Last Saturday, the 8-person-max-occupency conference room at the downtown Tully’s was full to bursting—with ideas, strategy, the articulation of ideals, and a bunch of motivated theatre folks.
It was the initial interest meeting for Gold From Straw theatre company, a new group just starting to get started here in Tacoma.
There were, actors, certainly, and directors, playwrights, costumers, stage managers, fundraisers, workshop leaders, publicity folks, web-designers, prop-masters, lighting-designers, and even a few future audience members.
All this in a dozen or so people.
See, as a bunch of motivated theatre folks, we’re all used to wearing many hats, stepping in and out of many roles, or—as we’re all used to saying—doing what it takes to put on a darn good show.
That’s what Aaron Schmookler, the founder, artistic director, and uber-motivated force behind Gold From Straw is trying to do: Produce good theatre, and do it in Tacoma.
As you may know, I firmly believe that more art creates… more art. I also believe that more good art can only raise the bar in the current community.
I can’t tell you the number of conversations I’ve had with other frustrated Tacoma theatre folks who have to commute 40-60 minutes north or south to find paying gigs, the opportunity to do new works, or even the opportunity to be taken seriously for what we do.
I also can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard (mostly from non-theatre folks) that “if it bothers me that much, why don’t I move to Seattle?”
This seems to be changing, and I’m thrilled. The addition of Theatre Northwest Group has certainly made a difference in town, as has the recent addition of improv groups like The Outfit. More art, people.
Now, Gold From Straw is looking to add something new to the Tacoma theatre scene.
There was a lot said, brainstromed, and mulled over at the meeting, and I was so glad to be there with a lot of people I respect and admire–both old friends and brand new acquaintances.
But the thing you need to know is this:
Even while Gold From Straw is completing the concept stage, they are also into pre-production. Their first show, Doubt: A Parable by John Patrick Shanley, will be mounted this spring in a very nearly confirmed space in the downtown Theatre District.
I’ll be sure to post details about the space, auditions, performances, and anything you can do to help as I learn about it.
It’s clear that Aaron knows exactly the kinds of plays he wants to produce with Gold From Straw. As the company’s current mission says, “With a commitment to the highest artistic standards, we stage an eclectic array of new works and classics that are raw, substantial and sophisticated while simultaneously sincere, and optimistic.”
I like the last part: Optimistic. As we discussed in the meeting, there has to be a middle ground between the soothing old chestnuts and the common backlash to produce the threateningly bizarre.
(Yes, I said threaten. I also believe that theatre should challenge an audience, make them uncomfortable, sure, and encourage them to look at their place in the world a little differently, but never send them nervously shuffling out of the theatre before the lights come up. If you lose your audience, you fail.)
I recommend you read the entire mission to get a good feel for what Gold From Straw is all about. If nothing else, this list of values says it all for me:
- Risk taking
- Language that crackles with life
- Movement that is anything but mundane
- Common Ground
- Artists who allow themselves to be vulnerable in front of an audience
- Audiences who come expecting to be thrilled
Good luck, Gold From Straw, and welcome to Tacoma!