comedy Central made this decision following not so thinly veiled death threats and anger directed towards the creators from a fringe group of archaic dinosaurs claiming to represent true Islam.

Now, some have debated whether or not the depiction of Muhammed was in good taste, and some have debated whether or not it was responsible of Trey and Matt to bring this topic up at all. I don't consider either of these questions relevant at all.

If you are a devout Muslim, and your particular interpretation of your faith prohibits depictions of Muhammed, I respect that and encourage you to practice as you have chosen to practice. However, an artist has absolutely no more moral obligation to you than anyone else. Yes, Hindus have no problem with depictions of Shiva and I have no problem with depictions of Eric Clapton. But those are all individual judgements we have to make. I shall never hold my standards over another individual. I understand that some Muslims honestly and sincerely believe that Muhammed is not to be depicted. However, there's also some family members of mine who probaly think you (or me, for that matter) are going to hell because we haven't accepted Jesus as our "lord and savior."

As artists, we should fight like hell to defend ourselves from the oppression that comes from moralists of all kinds. Freedom is about choice. For better or for worse, Trey Parker and Matt Stone have touched upon an elephant in the room: At which point does cultural sensitivity outweigh our freedom to choose for ourselves? It would be one thing if South Park targeted Muslims alone.
But I ask a question: Have these radicals even seen the show? Latinos, Scientologists, Catholics, The Chinese, Actors, Politicians, Unions... South Park doesn't target demographics. I know that sounds crazy, but hear me out... when did South Park ever make fun of someone or something without a reason? You can debate whether or not their reason was valid or not, but you cannot debate that they discriminate. They attack what they pecieve as hypocrisy or absurdity. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Well... then there's the toilet humor. But I digress.

My point is this. South Park is doing something courageous and Comedy Central has completely folded under the pressure. They are criticized for being gratuitious, and yet they have sparked an important debate that no politician or artist has yet brought to American conciousness so vividly. Who is anyone to tell me or you what we can or can't do regarding creative expression and storytelling? We all have a duty to support these artists, as citizens of a nation built on the principle of choice and egalitarianism. Moreover, as ARTISTS we have a duel role to also preserve the inquisitive and open nature of the American experiment.

The individuals who intimidation to control the people have scored a minor victory. But the creators of South Park will not budge. We, as artists, must join them in solidarity. The question isn't whether or not South Park is offensive or not.

The question is: what are we willing to trade when it comes to struggle to preserve our thirst for freedom?

Be well,

NY Times Article on the Controversy:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Logistics

I feel like a lot of what we post on this blog is emotion or philosophy or opinion based. We present personal experiences, we talk about issues we personally (and therefore relate to all of you dear readers) feel are important to growing the theatre community in Boston, we promote other artists, events, and organizations. And so far that has been working fantastically. Seriously, all of you out there reading we love you and appreciate you and are so glad you are tuned in to The CoLab.

But we leave out the hard parts of running a company. Mostly because it's not glamorous or artsy. And there are so many hard parts it's difficult to know where to begin. I mean just trying to go into it without being immediately boring is a true challenge. And because they're scary. Well for us. As individuals we really just like to fly by the seat of our pants so settling down and talking business is a shock to our collective system.

We had our first in person strategy session/ company meeting in months this week. It was wonderful. It was good to be back in touch on a person to person level. To go over our philosophy and mission, to update each other on various projects, to strategize about the show we are hoping to put up this summer. But then came the unsexy parts. The how, the where, the money. The money is the unsexiest part. For all of us. No matter what your particular theatrical avenue.

But we were all honest. We got it down on paper. We assigned tasks. And it's a great feeling that not only can we spread our philosophy and grow our network, not only are we commited to cultivating artists in Boston, but also that we can do the hard stuff together to keep it working. To keep moving forward. Our process is the passion. Filling a gap where we can harbor true collaboration is what makes us want to do this. But really the logistics, schedules, budgets, press lists, space searches are what will keep us going. And so we make it happen.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Back In The Game

These are the things I love about auditions:

1. Getting nervous. It makes me remember that I still care about getting the part. I care about getting ready and being professional at the audition and presenting a strong monologue to the director.

2. Getting dressed up. Although let's face it - anything is dressed up compared to my stupid white uniform. But moving on.

3. Running into friends. It makes me realize that I actually am a real part of the Boston theatre community.

4. ACTUALLY FREAKING AUDITIONING!!!!!!!!!!!! Performing is a such a rush for me. If you've ever read this blog you already know that. :)

Anyways, it was a fabulous audition. I felt strongly about my own pieces and I felt strongly reading some scenes. Mary-Liz and I read for sisters which was super cool as we already have a great rapport. We actually felt like sisters. I'm looking forward to the callback on Sunday. I really feel like I'm right for this role. I mean as right as you can be to play a sixteen year old heroin addict. I feel like I haven't played a "real" person in such a long time that I'm actually hungry for it. So hungry. So we'll see what happens. I've got the spark in me again and boy does it feel good. I guess I didn't realize that I missed it so much until Tuesday. I'll keep you posted (get it? through blog posts?) but I'm ready to fight for this.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Living the Life

So, this week I am on official vacation. Well, from my day job. This week I get to live the actor life full time. The Little Mermaid has opened and performs all week at Wheelock. In 8 days I have 7 performances, 4 auditions, and have attended a theatre award ceremony. I am immersed in the scene, in performing, and in totally reveling in being a professional actor.

I have never lived this life before.

I was a community/high school theatre teenager juggling school, work, and my local community shows. I was a college actor, or, actor in training. In class, rehearsing, and also writing papers, solving math equations, and doing group sociology projects. And I have been a worker. A retail worker or an administrative worker, auditioning at night and on weekends and acting for little or no money while juggling a work schedule and other commitments. But not this week!

I'm sure a week from now will be hard. Going back to work, to juggling theatre and "real life". To be reminded again of how hard it can be to work in theatre in this town, and how much work there is yet to do to validate the life's work of performers.

But for now, I will enjoy this week and all it has to offer.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Reality Sitcom for Boston Artists, by Boston Artists

Aaron The King Wizard and Rob Potylo

If you've been keeping up with music or comedy scene in Boston, you might've come across Quiet Desperation (http://quietd.com/), a "Reality Sitcom" that follows the story of Boston area musicians and artists as they struggle to make their mark, with results equally poignant as they are hilarious. The story primarily follows musicians and comedians, but I think artists of all mediums, especially theatre artists, can learn from their example...

The show was originally conceived by musician Rob Potylo and film maker Joe Madaus as a showcase of local Boston talent, quickly becoming a local favorite and evolving into a mockumentary that walks the perfect balance between real and surreal.

I've kept up with Rob's career since 2004, when I first saw him perform a set at the Comedy Studio under the name of "Robby Roadsteamer." Now, notice I didn't say "comedy set". Rob's work over the years has always, in my opinion, defied categorization. I've always enjoyed the comedians at the Comedy Studio, but this particularly performance was like none other I'd ever witnessed. The comedy didn't stem from the "Jokes" or the "Character", but rather from the freedom with which he performed his set. His movement, his speech and most importantly, his ability to react to his audience, gave his performance an improvisational flavor that I feel is lacking in most comedy.

Moreover, it was an improvisational flavor that is lacking in most theatre...see where I'm getting at there?


Moving on.

I've only caught a few shows over the years, but I've been keeping up regularly with his music, videos and web content leading up to this latest project. He has gone through a transformation over the years, focusing less on character and more on spiritual naturalism. His characters are now himself and the community of artists he loves. The laughs are not about jokes or larger than life personalities, but at the absurdity of reality. The musician runs out of money and refuses to sell his cannabis plant, the hip hop duo loses the token Asian member to "2 Live Crew". The all out drug orgies and quirky social circles... These situations are absurd, but nevertheless the cast responds naturally to their reality. Because, in many ways this IS their reality. The whole project is based on truth.

Many internet videos come and go. I'll watch one episode of a series and chuckle, and move on. With Quiet D, I came for the laughs. But I stayed because of how DAMN REAL these episodes feel. Moreover, every episode I've watched makes me feel like I'm part of a greater community, that of the Boston arts scene. Now, as a member of the Boston theatre arts scene, I think that's something we can all be on board with. We're all in this together. We can all learn from each other. And we can certainly all laugh with each other.

Rob and other local favorites will be performing and shooting footage for their next episode at Great Scott in Allston:

Quiet Desperation presents the 32nd Annual WBCN Rumble!!

Join Quiet Desperation as we present the 32nd annual WBCN Rumble Finals at Great Scott Thursday April 29th! We will be paying tribute and doing a little filming for the show. It's a wonderful night of great music!

Performing live are...


Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling

Rob Potylo (Full-band)

And the special guest band.... KING HELL!

Hosted by Shawn Sixx and Niki Luparelli

8pm, 8 bucks, 18+!!!

Rob Potylo's music can be found here:


Episodes of Quiet Desperation:


Tuesday, April 13, 2010


talent (n) - natural aptitude or skill

My whole life, I've wished I had a talent. I'm an actress for sure, but that's my profession. It's my skill. It's not something I can enter in a variety show against a juggler or a accordion player. I was recently asked to perform in this type of show and I didn't know what I could contribute. I don't sing or dance or play an instrument. I'm excellent at making lists, correcting grammar, and killing a chocolate bar in an evening but I can't really do any of those things on stage. (Although, I once saw a guy eat an entire chicken parm sandwich on stage once and I have to say, it was pretty entertaining.) Glee premieres tonight and those actors are full of nothing but talents. I'm not talking about Oscar winning performances. That's a different use of a word talent. I'm talking about harmonies and melodies and belting and dance moves.

So I've started thinking, talent can't be taught. It's instinct. That much I know from watching people I think of as powerful actors. They train and rehearse for hours on end, but their basic feeling for who a character is, is pure instinct. But a hobby can be. I'll never be a powerhouse singer, but I can take lessons. I will never choreograph a musical, but dance lessons could help me to be slightly more graceful. I can train myself to make up for things I lack and I can put those things on my resume. And I can learn more about acting by seeing more theatre. It's been a long time since I've seen a play. I blame this mostly on the fact that I work most weekend nights but I need to see one this weekend. I feel so disconnected from my craft and I've craving it. I also vow to take a class or a lesson, to add to my resume and hopefully find a new talent for that next variety show. Who knows, maybe I'll be belting out showtunes just like Lea Michelle by this time next year. Although, on second thought, maybe I'll stick to singing in the shower. :)

Monday, April 12, 2010

National Arts Advocacy Day

IS TOMORROW! Thanks to StageSource for bringing this to our attention!

The 23rd annual Arts Advocacy Day is the only national event that brings together a broad cross-section of America’s cultural and civic organizations, along with hundreds of grassroots advocates from across the country, to underscore the importance of developing strong public policies and appropriating increased public funding for the arts.

We don't tweet here at the CoLab (yet, anyway) but if you do this might be cool for you to check out http://www.tweetartsday.org/

For more info on Arts Advocacy Day 2010 CLICK HERE.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Here. We. Go.

It's that time again - TECH! This is my first ever "Tech Weekend" instead of "Tech Week" I'm not sure if this is a blessing or a curse. I will be in rehearsal for a record (for me) 30 out of 56 hours starting at 7pm tonight. I'm impressed with my self, even if you aren't. We are exactly ONE WEEK from opening! WoooooHooooo!

Put it on your calendars folks:

The Little Mermaid

April 16 - May 16 2010
Wheelock Family Theatre
200 The Riverway
Boston MA

Margaret Ann Brady (Sea Witch)
Amie Cazel (Anemone)
David Kaim (Prince Eric)
Johnny Lee Davenport (Sea King)
Marvelyn McFarlane (Luna)
Emily Eldridge-Ingram (Lady-in-Waiting)
Mary-Liz Murray (Coral)
Gillian Gordon (Lady-inWaiting)
Andrea Ross (Pearl)
De’Lon Grant(William)
Kami Rushell Smith (Marianna)
Neil Gustafson (Yorick)
Jane Staab (Great Mother)
Ricardo Engarman (Timothy)

From Alfred Lord Tennyson's Mermaids

I would be a mermaid fair.

I would sing to myself the whole day;
With a comb of pearl I would comb my hair;
And still as I comb'd I would sing and say,
"Who is it loves me? who loves not me?"
I would comb my hair till my ringlets would fall
Low adown, and around;
And I should look like a fountain of gold
Springing alone
With a shrill inner sound,
Over the throne
In the midst of the hall;
Till that great sea-snake under the sea
From his coiled sleeps in the central deeps
Would slowly trail himself sevenfold
Round the hall where I sate, and look in at the gate
With his large calm eyes for the love of me.
And all the mermen under the sea
Would feel their immortality
Die in their hearts for the love of me.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

YouTube Trailers

Hey folks,

So who's seen youtube trailers for theatre shows lately? It's the latest trend in online marketing. They're usually low cost to produce, people can get a feel for the show, and they create some buzz. Well friends - today I saw what I think is THE best video trailer for any theatre event so far.

Here it is!

Can't wait to see this round of Mill 6's T Plays, coming in June.

**Always M-L

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Hey all!

Before you visit the website, I wanted to send out another call for your best theatre related nightmares. I was inspired by my epic "Actor's Nightmare" the other day and wanted to see what other people had. E-mail us at colabtheatre@gmail.com and we'll post some of the funnier/more interesting submissions during my next post (Monday).

I spent a good chunk of last night finishing up the first version of the website. Feedback is desired, including any errors I might not have noticed. I plan on cleaning up a bit in the next few weeks.

Have fun!

Click above to play!


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Conversation

Anyone working in Boston Theatre right now knows who Dawn Simmons is. And chances are she knows who you are too. This afternoon I had the immense pleasure of sharing lunch and a conversation with the ever lovely, always gracious, and all powerful Program Director for Stage Source and picked her brain about Boston Theatre and how we can continue to grow, learn, and support our community.

MLM: How long have you been in Boston?

DMS: On and off for 7 or 8 years now.

MLM: Where are you from?

DMS: Buffalo. I went to school there and got a degree in English and then went to BU for playwrighting. Went back to Buffalo for a job and then got to a place where I was like "ok I'm not going to go any further here" so I came back to Boston, because it was the place I knew. It felt comfortable, and I don't think my plan was to stay here, like everybody else the plan was to go get some expereince and move on somewhere else or go back to Buffalo and be in a place where I've moved up. And I wound up staying here.

MLM: Why did you decide to stay in Boston?

DMS: Probably the job at StageSource. It's so great. I have great co-workers and a great Executive Director and they have a really fantastic board. And though there are organizations out there that do the same kinds of work we do, I really like doing it here. It's a great time to be involved in theatre in Boston, and I'm not ready to jump ship.

MLM: How long have you been at StageSource?

DMS: Five years. And I was at Merrimack Rep before that, I was the Company Manager. And there's part of me that's been thinking oh I want to start working with a theatre company again, like I miss that. But every time I think about it I remember that working with StageSource I get to work with SO many theatre companies. And I take a lot of odd jobs, I house manage at New Rep, I will crew somewhere if I have the time. I kind of try to do everything. I have had the luxury of working with a lot of companies.

MLM: How did you get into theatre?

DMS: Through writing. I wanted to do some kind of creative writing, but I'm a lousy novelist and a sad poet. But I used to have a group of friends and we'd write sketches for each other and perform them for our family and friends.I was in a failed drama club in high school . We weren't the kids who participated in the school productions but we had our own drama thing so I would write for that and we would all hang out and play pretend and do our own thing. And I took that into college and took a lot of video classes and a lot of film classes and a lot of theatre classes. I just found that I had a knack for writing and started taking a lot of screenwriting classes and a lot of playwriting classes and I think it was the working in a theatre in Buffalo and actually while going to school here because I was doing interny type stuff and I learned about theatre alot more. And everything that goes into it.

MLM: What do you think we can do better to keep theatre growing and moving forward here?

DMS: You know, I'm always a big fan of training. I think that all theatre artists we get to a point where we sort of stop with the training. And I understand it's because we all have day jobs, we're all also trying to work. But it's so important when we have down time to take a class. An acting class, a writing class,a workshop, and my hope is that not just StageSource but other organizations will offer more opportunities for training for artists here. So that we can all, you know, keep practicing at our craft. There is so much time where you're not in a show, and so, I know it sounds cheesy, but how do you fill that artist's need? And how do you keep yourself growing? So training is key.

The other thing I think is really important is to see shows. Even though it can be exhausting, and yeah you don't want to see everything, but I think find two or three shows a month that really interest or excite you, and then see it! And then get to know those people. Get to know the company. It's something we say to college kids all the time, but there's no reason we can't continue to do that as we mature in our careers. And we should keep exposing ourselves to different artists or learn I thought I like that but I don't. And I know it's tough, you're working, and you really want a day off, and you don't want to go to the theatre, but sometimes you have to push yourself. And see things locally. I used to really want to get to see things more in New York, or Philly, or get out to the West Coast and see what's going on there. But now I try to make sure that I see what's going on here. It's a way to keep growing and find out what your climate is. Especially if you want to start a company of your own. It's a way to find out what's missing. Certainly, my hope is that we're not all trying to do the same thing. So find that thing you're not seeing that you want to see and bring that to the city.

MLM: What do you think we do better here in Boston than in other places?

DMS: Ten minute festivals. (SLAMBoston, FeverFest, and The T plays to name a few) We are great at ten minute festivals.

If there was some way to take that and bottle it and make it a big marquis thing where people came in and we had a whole week of ten minute festivals we would get so much attention. If there was some way to make it pull focus to Boston or use that as a gateway to something else to exploring new writers or directors, if it became more than it is it could be great for us. There are so many people involved, it's low cost, low commitment, it creates buzz. We need to find a way to push that further or make it our thing. And starting there is a great place. The ten minute festivals are a great way to discover new talent. And once we discover that talent we need to hire that talent.

We're also an excellent city for training. We have some of the best colleges and universities and theatre programs in the country. And we need to keep those people here. And find a way to make that training accessible to the artists we have working here.

MLM: Where do you want to see Boston theatre go in the next 5 years?

DMS: I would like to see the small and fringe companies that are coming up now make it to the 5 year mark, for one. And have a high level of visibility. And the finances and infrastructure to do what they want to do and pay people what they should be paid. I want us to recognize that this scene is more that just the NEAT contract players and the LORT theatres. I want all the artists that I love to be working everywhere and not feel like they have to take a hit. I want them to be able to work at the ART and them to be able to work with NUTlab and just everywhere and be happy and proud of the work that they're doing.

The small companies need to make noise, and get rowdy. And that's what my company New Exhibition Room is hoping to do. And there are so many other small companies that are starting to do that now.

MLM: Yeah we are starting to say we're here, and we're doing good work, and exciting work and brave work. So talk a little about STAB. We're a little STAB ignorant at the CoLab and we want to be more informed because that's the community we're entering into.

DMS: It started I think as the brain child of Meg Taintor (Artistic Director of Whister in the Dark), at one of the last Boston Theatre conferences there was a Small Theatre break out session and people just started talking to her. And from my part I remember being a nag, she's close friends with my artistic partner Nora so they had been talking about it. John King had also been talking to her about it, and we all were kind of like "Hey, what are we doing? Let's make it move!" And Meg called the first meeting and we all talked about what we wanted from an organization like STAB (without calling it that in the beginning) what are we looking for what do we need?

A bunch of people and a bunch of companies showed up for the first couple of meetings and then we broke down into various committees, steering committee, marketing committee, education committee all kinds of stuff. We put up the first FeverFest to see how we all work together, see if we can create something and then went back to what we wanted the organization to become. Was it just going to be an organization that produced FeverFest? Or was it going to be the kind of organization that would do marketing, that would do education and outreach that would do a shared storage/ stock facility? And we decided yeah we want to keep moving in this direction of an alliance.

MLM: So where is STAB now in their process?

DMS: They have a General Manager. And they recently sent out materials for the people who came to the first get together a few months ago about membership and what they have to offer. And they have a website (www.smalltheatreallianceofboston.com) and a facebook page that gives you a lot more information.

MLM: So how did you get involved in small theatre?

DMS: Editing the Stagepage for StageSource. We have the spotlight article that we try to use to focus on newer companies and small companies that are just starting out and give focus to them, and the community theatres as well. We have a huge community theatre scene here, and lot of really great actors are coming out of community theatres. So I think editing the Stagepage put a lot of these companies on my radar and so if I see them and I say "oh this show seems interesting" and I go out and see them and then if I fall in love I will chat a company up.

And I would think starting working with the SLAMs. Directing for those. And meeting people who are like "oh, you're a fun director, and I have his company and why don't you come out and talk to us." And just meeting people that way.

I don't know how common it is anymore, but I just go out and pound the pavement. I meet people and I shake hands and talk to people. And sometimes it feels like gosh I'm always "on" but in the end the, people that I really really enjoy make it worth it.

MLM: That's great. I mean everybody knows who you are here in theatre, you know, you're Dawn Simmons! And you know who everyone is. And we have a lot of respect for you and for that. And you remember who people are, it's your business but you make it personal. It's what you do and it's what you love and we all get that. And when you need something, or you want to know something, and you don't know who to talk to you know you go to Dawn.

DMS: Awww, thank you. That makes me feel really good. That means I'm doing my job. I'm really passionate about theatre. I like the people who work in it.

And there is a sense of community and family here. I know there are other "theatre towns" but I wonder if it feels the same. Especially with the fringe companies and small companies. I see people and companies going out to support each other and people know each other and are genuinely happy for other people's successes and it feels good.

MLM: That's what I love about theatre here. I went to a really New York centered acting program and I struggled with that. I wasn't sure New York was the right fit for me. Certainly in New York and LA, if you go to those places to make your living as an actor you have to like be out for blood. It's all about you and making it work and focusing on yourself and your career and stopping at nothing. And that's great for some people, if you can do that more power to you. I can't. I got involved in theatre in to gain community and so that's where it lives for me. I like that I can be here and appreciate that other people are doing good work. Not that you don't have that moment sometimes where you think "ugh, I could have done that so much better" but most of the time you can just be happy that other people are really producing great stuff.

DMS: That's the thing, you can have that moment, because we all have to because it keeps us all hungry and it keeps us all moving but you can look at someone else and say "I see it, I get it, and you are talented and wonderful" and really mean it. But the next time I'll give you a run for your money. It's collegial competition. And it's starting to grow here. And I'm excited about that.

MLM: Yeah, I grew up here and just in the time I've been involved in theatre there has been so much growth here. There are so many companies that just didn't exist when I was in middle school and high school here. And it is really exciting to see theatre grow up here. I hope that we can keep growing in the same way we have in the last ten years.

DMS: Yeah there are so many new companies starting here. It's like every day I get on facebook and there's a new company and I'm like yeah ok I'll be a fan! And unless you give me a reason to be like "Oh noooo I can't be a fan anymore." we can all appreciate new work. We are really willing to give new companies a chance.

MLM: Yeah, that makes us really nervous, we're getting more buzz than we ever expected to at this point. I mean when we found out you were reading our blog we were like "Oh my God Dawn Simmons is reading our blog!" Hopefully we can back it up and our first show doesn't suck! People are paying attention.

DMS: But that's it! If your first show sucks you just pick it up and learn from it. We (NXR) were really scared about Shh!. Becasue it was all ensemble based and we're going into rehearsal with no script just ideas and we really hope this works. Dear Lord! And it did. It could have just as easily not. And we would have picked up our bruised egos and tried something new.

MLM: So what is next for New Exhibition Room?

DMS: My new play Candyland. July 29 - August 14 at Boston Playwright's Theater. And we're hoping to take Shh! to the New York Fringe with some new material which we'll premiere at Oberon in May. A Ukulele is involved, and there may be tap dancing.

MLM: Awsome! You can't go wrong with a Ukulele and tap dancing.

DMS: Exactly! It's going to be hilarious.

MLM: That's really exciting

DMS: Yeah we think so.

MLM: Well thank you for having lunch with me!

DMS: Thank you lady! How was it? Did I do ok?

MLM: You did great! Thank you so much.

So there you have it folks. Just another day in the life of the CoLab. Many many thanks to Dawn for sitting down with me and sharing her passion for Boston theatre with me, and now you. Look for New Exhibition Room's next show Candyland later this summer and keep reading, who knows who we'll talk to next!