Monday, December 23, 2019

Learning, Growing, (not showing).

Hello friends,

I have been remiss in blogging here of late, but as my interview with Artist Soapbox was recently featured on their blog in an end-of-the-year post, I thought I ought to put an update here in case we had a few new visitors.

As you may or may not have noticed, the first weekend in January is rapidly approaching and ... we're not promoting our show. Yes, South Stream will not be producing a January show this year. And the reason is mostly me.

This story goes back to February of 2019. We had just finished This Doesn't End Well. It was artistically successful, but to be honest, I was feeling a bit drained. Writing, producing, and directing takes a lot out of you. It puts a lot on the line too. And while I am absolutely proud of the show and pleased we put it on, it wasn't perhaps quite as successful as I imagined it might be.

While in that state of mind, I saw that my friend Lucinda had helped arrange a workshop for the the last weekend of March presented by Shakespeare & Company. I was a bit skeptical. The price point was not out of my reach, but high for an acting community with very little in the way of paid work. I was also was unsure if the instruction would be at an appropriate level. I have taken many classes. Some have been well worth it, but some have perhaps not been quite at the right level to provide a quality experience. But Shakespeare & Company had a good reputation, and I was creatively in a place where I needed to participate and learn rather than lead. So I said "what the heck" and signed up.

And I am very, VERY glad I did. I thought the workshop was frankly excellent. The instructor was an inspirational artist and really a gifted teacher. He was an example of how to be open and honest and caring in the process of making art. And the work that we did, I mean, I was really pleased with what we learned, and how the monologue I had grew and changed, but zing-pow at least half the pleasure was getting to witness with others as you saw them really experience growth in their art and life. Just ... well I thought it was great.

Afterwards, I did some things that tried to carry forward the work we did there and reinforce it. Lucinda was kind enough to work with me and another participant to facilitate some exploration of Linklater. But Shakespeare & Co also offers a month long winter intensive. And I decided that if I could make the money work, I would take the time and do it. I love leading this little company. I love the challenge of taking a script and just saying, hey, we can do this, and then doing it. As an artist it's incredibly fulfilling. It really forces you to grow in important ways as an artist. But it also prevents another kind of growth. It keeps you from really questioning your process, of doing an examination of your technique, and it keeps you too busy to really do structured learning of any kind.

SO, this coming January, from December 29-January 24th, I will be doing exclusively that at Shakespeare & Company's main campus in Lenox Massachusetts. They are promising to keep me very VERY busy - the schedule promises 10-12 hours of instruction six days a week. I'm excited and nervous. I'll try to keep folks updated, but given the schedule, once per week is likely the best I'll be able to manage.

Until then have a Merry Christmas (or winter holiday of your choice) and a happy New Year.


Monday, June 3, 2019

Talking. So Much Talking.

Hello fans and followers of South Stream.

We have some cool South Stream news for you. Our artistic director, Brook North, was interviewed on Artist Soapbox, and the episode was released today. If you want to hear him discuss producing independent theatre in the triangle, down load this hour long podcast. Tamara really takes the time to go in depth with her guests and produces a great show.

Find it here:

And if that's not enough, I thought I'd included a few other recent interviews. As part of the promo for This Doesn't End Well Brook sat down with Cary Playwrights Forum radio program. That interview is mostly focused on writing. You can hear that interview by clicking on these words.

Finally, Brook participated in a video interview with RDU Onstage as part of the promotion for the staged reading for Birds of a Feather along with author June Guralnick.You can find that discussion here. 

And if that's not enough talking for you... you clearly have too much free time. :-)

Friday, March 1, 2019

Dear Jeff Daniels: WTF?

[UPDATE at end of post]

Let me be clear: I know it's not your fault Jeff. It wasn't your decision. But WTF man?

Look, I'm happy for you that you're in this new adaptation of To Kill A Mocking Bird. It was written by your boy Aaron Sorkin, and you get to play the iconic character of Atticus Finch with a new script based on the novel. That's great. By all accounts people seem to like you in it (Washington Post loved you! Sure WSJ called the script a grotesque caricature but what do they know?). They're certainly buying tickets. I listened to your interview with Marc Marron. You genuinely seemed into it, and you're an actor and producer I really respect man. I dig it.

But then this happened. Scott Rudin's production company started sending cease and desist letters to all of these small regional and community theatres that had secured the rights to an entirely different script. You know, the Christopher Sergel version has been a staple of high school, college and community theatre for almost 30 years. These theatres weren't trying to produce a play without authorization or paying royalties. They had fully paid licenses from Dramatic Publishing - the company that has had the rights to that script since it's first performance in 1990. And not surprisingly, these local theatres are cancelling performances because of these legal threats.

Look, Rudin might have the right to do this on the letter of the law. Apparently Dramatic Publishing's contract specifies that if a "first class" production is going on in NY or touring, their right to license is extremely geographically restricted. I think you can make an argument that it was intended to restrict productions of the same script, but hey, maybe they do have the right to send these cease and desist letters.

But DUDE. You understand small regional theatre. You run one! I am really impressed that you used your success (in part) to create a small regional theatre - Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea, Michigan. You're still on the board. Man that's great. But YOU KNOW what kind of bullshit move this is. Scott Rudin's profits aren't threatened by a production of the Sergel script in the Dayton Playhouse or the Kavinoky Theatre in Buffalo. And YOU KNOW how much work goes into making a production, and how far in advance - set, lights, costumes. YOU KNOW that the work of regional artists is no less valuable, and of no less quality and art, than the work of productions in New York.

This is an outrageous assault on regional theatres from a large production company - just because it can. And you know it is wrong.

There are two possible explanations. I know you have worked with Scott Rudin for quite some time (he produced The News Room after all). And maybe this is some mistake by over-zealous lawyers. Maybe Scott is a great guy who also values regional theatre the way you do, and just needs you to step in and explain this to him. The other explanation is that you are working with a shitbird that doesn't give a damn about local theatre. Someone who sees cancellations of regional theatres as insignificant events, and the loss of work of local theatre artists and revenue of local theatre organizations as essentially second in importance to his wants and desires. He might get a small theoretical additional profit for his show, so good enough.

Either way, Jeff, it is up to you to stand up for your friends and compatriots. For the local theatre community at large. You are the one in the room that understands what this kind of action means. You get the kind of havoc this creates in a local theatre's schedule, and you get the kind of damage it can do to a local theatres bottom line. Most importantly you get the kind of damage it can do the the spirit of a the people involved in local theatre. You started in local theatre. Most actors do. Think of 11 year old Olivia Mongelli in Ohio, who just had her starring role as Scout pulled out from under her. You understand the damage this is doing.

And make no mistake Jeff - you are not only in the room, you have the power. If you left that production, it would close within two weeks. Sure people love the idea of seeing a new adaptation of Harper Lee's novel, with new modern sets and great production values. Sure some people want to see what Aaron Sorkin did with the story. But for better or worse, Broadway dramas draw based on the cast. They're also coming to see you Jeff.

I don't blame you for what Rudin's company is doing. I know you're just an actor, and their sending out these letters did not go to you for approval. I don't hold you responsible for the actions of the production company. But I do hold you responsible for your response. Because you ARE the one who has the power to do something. I know you like the role you're playing, and I know it sucks and that Rudin put you in this position which is completely out of your control. But here we are.

YOU have the power to call up Scott Rudin and tell him to stop this. You understand why it needs to be done. You need to do it.

And if you don't... I mean ... Can you really work with this guy? Can you really continue to make money for him? Seriously? Is that who you are?

Jeff Daniels: What the fuck?

Apparently Rudin's company is offering companies the ability to produce their (Sorkin's) script instead. That's an interesting turn of events. If I was a company in the middle of rehearsals, this probably wouldn't help much. If I had this planned for summer or later though... I'd probably jump at it. I'd imagine it would sell even better.

As a solution - I don't know what to think. Not really my money or butt on the line. Probably good for some folks and bad for others. But at least it's something.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Good Night!

Good Night Moon
South Stream put our seventh production to bed Sunday night. It was also the night of a total lunar eclipse in Raleigh. As far as I know, those two events are not related, but it MIGHT just be that my show was the appeasement necessary to keep the ancient gods from stealing the moon forever. We'll never know.

It was a special one for me. In addition to co-producing the show, and directing the show, I wrote the show. That meant every person who came was sharing a very special part of me. So thank you to everyone who came to share these stories with us. It meant a lot to me.

We have to say thank you to a lot of people for helping make this show happen. Thank you to Burning Coal, RLT, Christine Rapp and Michael Babbitt for letting us borrow stuff, and to Andy for letting us borrow your voice. Thanks to Laser Image Printing and Marketing for that cool "INFORMATION" letters. And thanks to the Petrones for helping with the lights and letting us use a few extra.

Big thanks also to Ian Finley for helping us with rehearsal space. Such a huge gift to a small production. I'm looking forward to speaking with his class as part of our "payment" for the space. Of course thank you to Michelle and Josh and Sonorous Road. Wonderful hosts as always. Without space for theatre, theatre never happens.

Thank you to Tara and George for choreographing the stage combat for us. You helped us make it look unsafe while keeping the actors safe. Clear, clean, effective choreography is a great asset to any production. Y'all made it look easy (and good)!

Thanks to our amazing technical crew. Will on sound. I think you've provided the sound for every South Stream Productions production. Thanks for your excellent professional work as always. Todd Houseknecht for Technical Direction. Also a veteran of every show we've ever done. The set pieces were smaller this year, but they were so well done. Thank you to Rachel for costumes. This is the first time we've worked with you but I sincerely hope it won't be the last. You were so professional and on point. Everything was just handled with efficiency and flair. Thank you to Jenn for your fantastic images again. And for keeping me sane. And for putting up with my stress. Meant all the things in my bio. And Alyssa, thank you for your work on lights and as ASM. You stay so busy in theatre for a reason. As a crew member you're reliable and care about making sure the show looks as good as possible. As a friend, you're great at telling me when it's ok for me to step away. Really appreciate your support on the last weekend.

To the cast - Ben, Katie, Lou, John, Julie, David, and Natalie - what can I say? It was such an honor to have artists of your quality work with me as a director, and to speak my words as a writer. I really can't thank you enough for sharing your craft to bring my text to life for an audience. You nailed it.

Kelly, our SM - you were excellent. Professional, conscientious, thoughtful, and kind in your way. You were with me every step of the way in rehearsals. You were a comfort and a sounding board and an absolute rock. And once the show was in tech, you ran it like a dream. It just worked. But it didn't "just work." It worked because of your hard work. It is so awesome to have a competent, intelligent, reliable stage manager. I never had to worry about how the show would be run. Never. If you have a good SM, you never notice what they do. But I did notice the fact that I didn't notice. So thanks.

And John, as my co-producer - thanks. We did it again. Thank you for believing in my work and writing, and for encouraging me to put this on. I am certain I would not have done it without you pushing me to do it. And of course I couldn't have done it without you. You're good at the things I'm terrible at, and I'm happy for that. Yet another South Stream show in the books. Thanks.

And finally, to everyone who came. Paid or comped. Critic or Patron, THANK YOU! Really, I SO appreciate each and every one of you for attending my show. It really means so much to me that you would take your time to share these stories with us.

To everyone, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Now I'm going on vacation. Directing and producing a show is stressful. For fun, here's an actual measure of my resting heart rate during tech week:
Yes. This is my actual resting heart rate as measured by my fitbit.

See that peak there? That's opening night. Time for some rest.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Special Event - Knock Back

Event not sponsored by RBC... but they're happy to have us.


Special Event! This Thursday! A special meet the author event! Just don't call it a talk back!

This Thursday, January 17, we will have a special event after the show. A knock-back. Anyone who attends is welcome to join the author for a discussion at Raleigh Brewing Company after the show (it's just across the road) and knock one (or possibly two) back.*

The event will be informal. After the show we will simply walk across the street to our neighbors, Raleigh Brewing. You are welcome to come, ask questions, and otherwise discuss the work with author and director Brook North, and any cast members who care to join. So if you're the sort that enjoys a post show discussion with the artist, come out to the show Thursday.


*No purchase or consumption of alcohol required, of course. :-)

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

This Doesn't End Well - Final Weekend!

You haven't gotten a ticket yet?
This Doesn't End Well only has one more weekend! That means there are only FOUR more chances to see the show! Reviewers and audiences have loved it.  Martha Keravouri and Chuck Galle in Triangle A&E call it "a lovely an hilariously fun way to start the New Year," and Byron Woods in the Indy gives it "✮✮✮✮"

It's an exciting chance to see theatre written and produced right here in Raleigh. Don't miss it!


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Reviewers agree - This Doesn't End Well is a hit!

At South Stream, we always strive to produce high quality work. And I think we do that. You should take my word for it. But you don't have to. Turns out there's a bunch of folks who are happy to share their opinions on the show. Critics and audiences have been enjoying This Doesn't End Well and they haven't been shy about saying so. So if you are on the fence about buying a ticket - read these reviews!

[UPDATE - In addition to the reviews originally appearing in this article, we received an excellent four-star review from Byron Woods in the Indy. He says: "the title, This Doesn’t End Well, fails the truth-in-advertising test. Repeatedly, this engaging septet ends very well indeed."]

Long time reviewers Martha Keravouri and Chuck Galle at Triangle A&E called it "a lovely and hilariously fun way to start off the New Year."

Also at Triangle A&E, Robert O'Connell calls the show a first rate collection of short plays saying "I guarantee that you will be impressed by the writing, the acting, and the staging."

We were the maiden review for RDU on Stage - a new collaboration between Lauren Van Hemert and Kim Jackson. Lauren called the show "A mixed macabre blend of dark comedies lovingly performed by a thoughtful ensemble of strong actors." (that's the blurb you see above). This might be my favorite blurb for the show.

We also received a positive-but-not-effusive review from Roy Dicks at CVNC. I appreciate his work, although I disagree with him on some points (of course). But over all he enjoyed it, saying "The evening has consistent laughs (and a few teary moments)." He laughed, he cried... what more do you want?

But do you know what the best thing is? The audience reactions. My favorite audience member reactions on facebook were "Go, just go." and "See. This. Show."

I think that says it all.


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Intimacy in Theatre

Natalie Turgeon and Katie Barrett demonstrate consensual eye-touching in This Doesn't End Well.

Byron Woods has a great article about intimacy direction in this week's Indy.  It is great that local theatres are starting to incorporate this work into their process. It is an incredibly important and under-served aspect of storytelling, and virtually every actor (male or female) has a story similar to the ones told in this article.

For a small theatre company, of course, that also presents a practical issue. Intimacy direction is a relatively new field. It's growing (thankfully) but it is also in very high demand. There are currently only two groups that offer any kind of certification, and even these people will confirm that they are still crafting and perfecting the practical skills and training needed to implement the principles of intimacy direction. RLT has the resources to bring in an intimacy director, but because of the limited supply and increasing demand, many, if not most local theatres do not. So what do you do?

Well, the obvious answer is - you do as much as you can. First - there are online resources available to everyone. Intimacy Directors International (IDI) has some materials available on their website. Sadly, most of them are behind a paywall, but what they term the "Pillars" - the foundational principles, are available to all. I think the fee for "membership" and access to these materials is relatively modest ($35/year as of this writing), probably worth it if you are a director (and I would hope within your budget if you teach theatre). Theatrical Intimacy Education (TIE), a different group, has more material available free on it's website. There is also a short (but good!) guide to stage intimacy. Similar to the Pillars, it's more of a basic priciples document than a how-to, but it's a great place to start. Finally, there's NotInOurHouse. For those not familiar, these issues have been around in theatre for... well probably forever, but they came to national prominence in the theatre community in the wake of an article about Profiles Theatre (since closed) published in June of 2016. Out of this article, and the ensuing discussion in the Chicago theatre community, came Not In Our House. It started as a support group and safe space for people to talk and share their experiences, but it became an advocacy organization for safe intimacy practices in theatre. They have some good resources on their site, including the Chicago Theatre Standards. These standards are designed for professional theatre, and they may not be practical/possible to implement for your group due to cost or the structure of your organization (for example... our theatre company is really just me and John... there's no board of directors, so it's not really possible to create an "outside reporting system" that doesn't go through me at some point). However - it is really good document to read and consider. Even if you can't implement all of the formal structure, the goals the document embodies and the methods of how to achieve them are worth pondering. "How can we achieve the same goals in my organization?" is a question every theatre company should at least ask itself.

If possible, you should also seek live instruction when it is available. Both IDI and TIE offer workshops to provide theatre practitioners and educators the principles of intimacy direction. For budgetary and practical reasons, every show is not going to have an intimacy director. For a show like Measure for Measure, or Closer, you really should try to have one, but many (most?) shows have some sort of physical intimacy. Even if it's a single kiss at the end of And Then There Were None, it is good to be aware of the principles as a director and to affirm those principles verbally in rehearsal to your cast. You won't have (and honestly, don't need) an intimacy director for every stage kiss. But you should use the principles of safe intimacy direction for every stage kiss. And you don't need to become a professional intimacy director to learn the principles of intimacy direction. Most of the workshops offered by IDI and TIE are aimed at just this sort of education.

Prior to our production of This Doesn't End Well, I (Brook North) attended both the workshops mentioned in Byron's article. Speaking as a director, having this sort of education was an excellent tool for working with my actors. One scene in TDEW has some physically and emotionally intimate kissing. I was able to adapt an exercise we did in one of the workshops where we used a hug as the gesture, and then we experimented with different levels of intimacy in that gesture (this is a hug with someone who you are socially obligated to hug but don't want to, this is an acquaintance, this is a loved one returning after a long time away). In rehearsal, I had the actors use the gesture of pressing palms together. This allowed the actors to "play" with the gesture, using different timing and intention (who will initiate the gesture, who will break it off, why, how long will it last, etc...) without the physical intimacy of kissing. I think (based on feedback from my actors) that this worked well, and laid a strong foundation that prepared us to choreograph the intimacy in the scene.

Once we got to choreographing the scene ... I'm not going to lie, it was still awkward. The actors in the scene are not just my colleagues, they're my friends. Directing people you know to do something intimate is challenging. I have two observations from this process. First, it's OK as a director to acknowledge that "hey, this is awkward for me. I'm not sure what to do." Acknowledging the issue, verbalizing and talking through discomfort is not just for actors, it's for directors too. You are a human being in this situation! Second, it is SO AWESOME to have actors that have this knowledge too!!! Seriously, actors - these workshops are not just for directors, so they can tell you what to do later. They are VERY MUCH for actors. It keeps you safe and lets you identify situations where your space and body as a professional are not being respected. But also, much of the principles of intimacy are checking in with your partner and working with them using consent to build a scene together. One of our actors, Katie Barrett, had been to both of the workshops as well. Having her there in the scene was critical to what I think was a really successful process. I was able to provide and support the principles as the director, but to be honest, Katie was as responsible as I for it's implementation in the scene.

So - directors and actors - PAY ATTENTION TO THIS! This is a great idea, and if this is an area with which you are not familiar, you really owe it to yourself to get familiar with it. It's useful, it's respectful, and most importantly - actors that feel safe and respected make better art. Don't believe me? Come see This Doesn't End Well!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Industry Night - Saturday, January 5!

Photo of theatre industry worker mass-producing theatre


A number of theatres in the area have been hosting "industry night" shows on Monday night. This is great because one of the hard things about going to see shows when you do theatre is that you are so often busy at the times the show actually runs. Well, we are not planning a Monday night show, but the good news for us is - there are NO other shows running this weekend. So tonight, Saturday January 5, is our industry night! We will be offering special industry pricing for you. If you are a member of the theatre community (actor, director, set design, tech, whatever) we are offering a limited number of $10 tickets at the door. 

Here are the rules:
Cash only. No reservations. We will start selling industry tickets at 7:00 PM.  First come first served. 

It is very likely we will be able to seat anyone who wishes to attend, but we can't guarantee that, so arrive promptly. 

Friday, January 4, 2019

Opening Night!

This Doesn't End Well is here! Comin' at you like a T-Rex.


Well, we made it. Opening night! It's here!

We had our final dress last night... and it was good. Really good. Look, I know I wrote it, and directed it, and co-produced it, so I might be a little bit biased when I say this, but: you will like this show. You just will. It is worth your time and money to come and share this with us.

I'm beyond grateful to everyone in the cast and crew for making this show happen. It is absolutely incredible to have such an amazing group of artists give me their time and effort to produce my words. It is an amazing feeling to see this show come to life.

But we need one more thing to make this show work. We need you. so BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW. I promise, you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Volunteer! See TDEW for Free!

Interested in seeing This Doesn't End Well for free? We can help you!

We need two ushers for each show to help us run front of house. Our ushers have to arrive a bit earlier than other guests for a brief training. Ushers are responsible for selling concessions, helping seat people with mobility issues, answering questions, and just generally helping out a bit. In exchange, you get to see the show for free!

Interested? Sign up HERE. 

(Note - our first weekend is already full! Sign up soon if you want a slot!)

Twelfth Night's Come and Gone

  Whew! What an adventure!  Wow, well our production of Twelfth Night was a huge success. It far exceeded my expectations. I loved this sho...