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

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Hits and Misses of 2010

As our readers know, we're not a typical theatre blog. We pride ourselves on being a little less polished and a little more honest. When we decided to write a end of the year reflection, we decided it would be imperative that we write honestly and express our true feelings, good and bad.

So with that, we give you our end of the year reflections and say to the theatre community (Both local and national):

What worked? What didn't? And what can we learn from this year's hits and misses to do even better this coming year?



Mill 6's T Plays - There is no shortage of 10 minute play festivals and competitions in Boston. After a certain point, it's really easy to phone these projects in and use the medium as a low investment cash cow. However, Mill 6 took the medium and spins it around in the way that only Boston could: Bitching about the T. This year's T plays were more solidly written and tightly directed than any other ten minute play festival I've seen from the scene yet. Special mention must go to the devastatingly sweet and sincere performance of Nate Gundy in John J. King's M. Riverside.

11:11's Her Red Umbrella - This show felt like a real underdog. It was a real romantic comedy, put up on stage, acted and directed really well. This is Robyn Linden's directorial breakout and the visual and atmospheric concepts she put together (with the help of a very good lighting designer and a local up and coming singer/songwriter) as well as the genuine performances she created with her cast made for a sweet and satisfying evening.


The ensemble of Bad Habit's Durang/Durang - They were tight, they were funny, and they had their timing down pat. They moved fluidly between different kinds of roles and had a really good knowledge both of the parody style necessary in the first act and the more absurd comedy designated in the second. It was a large ensemble cast that felt like a small tight knit group. It's a hard show to do really well, but this group of actors definitely got the job done.


Bevin O'Gara for Holland Productions' Melancholy Play - This is the only piece I've seen from Bevin, though being a small-time actor here in town, I'm familiar with her as the Artistic Associate at the Huntington (AKA the screener for their auditions....my Pirates audition definitely could have gone better). This play (and Sarah Ruhl in general) is hard to tackle. There are so many places where the surreal or absurd aspects of her stories can go horribly wrong. But Bevin had a clear mastery of the script, the cast, and the designers to create a happy-go-lucky world full of wistfulness and almonds. Everything was done with a light, whimiscal, but defined touch. The comedy was smart and sharp, the surrealness was light and loopy, and the melancholy was wonderfully palpable. Smart director.

"Wait, we have a theatre marathon? That sounds AWESOME!"

Many of us are familiar with existence of The Boston Theatre Marathon, a late spring charity event that brings together 50 New England theatre companies and playwrights. However, how many of you know that there are two days of plays? That's right, in addition to the full day of 50 ten minute plays, Boston Playwrights' Theatre also organizes three readings of full length plays, cast and directed by major players like The Huntington and performed at with the generosity of the BCA.

Did you also know that the event brings together artists from small companies and unknown playwrights together on a bill with internationally renown theatre artists like Robert Brustein and Israel Horovitz?

Chances are, many of you have performed in one of the plays. Or seen one of the events. If you are an actor in Boston, you know about the BTM. It's the closest thing we have to a Humana or a Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and it has been steadily growing in scale and scope over the past decade. I can only hope that the minds at be have lofty plans to keep this event growing over the next few years.

Now this is the part where you go tell someone outside of the artist community about it! They're the next step!


"It's not that we don't like you, we just think you could strive for more!"

Lyric Stage: Blah. That's what I think after I've seen a show there. Just, blah. I often find their season choices interesting. And I always applaud them for employing local actors only. No small feat for a company of their budget. They could easily rope in a couple of New York equities. (I also appreciate their $10 Student Rush Tickets) But something gets lost in the execution of their shows that leaves me bored and unsatisfied. I just get the feeling they have stagnated as a company. They have a solid subscriber and donor base; Artistic Director, Spiro Veludos, has been there for 12 years; and no one on marketing or management seems to be taking any risks. They always play it safe. Someone is underestimating how many more people might subscribe or donate if they branched out a little - a new play here, or a fledgling director there, maybe a "second stage" season with a couple of dirtier, grittier plays. They are glossy and all American, which definitely has it's place (Our Town is my favorite play of all time, after all) but they need to be doing more to stay relevant.

"One step forward, two steps backward"

The American Repertory Theatre has done some amazing work this year. I'm not gunna lie, I kind of hated most of the shows I'd seen up until recently. However, my main problem with the ART was not their company of actors, but the directorial choices and uninspiring conceptual approach to theatre they're known for. So while the A.R.T. has made some bold changes and reinvigorated their artistic drive lately, I have to ask why it is that they also gutted their resident acting company?

To use an analogy from Slings and Arrows, it's like saying "Man, Darren Nichols plays are really bad... We should fire all the actors".

Many of those actors are still cast this season, but without this rarest of institutions, I worry that the direction of the A.R.T. might have shifted in another direction but left behind their strongest asset.

The lack of a dedicated, proper Fringe Festival.

Who has thought, man it would be really cool if we had a Fringe Festival in Boston? They have great ones in New York and Philly and a bunch of other cities (Chicago, Minneapolis, San Fransico, to name a few) and we want to put ourselves on the map as a theatre city, right? So why no Fringe Festival? Oh, wait, there IS a Fringe Festival. When, you ask? Over 2 weekends in October. Where, you ask? ...in BURLINGTON? Ok #1 it is a hike and half to get out there, and #2 when you get there, it is a tiny little space with no dressing rooms or backstage space.

But it's a space so the flaws can be forgiven, but WHY is this what we have? A varied number of acts (not all theatre) show up to present to a non-existant audience. No viable Boston companies are represented. No viable companies are represented period. We can fix this. We can piggy back of the Boston Theatre Marathon or FeverFest or The T-Plays (or some other short play festival) to create a two week Fringe Free For All. All we need is the space. We need the limited number of spaces we have in the city to open their doors and say, yes, we will help, and yes we want people to see our Fringe Theatre. The good, the bad, and the ugly. The small and fringe companies here are the strength of our theatre community, so we should create the opportunity to showcase everyone and accept other submissions, make OTHER THEATRES want to produce HERE. Bringing people in from the outside is the only way to keep moving and growing. Make them love Boston like we love Boston. Fringe festivals do that. But not the one we have now.

Quick Hits

We already wrote about you, but you deserve another mention:

11:11's Foreverendia (This show made me cry hysterically in the parking lot. 'Nuff said.)

Didn't fit in other categories, but total hits this year:

The Old Spice Guy
The Mayhem Commercials
True Grit
StageSource (We couldn't do it without you.)


The Kurt Weill Foundation's trigger happy agent. (Seriously, fuck those guys!)
Spider Man: Turn off the Dark (Did we really need a super expensive Bono musical, anyway?)
Actor's Equity (Please don't revoke my EMC status)
Rabbit Hole (It was such a good play, too...)

If you made it this far down, you are the final hit of the year. If we put you on the Miss list (Hi Diane), we do intend on checking out your shows/projects in the future. If we didn't believe in you, we wouldn't have even mentioned you. We know you can do better. We don't kick when you're down.

Except, maybe Spiderman...

The CoLab Theatre Co.

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