Claire Rice’s Enemy’s List: By Any Other Name

Claire Rice submits her last list item for San Francisco Theater Pub.

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The most wonderful thing happened to me on Tuesday. A woman asked me how to pronounce my name. For a moment I was caught off guard. I’ve never been asked how to pronounce my name before. Claire, while mispronounced more often then you would imagine, isn’t immediately intimidating. The women, when she asked, did so with such kindness and sincerity that I was taken aback. Then I remembered: on Facebook I changed my name to “Erialc Ecir”.

Since I changed the name I’ve gotten the same question several times. Why?

For the last few weeks I thought the answer was simple. I thought it was a kind of vague, if limp, protest against Facebook’s real name policy. That it was an experiment to see what it would be like, what it was like, for all those men and women who Facebook forced to change their names to their “legal” name. When I changed my name, I was still myself as I am, but I was not as I was known. The reorganization of the letters had caused me to move into a digital shadow. I couldn’t be seen and when I was seen I was ignored. Not in a cruel way, it was just that now I was unfamiliar.

It isn’t the first time I’ve had a different persona online, but my other persona was short lived and more of an inside joke than anything. That name was about hiding in the hopes that my words would feel truer. They didn’t. They were still mine. They were as true as they were when they came out of my fingers.

Seeing my words under a different name isn’t too far from hearing them through other people’s lips. There’s a sort of out of body experience. At times when listening to actors speak my words out loud I’ve had moments when I’ve taken quiet satisfaction in my own abilities, and others when I’ve been proud enough that it could be called a sin. There have also been moments, whole hours even, when I’ve cringed and grimaced and almost had to tie myself to my chair to keep from running from the theatre. But, even when they were terrible, they were my words.

But what version of me?

There is a version of me that writes poetry. Some of it sacred, some of it saccharin. There is a version of me that writes romantic comedy novels and a version that writes punk fantasy. There is a version of me that writes epic revenge tragedies and a version that writes kitchen sink dramas. There is the version of me that writes angry opinion pieces and a version that writes self deprecating personal essays. There is a version of me that stares at my computer screen as the curser blinks on the empty page, and a version that writes for days on end obsessively as easy as breathing.

This version, that has written for San Francisco Theater Pub, has enjoyed this last year very much. This version of me has both loved and feared the opportunity to write here, as it should be. This version of me is both very sad and very happy to be moving on.

I expect my name on Facebook, once my sixty days are up, will change back to Claire Rice. I expect that you may see one or two impassioned blog posts about theatre on my personal blog before too long, but this version of myself will no longer be the Enemy’s List version. Thank you for letting me in. This version, any version.

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Claire Rice’s Enemy’s List: Comedy of Personal Errors

Claire Rice bumbles through life…and has the stories to prove it! 

I’m working on an ongoing series on what the theatre scene looks like in the Bay Area on any given night. While I continue doing research for the final article in the series I would like to present you with a comedic break: shit that went wrong a little wrong. You see, sometimes things go really wrong: “Well shit, now the curtain is on fire.” Sometimes things go kind of wrong: “OMG! I’m at the wrong theatre! Be there in five!” Sometimes things go wacky wrong: “Then I dropped a line and everyone was quiet for, like minute before the sound guy made the gun go BANG!”

But sometimes you have little personal comedies that don’t harm anyone else really. They are just publicly embarrassing or privately surreal. Sure, these moments are “teachable” but they are also the ones that stick with you in the middle of the night when you find yourself reexamining your life choices.

Teachable moments feel like shit IN the moment.

Teachable moments feel like shit IN the moment.

I didn’t take it seriously

This one isn’t funny “ha ha” sort of funny…sad. I went right from undergrad to graduate school with only a summer in between. During the long strange summer spent in San Antonio before the move to San Francisco I was alternately bored and anxious. I spent the time working at a strange job and writing. I also submitted my senior thesis, a short play about a Cambodian boy solder, to a prestigious theatre company in New York. I’d never submitted my work anywhere before and I picked this one because it had a famous name attached to it. It seemed like, maybe, they might like the play. But being so isolated in New Mexico until that time, I really didn’t know anything about the American Theatre scene. It was a shot in the dark. So when they called me back asking for the whole script I figured that is what happened every time you submitted a script. Of course, I didn’t put my phone number on my submission, I put my mother’s. By that time, though, I had moved to San Francisco and started school so they had a hell of a time reaching out to me. When they finally got a hold of me I was on my cellphone outside and the poor literary manager at the other end couldn’t hear me. We had to try several more times. When we finally connected I let her know that I had, in fact, sent her my full script and that there wasn’t any more to send. That was the whole play. There wasn’t more to it. She, surprised, said “oh.” And that was it. When I told someone later about this whole thing they looked at me shocked: They called you?! They actually called you!?! They want you to write more?! You TOLD THEM THERE WASN’T ANY MORE!?! YOU NEVER SUBMITTED TO THEM AGAIN!?!?!?!?! That’s right. I had a major literary manager on the phone with me who worked hard to talk to me and I didn’t do anything to further that relationship at all. See…funny sad.

I’ve seen everything you were in…or one thing…that I can’t remember the name of

I was holding auditions and an actor I had really been looking forward to seeing walked in. I’d seen him in a show and I had specifically requested that the casting director invite him. He looked happy to be there. I smiled and shook his hand. “Thank you for coming!” I said. Before my brain could stop my mouth I followed that with, “I’ve loved everything I’ve seen you in.” He followed up my line with “Oh, what have you seen?” My anxiety kicked in: Was it Shakespeare? He was funny. Wait, was he? No. Yes. It was at Theatre X…but I see so many shows there…shit. Wait. Was it there? Maybe it was at Theatre Y…CRAP! “Uhm…wasn’t it…Mid Summer?” He saw through my faux Hollywood-glad-handing-kiss-ass ways and his eyes glazed over and I could tell we were done here. There really wasn’t much of a need to go on.

No, really…please don’t make me see your show

Rob Ready has made a great deal about theatre’s late seating policies on his podcast. Most of his contention is with a “no late seating” policy. He feels that theatre has to work so very hard to keep audience right now, why are we turning any of them away? So what if they are ten or fifteen minutes late. They want to see the show. Let them see the show. The last show I directed had a no late seating policy for various reasons. The first three minutes where in utter darkness. The audience door was used as an entrance frequently. The audience door also faced the audience making it particularly distracting when it was opened or closed for any reason. I felt justified in the policy. I mean, sure. I was the one who directed it that way so I also ENSURED the policy had to be in place. Anyway, during the run of that show, Cutting Ball was showing “Communique” which I had been looking forward to. I bought a ticket for one of the last performances. I laughed, LAUGHED, when I got an email that was so hand-holding I thought it was ridiculous. (Read the following like a teenager who has a permanent eye roll in place.) A little history on the play was nice, but detailed information on when to arrive…I mean come on. I bought the ticket! I know what time the show starts! I’m not an idiot! (Teenage mode off.) But I am an idiot. The email was sent, in part, because the show started at 7:30pm…not 8pm. A follow up email also had that information. In bold. My ticket had that information. Everything had that information. Except my mind. My idiot mind. I showed up at 7:50. Rob Ready, you would have been proud. That theatre was bending over backwards to get me in. In hushed tones they welcomed me and told me not to worry. They called up the assistant stage manager on headset who picked out a seat. She was in communication with the stage manager over when a break in the action would happen so I could be seated. There were limited doors into the theatre so I would need to be guided into the house. I could see the actors waiting to enter where I would eventually be lead. Everyone was so nice. And I could see how much trouble I was causing. “You know, I’m sorry. I think I’ll just go.” No, no…they said…just wait a few more minutes. “I am so embarrassed, please…” No, really, it’s Ok. That house manager was so nice. Everyone was so nice. They wanted me to see the show. “No, please don’t make me go in there now.” I couldn’t I couldn’t be the late person. The late THEATRE person. After all the emails and the trouble. I couldn’t do it. I ran out of that theatre and went home and had a stiff drink.

I fell asleep during a show…while running lights

I was running lights for The Importance of Being Earnest. It was an easy job. The stage manager was good and I just had to hit a “go” button. The booth was warm…and full of bees. The theatre was having a problem with a wasp nest in the fly grid. The nest had been sprayed, which meant drunken wasps were flying around harmlessly everywhere. A large number of them found their final destination in the booth. Also, I had a crush on the young man playing Reverend Canon Chasuble. He was funny, handsome and very talented. The show was a great show all around. Beautiful set design, gorgeous costumes, and lively comedic timing. So there were a number of reasons I should not have been able to fall asleep. A drunk and disorderly wasp might land stinger side down. The handsome man might come up and see me during intermission. The show was worth watching. This is why I don’t chalk it up to “being tired.” Nope. I had to WORK at that nap. I let myself sleep. My heavy eyelids slipped somewhere in the first act and I let them go. Speaking of the word “go”, this word filtered into my dreams and acted like a shot of adrenaline. I heard it and snapped awake and acted. I hit that “go” button with as much force as I could. Of course, it wasn’t my go. It was a sound cue. I plunged the stage into the pink lights for the act scene change. It was at that moment the adrenaline, sensing no immediate danger after all, left my system and sleepy confusion returned. Where was I? What happened? Who are all these people? The stage manager yelled something in my ear and my fingers fluttered over the board. I hit the “go” button again and brought in the lights for the following act. After a furious moment of hitting buttons I was only vaguely familiar with, a short disco ensued onstage before the lights settled into their proper places. We all breathed a sigh of relief. The terror was over. And then a wasp landed on me.

My costume fell off

Matthew Lillard gave a great interview to the AV Club about his career. He talks at length about his experiences doing bad movies. He even goes so far as to say that if his name is at the top of a call sheet, you know it’s not a great movie. “And being an actor, when you sign onto a project—whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent— you kind of fall in love with it. You fall in love with the experience, you fall in love with the memories.” Keeping that quote in mind, know that when I say I was in a show where I was dressed in the Princess Leia gold bikini, standing next to Perseus, looking on at our fallen hero (a Teddy Ruxpin), and surrounded by the dead bodies of our enemies and photo copy clerk rivals when the bottom of my costume fell off…well…I’m in love with that memory. I love telling that story. If you’ve been at a bar with me late enough into the night, you’ve heard that story. I might have even already told it on this blog. I’ve told it so many times I’m sure the telling of it has colored the actual memories. As a director I tell my actors again and again that they should be human beings on stage. React when things happen. If your clothes were to fall off, don’t stare down at them stupidly and wish them back onto your body. Don’t stand in your nude underwear and suddenly hope that you shaved down there sufficiently. Don’t pretend it didn’t happen. The audience laughed, as they should have. And when I caught the eye of an audience member she mouthed to me “You’re so brave.” It was all I could do to not bust up laughing.

Claire Rice’s Enemy’s List: The Adding Machine

Last week Claire talked about all the shows happening on a particular day in September. This week she’s going to make wild assumptions based on guesses, wishful thinking, and poor research.

When we say there are over fifty shows playing on a given night (my rough count is 54), what does that mean people wise?

This shouldn't be too complicated...right?

This shouldn’t be too complicated…right?

I estimate that on the night of September 19th there are over 450 actors performing in the Bay Area. For the sake of argument, let’s say there are as many shows in rehearsal as there are in performance. Continuing that argument, let’s say there are at least as many actors in rehearsal as there are performing. Yes, I understand that many actors might be in rehearsal and in performance at the same time. I also get that shows like Beach Blanket Babylon and Foodies! The Musical aren’t going anywhere anytime soon and those performers aren’t necessarily going anywhere either. So, we can put an estimate on over 1000 actors working (or enjoying a well earned night off) on the night of September 19th.

The estimates above are based on published cast lists and play descriptions. It’s a rough estimation, but the number is close. A harder estimation to make is the numbers of directors, writers, artisans, designers, crew members, house staff, and administrators are also being employed on a single evening. Some of the directors, and many of the designers, double up on shows. Some theatre companies need a very large crew of ushers to handle the large numbers of audience. Some theatre companies are able to work with a single stage manager who also acts as box office manager because there is no one else to do it. We’ll imagine, for this exercise, that it averages out to five on site crew members for each performance that evening. That’s 270 people working shows that night. Yes. I agree. I also think that number is too small. But let’s keep going. If we say that there are as many shows in rehearsal as performing then we’ll also say that there are an average of three crew working each of those rehearsals (I’m counting the directors in this number). So that’s 162. So, that’s 432 total.

1432 actors, directors, artisans, crew, administrators and assorted ner-do-wells working on the evening of the 19th.

But Claire, you say, you just made up all those numbers. Correct, smarty-pants-math-person. But, let’s keep playing pretend for now because I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts my number is off because it is too low.

Let me say that again. 1432 is a low end, non-scientific estimate of how many theatre artists are actively engaged in their art on the night of September 19th.

1,432 artists.

If Bay Area Theatre were a single employer, then they would be almost on par with Twitter, who employes 1,500 people in San Francisco. Twitter is, by the way, the third largest tech employer in San Francisco.

So that’s something to make you feel good. Sure, it’s a little superficial , but even so it’s the kind tag line that could get you through the day if you need to feel good about your life choices.

Next time we’ll go back to that 432 number and see how many of those roles are actually available to Bay Area actors, take wild guesses on who in that number is getting paid, and check out hot button topics like gender and ethnic parity.

Claire Rice’s Enemy’s List: Get the Fuck off the Couch

Claire Rice channel surfs theatre listings so you don’t have to.

What does a typical night of theatre look like in the Bay Area? It’s hard to say. Different parts of the season will have different shows. So I’ve decided to start a new series where I pick a Friday night and really look at the show listings to see what’s playing. Maybe by the end of the season we’ll have a picture of the Bay Area Theatre scene.

To start with I picked September 19th, 2014 as my “any given Friday”. I picked this date because I figured the big houses would have just started their first shows of the season, the Burning Man crowd would be back and sober and still excited about art, and it would be the night most everyone would realize that summer is ending and the long slow slog to the holidays is about to begin. What better time to see theatre?

What did I find?

All in all there are over 50 shows to see and there is something out there for everyone. And, yes, it is a diverse field. No, it’s not nearly as diverse as you would like. All the usual minorities are still minorities this season so far. But, this isn’t a full picture of the Bay Area theatrical climate! And just like the weather there are micro climates where some theatrical forms thrive and others wither on the vine.

Community Leaders are Leading the Way – To HAPPY TOWN!

American Conservatory Theatre is bringing back perennial favorite Bill Irwin in “Old Hats”, a show that has old fashioned clowning befuddled by new fangled technology. On the other side of the bay it is all about legs and singing at Berkeley Rep who is bringing in Knee High founder Emma Rice and a delightful woman named Meow Meow. Both companies seem to be saying with their season openers that they want you to be happy damn it! Whimsically, giddily, cavity educing happy!

Fuck “with music” I want MUSICAL!

You got it! Well, not in San Francisco…but totally! SHN has “Motown: The Musical!” and while I feel that the story of Motown is musical worthy…really I think you can just go home and just get the original songs and rock out. What you can’t get off iTunes is “Beach Blanket Babylon” which is that show you saw that one time your Aunt came to visit. You could also take your chances with “Foodies: The Musical!” brought to you buy the same guy who wrote “Shopping: The Musical!”. (Honestly, I don’t even need to be sarcastic.) But if you find yourself on September 19 really really needing a musical then get yourself a Zip Car and take your pick between “Company”, “Gypsy”, “Big Fish”, “The Addams Family”, “Funny Girl”, “Life Could Be a Dream” and “The Great American Trailer Park Musical”. They are all out there if you are brave, true of heart, and have access to a car. Well, Town Hall Theatre (playing “Company”) and Center Repertory Theatre (playing “Life Could Be a Dream”) are all about ten minutes from a BART station. Wait. What am I talking about? Everyone reading this is probably an artist of some kind so you probably already live away from or are considering moving out of San Francisco, Berkeley or Oakland. In which case, can I have a ride? “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” looks great!

I Want a Return to the Way Theatre Should Be

Then let’s go with traditional, Theatre Appreciation 101 plays. You need an experience where you already know the play, you probably saw the movie, and you would like to sink in for an entertaining evening of the familiar. Great. The Shelton Theatre is putting on “Noises Off” (Though, I literally don’t know HOW. The Shelton stage is TINY!) Marin Shakespeare outlasts all the other summer Shakespeare with “Romeo and Juliet”. Around the Bay you can see performances of “The Glass Menagerie”, “All My Sons”, “Wait until Dark”, “Iceman Commeth” “Fox on the Fairway” and “Bell, Book and Candle”. If there were a channel like Turner Movie Classics for plays, these plays would be on it ALL THE TIME. These plays will never be irrelevant, and they will stick around to remind you of that fact forever.

How about what’s HOT right now?

Excellent. Well chosen. Because COCK is hot right now. There’s “Cock” (about two men fighting like cocks) at NCTC and Impact Theatre has “The Year of the Rooster” (about actual cock fighting). I would also like to point out that there is a film screening tribute to The Cockettes at the de Young Museum on the 19th. If you are tired of cock move out beyond The City for your fill of lady playwrights including “Art” at City Lights, “Wonder of the World” at Douglas Morrison, “The New Electric Ballroom” at Shotgun Players, and “Rapture Blister Burn” at Aurora.” These three plays don’t fit in with my cock humor, but you should also check out SF Playhouse who is putting on a full production of their award winning “Ideation”, “Slaughter House Five” at Custom Made which was first seen at Steppenwolf Theatre Company and has brought audiences to tears all over the country and “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” will be at the newly built Flight Deck in Oakland.

I want Brand New! I want to say “I Saw It First”

Sure. Ok. Good news. San Francisco prides itself on generating new works. Theatre First has rising star Lauren Gunderson’s play “Fire Work” and Chris Chen continues his creative relationship with Crowded Fire for “Late Wedding”. The Marsh has new solo performances of Marga Gomez’s “Love Birds” and Dan Hoyle’s “Each and Every Thing”. The Magic Theatre bring us “Bad Jews.” (This company is always good for brand new plays with titles you aren’t sure you want to put in emails.) Renegade Theatre Experiment will bring us “Perishable: Keep Refrigerated”. September also has an Improv Festival for you! At BATS, the Eureka, Stage Werx and other venues are improv acts that will make you say “I can’t believe that wasn’t scripted!” Well, it wasn’t and that’s why you went. But if you DO want scripted theatre you should go to the EXIT for Fringe Festival. If you haven’t binged on fringe you haven’t lived. If you are into binging on theatre, check out “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” where they try to perform thirty plays in sixty minutes.

Actually, I want an EVENT

Sure. I hear that audiences all over don’t want just “theatre” they want attending to be an “event”. For companies that take the process if creation very seriously check out Mugwumpin who will present “Blockbuster Season” and We Players who will take on an adaptation of King Leer with “King Fool.” For a traditionally untraditional experience Pear Avenue is playing “House” and “Garden” by Alan Ayckbourn, in which both plays are performed simultaneously using the same actors. You’ll have to go back a different evening to see how the other half of the play went. The Costume Shop is showing “The Haze”, which is a solo show that has come and gone before under different names, but the event that is built around the show is really about raising awareness of how crime labs deal with rape kits. Dragon Productions presents “Arc:hive Presents A Moment (Un)bound”. I don’t know what it’s about, but it has to be eventful if there is so much crazy punctuation in the title.

How are Ticket Prices?

If you plan ahead (now) you can see any of these shows for under $50 a ticket. The average is $30, but most can be seen for much less if you work at it.

Promo Lines

I’ve always felt the first sentence you use to promote your show is the most important sentence. Here are some of my favorite first sentences:

“What would you do if a time portal opened up inside your refrigerator?”

“In this revival of the great Tennessee Williams classic… Tom Wingfield is a homeless man living under a fire escape in modern-day St. Louis.”

“The following is from WikiPedia referencing the film of the same name.”

“What would you pay for a white painting?”

“Don’t miss the latest installment in this playwright’s meteoric rise to national prominence.”

“Star-crossed lovers and hot, sweaty street fighting make for an evening of romance, poetry, passion and excitement.”

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Did I Miss Something?

I’m sure I did. Tell me about your show in the comments section.

The Point?

You have something to do on September 19. Get the fuck off the couch and go see theatre. (Of course, you might also be in one of these shows or rehearsing for one coming up. More on that next week.)

Claire Rice’s Enemey’s List: When a Theatre Goes Co-Op

Claire Rice on how Thunderbird Theatre Company becomes a Cooperative Corporation…tell your enemies!

Thunderbird Theatre Company has been producing original comedy in the Bay Area since 1998. We specialize in mash-up style storylines where the good guys are wondering idealists and the bad guys come with a posy of henchman. I say “we” because I have been working with Thunderbird Theatre Company since 2006’s “Release the Kraken”, a take-off on Kevin Smith’s “Clerks” and the 1981 classic “Clash of the Titans”. I played Andromeda, who was from the Ukraine and ends up in the Princess Leia gold bikini at the end of the show.

No, really.  THE gold bikini!

No, really. THE gold bikini!

Over the years Thunderbird Theatre Company has brought together some exceptionally talented people to do some exceptionally silly and entertaining theatre. A long the way we’ve also grown up, bought houses, started careers, gotten married, had children and done all the things that people do as they grow older.

We also came to the realization that if we wanted to keep doing what we loved (namely have as much fun on stage as we could) we would need to re-organize ourselves.

I sat down with long time Thunderbird Christine McClintock to talk about Thunderbird, what it means to be a Cooperative Corporation, lost doubloons, gigglebones and other very adult things.

What is Thunderbird Theatre Company?

Christine: After a yearlong hiatus from production, we have been reorganized as a California Cooperative Corporation named The Bird Empire, doing business as The Thunderbird Theatre Company.

If Thunderbird wasn’t a business before, what was it for 16 years?

Christine: Thunderbird was definitely a business, and everything we did was totally and completely legit… as far as anyone knows. (You’ll never find our doubloons, Marx!)

We were previously a sole proprietorship. This meant that most of the liability for the business fell on one person. Aside from this being incongruous with our operating structure and ideals, it made for some awkward situations, such as the predicament of divulging an individual’s social security number on behalf of the company.

Why a co-op and not a non-profit (or sole proprietorship or llc, etc.)?

Christine: The reasons behind the decision to reform as a Cooperative Corporation are threefold.

Ideologically, we do not fit the parameters of a 501(c)(3) organization. Those requirements being:

“…charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and preventing cruelty to children or animals.”

Making silly plays with your friends, for your other friends to come see is not a legally recognized tax-exempt purpose. Whether or not it should be is a worthy conversation for another time and place. Quite simply, we did not want to be beholden to these requirements set forth by a governmental agency, or contort our activities to fit these stipulations.

Secondly, we wanted to formalize and equitably divide our financial contributions. For the majority of our years as a company, we have operated at a loss. This loss will now be evenly distributed across the company members so that each individual pays their fair share – and only their fair share. It’s our hope that in the future, we will turn a profit on each production, and in turn, those profits will be equally distributed among the company members.

Finally, we felt we wanted our structure to continue to be horizontal. We do embrace the fact that no “leaderless” organization is ever fully so, but our current configuration lets us both play to our individual strengths while leaving space for us to rotate responsibilities, recruit fresh voices, and provide opportunities for newcomers.

We felt the best match for these three primary philosophies is the cooperative model.

The meetings will look like this, but with more cheese and puns.

The meetings will look like this, but with more cheese and puns.

Can you still do fundraising (like Kickstarter or Grants)?

Christine: Yes and no… and maybe… and yes again.

Many grants require a 501(c)(3) status or fiscal sponsorship to determine eligibility, so we would only be able to apply to grants to do not require such a status – like TBA’s CA$H grants. We’re honest with ourselves that we’re not the kind of organization that most grantors are looking to fund at the moment. We’re making art for ourselves, and grantmakers tend to look to size and area of impact. We tend to only impact gigglebones.

Kickstarter and Indiegogo, on the other hand, do not require an organization to be a non-profit in order to launch a campaign. We need to be clear with our donors (Kickers and Go-goers) that contributions made to Thunderbird are not tax deductible.

We are still a corporate entity though, and as such, we are only eligible to receive funds that are related to our business. Donations not directly related to goods or services, therefore may trigger an audit or a revocation of our corporate approval. That being said, the rules governing such things are, (for better or worse), more flexible than they may appear.

How does being a co-op change how you make decisions?

Christine: The great thing about being a cooperative is that our decision-making process hasn’t caused us to change drastically. In fact, it highlights a track record of decision-making that has already been mostly democratic. Writing our bylaws helped us to clean up some of the specifics of administering an arts organization such as what denotes a quorum, how will we decide what will be our next production, etc.

The overarching precept is equality: one member, one vote.

Also, standard shotgun-calling rules apply.

Do you know how this will affect your future?

Christine: Some guy named Commodore briefly mentioned something about our membership growing, creating more content, experimenting online, and sometime in the very, very distant future, we will acquire our own space, perhaps in the East Bay.

Where should people go if they are interested in getting involved?

You can write to any of the current members, respond to this post, or email us here: info@thunderbirdtheatre.com

Right now we’re looking for folks who want to be “Collaborators”. This is a non-voting level of membership that comes with perks and treats (and responsibility). After a year, “Collaborators” may be invited to be full-voting members, though they may elect to indefinitely remain at the “Collaborators” level and hoard their perks and treats.

Thunderbird Theatre Company’s latest comedy “SHOW DOWN!” opens on Friday, August 1, at The EXIT Theatre in San Francisco. Tickets are on sale at Brown Paper Tickets. Please, if you love ThunderbirdTheatre Company tell your friends. And if you don’t…tell your enemies!

Claire Rice’s Enemy’s List: Theatre Gets a Big Tax Break

Claire Rice has tax code stories on her Google Alerts.

Excellent news!!!

A tax relief program will begin this fall which could give theatre companies up to a 25% tax rebate on 80% of a production’s up-front budget costs ahead of its run. Touring shows will receive a 24% tax rebate. Other productions will be eligible for a 20% tax credit. It is intended to benefit both commercial and subsidized companies, who can claim their relief by either offsetting taxes or as a cash credit. The relief will be evaluated on a per production basis. It is hoped the tax relief plan will help the theatre industry to compete with cinema and television, which has enjoyed similar tax relief measures for years.

You just know this guy is going to use his rebate to do a production of "Jesus Christ Superstar"

You just know this guy is going to use his rebate to do a production of “Jesus Christ Superstar”

An industry professional said: “Our desire is that this gives a boost to producing across theatre and other forms of performing arts such as dance and opera, and in particular that this helps regional theatre. There is an opportunity here to boots production, jobs and investment.”

The measure was first conceived in 2011 when tax credits for angel investors in small start ups were in the process of being reviewed. Lobbyists for the theatre industry called for a similar, but separate, review looking at tax breaks for the creative industries. That proposed relief would have been more about making investing in theatre attractive, while the relief that will go into effect on September 1st gives tax breaks directly to commercial and not-for-profit corporations.

Without a doubt, the most important part of this announcement is that the government is openly supporting the creation of art and it’s ongoing survival. “It’s a massive vote of confidence from the government,” said another industry insider. The big winner in this equation is touring companies, which means plays and productions will be able to survive longer and will be seen by more people.

Ah…wait. I’m sorry. I’m a bad reporter. All of this is happening in the UK.

It is good news for our friends across the pond who often have reason to crow. One of their major exports is, in fact, theatre. Though, while it may be a vote of confidence in the industry, it is also a little salve in the major wound of awful cuts to smaller subsidized theaters across the UK.

Still….le sigh.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have our president come out to his podium, smile, and say anything at all about theatre? Wasn’t it exciting to pretend, even for a moment, that our government was willing to throw us a bone?

A girl can dream.

For the real skinny on the tax relief plan: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/mar/19/theatres-tax-break-15m-touring-productions-west-end-regional-chancellor-george-osborne

For more information on cuts to UK theatres: http://www.equity.org.uk/campaigns/my-theatre-matters/

If you haven’t bought tickets for Thunderbird Theatre Company’s upcoming production of SHOW DOWN! you should. Thunderbird Theatre Company is back with a new comedy and the battle for television has begun…on stage! To buy tickets click here now: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/751561

Claire Rice’s Enemy’s List: 4 Things Theatre Bay Area Should Do

Claire Rice has some ideas. 

This is what ideas look like.

This is what ideas look like.

Theatre Bay Area recently had two very big fundraising drives. One of those was the Blushing Orchid Ball and the other was an on-line campaign asking members to help “bridge the gap” in funding that the event (and I’m assuming other endeavors) didn’t fill. How big a gap? Quoting Brad Erickson: “Nothing life-threatening ($50,000 is about 3% of our total budget)…” I got the first “Bridge the Gap” email on June 12. One day after San Jose Repertory announced it was filing for bankruptcy. Thirteen days after Intersection for the Arts announced that it would be restructuring. As of this writing Theatre Bay Area traversed the funding gap. The sweat can be wiped from our brows and we can all go back to doing what we were doing before…raising money for everyone else.No, but seriously, I’m glad they were able to raise the money. Programing shouldn’t have to be cut because the rent was raised.

Programing should be cut because it isn’t working.

So now that Theatre Bay Area is out of the danger zone, I think it’s time we take some evaluation time.

Here are a few things that I would like Theatre Bay Area to be.

1) Be More Like Public Radio/TV
I’m talking about membership here. My membership to KQED isn’t about me; it’s about what I think is important. I believe that Public Radio needs to exist in the world. My membership to Theatre Bay Area is like that too. I am a member because I believe Theatre Bay Area serves my community in an important way. I’ve been a member of Theatre Bay Area on and off over the years, but it was only the first year of my membership where I was doing it for me. The magazine, as good as it can be, is perishable. The discounts in services are negligible to being a non-member and most events are just as open to non-members as members. Membership dues right now are 30% of Theatre Bay Area’s annual income, but I know plenty of people who aren’t members who benefit by proxy from other people being members (like the companies they work for, or they read the articles on line). They may say: “I didn’t go to the conference because I’m not a member,” or “I was a member, but I didn’t get anything out of it.” American Conservatory Theatre is a member of Theatre Bay Area, and I’m pretty sure they aren’t getting anything more out of the membership than most. Why are they members? For postcard distribution? No. It’s because they understand that Theatre Bay Area is a hub of a very large metropolitan area. It’s a hub that connects a diverse range of communities. Our thinking about cost/benefit of membership needs to change. Our relationship to the organization needs to change. When a membership payment is made the member should not be thinking: I’ve paid $75 and what have I gotten out of it? They should be thinking: I’ve paid what I could and now I can feel like I’ve contributed to the community at large.

2) Tear Down the Pay Wall
And like Public Radio/TV, Theatre Bay Area shouldn’t look as if it is providing services strictly for the benefit of the cash that comes out of those services. There is a big part of me that agrees with local theatre personality and soon to be podcast celebrity Rob Ready that too many theatre companies are operating on a crutch of fundraising. There are too many theatre companies who are more worried about their pass the hat speeches, program inserts, kickstarters, and gala events than they are about whether or not a show actually sells. But theatre companies are not services organizations. As “intrinsic” as they may be to our experience as human beings, (or insert other inane grant-speak statement) they do not provide necessary services that support communities. Not all of them, anyway. Theatre Bay Area does! CA$H Grants aren’t just money to local artists; the process of applying is practically grant writing training wheels. No other organization will hold your hand throughout the grant writing process. No other organization will call you and tell you your budget is weird looking and give you 24 hours to resubmit. No other organization will let you sit on a panel first so that you know what it is like to apply before you apply! That alone is worth the $75 membership fee. But right now, Theatre Bay Area, either because of pressure from members or funders or from their own history, has set up a system where everything it does must be able to fund itself. Thus the pay wall. Right now, as a member of Theatre Bay Area I get a magazine, access to what’s behind the pay wall on the website, and discounts on their events and services. But I argue that the news, opinions, forums and opportunities are too important to put behind a paywall. The articles are too well written, the important news and opinions of the day are too of the moment, and the voices of the leaders of our industry are too necessary to keep behind a pay wall or oppressed by a press date. HowlRound, 2AMt, BitterLemons and various blogs are filling the internet for free with up to the moment opinions, incisive critical reactions, brave foretellings, and just plain old news. I argue that the pay wall is hurting Theatre Bay Area more than it could ever help it. It makes it feel like a for profit venture when in every other way it’s main and best purpose is to be for the benefit of it’s members.

3) A Yearly Omnibus Publication
I know, this sounds crazy! And, in a way, it is. But it needs to be full of nonperishable items like plays, dramaturgical analysis, and a place where writers can be published. The magazine is beautiful and it is the biggest reason to become a member. This month’s magazine included IDEATION by Aaron Loeb, and that is wonderful. But if the pay wall comes down and we can get something that looks closer to The Bold Italic or HowlRound with daily stories, editor’s picks, updates and news bits, then we don’t need a publication with those things. One yearly Omnibus publication can have: a “best of” section for articles that mattered throughout the year, the Glickman winner, Theatre Bay Area’s annual report (LINK: http://www.theatrebayarea.org/?page=2013AnnualReport), a report on the whole Bay Area Theatre scene, and a listing of award winners and where they are now! It can have reports from important unions, big funding organizations, government agencies and more. It can be so much. And it can be available electronically for my Kindle.

4) Really, Stop Being Sad that San Francisco Isn’t a Theatre Going Town
San Francisco is going through an arts revolution right now and theatre isn’t being left out of it. Really, it’s not. We are just so caught up with being “relevant” and “important” that we are overlooking the fact that we are part of a larger tapestry of incredible things going on right now. Yeah, times are hard and Netflix is better than going outside. Fact. It’s just a fact. I can’t and won’t argue it. Please, can we stop talking about it? At the very least can we find another way to frame the thought: “San Francisco isn’t seeing us. How do we make our presence known?” One day there is going to be a San Francisco Chronicle story with a headline that says: “Who knew we had so much amazing theatre?” And we’ll all stomp our feet and get red in the face and say: “We were always here!” I just need a new argument here. I need more than cheer leading and intrinsic impacting. I hope the awards will help, but I sincerely doubt they will do more than boost both internal moral and internal strife (yes, at the same time!). I don’t want to waste time telling people that I’m important. It’s time we figure out how to let them know we EXIST!