How to have your own theater-Part 2

Lindsay Eure is the big boss of The New Theatre of Chesapeake. In the first part of her interview she told us about her process to open her theatre. In this part, she opens up about how her experience as a performer influences her decisions as a theatre owner, and what people need to think about before opening their own business.

How is your background as a performer influencing the decisions you make for your theater?
My experience professionally has exposed me to more theater repertoire so I have a lot to pull from. In our area, as far as musical theater goes professionally, like at Virginia Musical Theater, they do a lot more classics and less contemporary work. I want to appeal to the younger generations here too. My exposure to new stuff is helping me influence the season, and what audience will like. Some are less well-known, but that are the new classic. Eventually "Hello Dolly" is not as relevant today and that’s what art is about.

"More important than the talent is the personality
of the people you work with" 

As far as hiring in the industry, in every situation I’ve been, in any production, more important than the talent is the personality of the people you work with. You have to have the right group dynamic. I’ve seen a lot of divas, and I will never hire divas. You think you have to hire the best performer, but you have to hire people that are not jaded. I want to hire people that I see myself reflected in so that we’re all in the same place.

"You can't hire someone based on their experience"

Sometimes having more experience doesn’t necessarily mean that you are the better candidate. You can’t hire based on experience. That’s a mistake that a lot of people make. People might have been in the industry longer but they’ve  just been getting through. It doesn’t mean they’re good. You have to look beyond that. There is a lot to be said for experience and I’m not denying that, but it can’t make up for certain things: any weakness you had ten years ago you still have. It can’t just be all on paper. You have to talk to people, and see how you communicate together.

I didn’t want to base someone on the fact that they were in the industry a long time, but that they wanted to do the job and were good for it. It’s easy for me to say that when I’m young and I don’t have as much experience, so it’s easy for me to give other people like myself the chance. Maybe it’s possible if I were older I would want someone at my level in terms of years paid.  But I think if I can do it, this person can too, even if they have less experience.

Is owning your own company on the way of your performing, or does it help it?
It’s great actually! It takes up my time and everything, but I’m at a point in my life where I always said I don’t want to direct, I don’t want to teach. I had to prove something to myself as a performer. Now I know I can do a two-hour one-woman show because I did it. I’ve proved to myself I’m where I want to be as a performer. I’m still growing and learning and improving, but I don’t have to prove myself anymore. That feeling freed me up emotionally to do other things.

"I've proved to myself I'm where I want to be as a 
performer. That freed me up to do other things." 

Since then I’ve learned that I have other talents: business, producing and directing, instead of just performing. I always knew I was a good coach, but I didn’t know I could do the other things until I allowed myself to do that. With owning my company, I could do a show and cast myself! I also really enjoy cabaret work, on a small scale, and I have the channels to publicize that through the theatre.

So it’s really helped, because I’m building an audience for the theater, and I am the face of the theatre, and therefore I’m building an audience for myself. Most directors that own theatre are not performers, so that makes a difference. That’s been what’s gotten us a lot of support, is me performing after a speech to get sponsors. If I cast myself as something, because I am the face of the show, people will come for that.

"I just happen to be the right person for the job"

What should performers consider before opening their own company?
I think I could and list all the attributes and qualities that I have to do this, but it’s so much for than that. So much is circumstantial. I’m not saying you can’t climb any mountain, but in my case, there is a niche in Chesapeake, because we are the only and first theatre company. The groundwork was laid as I had a lot of connections in the area, it’s a homecoming, so people are able to welcome me that way.

So it’s circumstantial and psychological. It’s the right time, and I just happen to be the right person for the job. But it’s not me. If it weren’t the right circumstances, I probably wouldn’t even had the idea. It can be done, but you’ll start smaller and work harder. We’re moving really fast. We’re needed so we’ve gotten a lot of support.

"It's an exciting time"

Any last thought?
On a personal note, it’s just so nice to feel that you’ re finally doing what you are called to do. I was called to perform and I’ll continue to do that, but it was never everything. There were road blocks, and signs that were pointing me in a different direction. It’s nice to know that I am on the right path now. It’s exciting to be at the beginning of a journey this way. I’m at such a good spot in my life. I’m taking note and just go: “remember this.” Once the company grows, we’ll go back and remember this. It’s an exciting time.



How to create your own theatre- Part 1

Lindsay is the kind of woman who you would easily be intimated by if she weren't so incredibly down-to-earth. She has an unlimited amount of energy, and her confidence gives you no doubt that whatever she puts her mind to she can make work at its highest level possible. You guessed it, I am a fan of the woman, which is why I wanted to share her process of creating her own theater, the New Theatre of Chesapeake, with all of you.

What made you want to create your own theater?
Wanting to do something beyond myself, beyond performing a role and being done. I came back here to do a one-woman show at the Wells theater, and I was back and forth between New York and Virginia. My family is right here and I am very family oriented. When I was here I couldn’t help but notice that the art community in Chesapeake was still as non-existent as it was when I had left many many years ago. It seems like a shame because we have many art patrons, and we are the third largest city in our state. Aside from having no venue and no theater company, we don’t have an arts organization that teaches theatre to kids. People have to drive to Norfolk and Virginia Beach, which is hard for people to do. I lived here, and I had to travel all around. It was a lot.

"You can't get people excited twice"

I was thinking about doing more directing and producing, and nobody had the experience that I had. My grand mother had a lot of experience locally in the arts, she was the city council woman. She lives in Chesapeake now but she lived 30 years in Virginia beach, and she was in politics there. She helped to get the Sandler Center built in Virginia Beach when she was on council, and she helped to establish the foundation for the Governor’s school for the arts. She was all about business, but she was asked to do a lot of things for the arts.

"It seemed like everything was already in place"

She has a lot of great contacts in Chesapeake, so it seemed like the perfect line up of expertise for the theatre. I am learning a lot of the business and politics from her. Together we’ve been able to create a line up of great board members. We’ve been recruiting a board of directors since January, and we already have a show this September. You can’t get people excited twice, our season had to start in the fall and fast. It seemed like everything was already in place, and doors were opening, and I couldn’t ignore them. I believe that God has a plan for you, even if you think you know what you’re suppose to do. This was nothing I ever thought of doing before.

What were the practical steps you had to take to get there?
Incorporating, applying for non-profit status, that’s a lot of work. A lot of phone calls and paperwork. Establishing a board of directors. Speaking and presenting ourselves to different organizations, to business people in the city, the chamber of commerce, different groups; people that get things done and people that facilitate and have money or who help to get money; people that have a mind for service, or for getting their name out. Typical business and politics.

"My training as a performer is my ability to 
demand focus and to manipulate energy" 

How did being a performer helped you in the process of creating your company?
I didn’t know that I could do public speaking and I have spoken at a lot of different engagements. My training as a performer is my ability to demand focus and to manipulate energy. Unless you have a knack for public speaking you might not make as much an impact as you should, so my background helps me get through to people. My credentials back up what I’m doing. People don’t wonder how I could pull it off because I have the background to show for it.

"We're still facing challenges"

What were some of the challenges you had to face?
We’re still facing challenges. Fundraising is a challenge and will  continue to be a challenge throughout the life of the theater, especially now and the times we are in. Getting the word out is a challenge. You really have to work on getting free press, and we’ve been really blessed in that area, because we have a lot o free press for different events we’ve done, and some local TV stuff.

A specific challenge is venue. Our city doesn’t have a venue so we are creating a venue by bringing in staging, mounting lighting, and putting up pipe and draping curtains. We have to prove that we have a real theater company and that will help build a real theater. It’s more financially draining to create a theater than to work in an already existing space.



4 stages of working in a new environment

As artists we are meant to travel very often. Whether you are touring through a new country for a few weeks, or going to your summer theatre gig for a few months, everyone goes through the same stages when moving to a new place, no matter how long you're there for.
  1. Excitement: also called the "honeymoon period." You love everything and everyone, you're euphoric, and you love all the differences. You still feel close to home.
  2. Distress: Nothing feels new anymore, you don't understand the differences, you feel anxious, you begin to criticize and make fun of the other people and spend more time on your own. You feel alone and realize that home is far away.
  3. Adjustement: You idealize life back home, but you have a new routine and you have a new sense of confidence when dealing with differences. You start to appreciate where you are.
  4. Enthusiasm:  You are now enjoying where you are, you start to appreciate some aspects of your new environment better than some back home, you start to make your own some of the new things, you are yourself again, and you start to feel at home. 
Those stages can be felt more or less strongly depending on the circumstances. For example if you are touring with your rock band in a new country, your band members will help you feel at home through it all. If you travel alone to a new place of your own country, you will feel the stages more strongly. It is important to know what to expect beforehand so that when you are in the midst of it, you can recognize what is going now and trust that you feel better soon.


Auditioning out of town? Do it cheap!

 If you are ever brought to audition for schools, jobs, shows or if you simply have to be out of town for your job, here is one of the coolest way to save some money.

Instead of going to a hotel which will cost you not only the price of the room, but also will force you to eat out because there won't be a kitchen in your room, you can book a place to stay at Air bed and breakfast.

You can rent directly from their website anything from a couch in a sitting room to a whole apartment to yourself. It's cheaper than a hotel, you get to make your own meals, and you may make some new friends at the same time.
And you may also rent your own room out while you're away too!

You can sign up online for free, post and check out pictures of the places, and reserve online. The whole process is made so that it's safe for everyone.



3 ways to make money while you sleep

What is the one thing that freelance artists all have in common? Working tons of hours that don't pay enough. What is the one thing that all millionaires have in common? Assets. Financial resources that bring you money independently from the amount of hours you put in. As an artist, here are three options that you should seriously consider to create assets:
  1.  Rent something out: I had a friend who had bought the giant puppet plant from "Little Shop of Horror" for a couple hundreds of dollars, and who rented it to local productions around his area. He was reimbursed the cost of the plant the first time he rented it out, and anything he made from it afterward was all for him to keep. He also knew how to work the plant so some of the theatres hired him as well. I had another friend you had bought a house and rented out two of the rooms in there, which payed for her mortgage. You could rent out any piece of equipment too: sound system, keyboard, drums, etc.
  2. Have people work for you: For example if you work for events, you could create a list of musicians to offer to your clients, and charge a price for your work as a contractor. If you already have tons of hours in your private studio, hire an extra teacher to take on even more hours, and keep a percentage of the transaction. It may look like such easy money at first that it might feel like you're taking advantage of people, but this is exactly how the world works: you offer work to someone and they increase your bottom line. It's a win-win situation.
  3. Sell something: for musicians the most obvious asset to sell is a cd. Cds are so cheap to make these days, and once they're recorded you can sell them at your concerts, on cdbaby, itunes, etc. If you're a teacher you can make your own method and sell it to your students, and show it to other teachers to see if they would want to use it and have their students buy it.
Assets are very important to be had by freelance performers because they're a good security blanket to have for the dry months. There are even more important for women who want children, to stay afloat financially during the few months before and after birth.



What you can learn from Mad Men

The show Mad Men is full of brilliant bits of wisdom on work, marketing and advertising. Here is the one quote that I remind myself of when I am tempted to be self-conscious and shy:
"If you want to be taken seriously, talk to your boss like he's your equal, and stop talking to him like he's your boss."



How the Internet is helping the performing arts

Here is a hopeful message from Ben Cameron, who challenged the belief that the Internet is killing the arts, and who points the way to a democratized society for the arts, where artists are hybrid and maintain their dignity.

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