These notes are an attempt to document a wide-ranging conversation about Penguin Productions with students, parents, and young professionals.
There are a lot of questions here, a lot of ideas.
Please keep this conversation going in the comments!
July 30th, 2017
Penguin Productions community gathering
Location: Shana's house
Mission, Vision, Values. What if we could skip this step and go right to programming? For the sake of forward motion, let's assume:
Mission: to do work together
Vision: yes, we have one
Values: yes, the good ones
Now, how to plan our path to a project? We can approach from multiple directions:
1. When (here's when I have time/space)
2. Where (here's the perfect space)
3. What (here's the perfect play)
4. Who (here are the people with whom I want to play)
What are this group's when/where/what/who factors?
Here are fragments of pathways:
Creating a space for tiny people, a creative outlet for younger ages.
An investment in mentorship.
How does my self-producing fit into Penguin or are we doing our own thing?
There aren't a lot of spaces that will let you do work, that will take a chance on you as a director/designer/production manager. Could one purpose of Penguin be a laboratory or workshop for young artists? A space where you can come with a strong idea, and we will make space for for that to happen?
There's room here for people to fall in love with a project and imagine it.
Having a space to produce projects = not literally a "space" but a creative group to produce with + to support.
The Seattle theater ecology is vibrant, can this group be porous, can connecting people out to other groups or organizations be part of what Penguin does?
It's nice to have a space where you can try new things. To have room to figure things out.
There are actors in their 50s and 60s that are hungry for the same opportunities that young artists are hungry for. We could serve both age groups.
Summer productions. Exploring opportunities in college. What is a Penguin season?
With a full time job, maybe longer rehearsals: a 2-3 month process rehearsing 2-3 days a week for graduated young adults? A longer process is good for new work.
There's not a lot of opportunities out there to do summer-long acting projects.
We have good models of student-produced work.
What kind of stories do we need more of? One group came up with: time, lived experience, subversive reality, and reimagining our physical relationship to art.
But wait, the parental voices gently pull us back from over-artiness. People need support, people just want to be in a play, people don't want to have to be “good enough.” How do we make room for people who don't want to do this professionally? What does that support look like?
Penguin could be a place where even non-traditional pitches are welcome.
Where every pitch is a "yes, and..." connecting the passion project to the outisde community, and always thinking about bringing in new people.
This room is full of driven and passionate people, says one of them. How do we include people who need an entry-level chance, who don't have the passion or drive to pitch their own project but still want to be part of it?
We can invite people into a project that is fully formed. Outreach is important, and that's where the opportunity for new people is: come join this thing that is happening.
We make sure that people can still be cast in roles that they wouldn't be in more traditional settings.
Jumping into a full production can be overwhelming (a whole play is a big commitment), so having other opportunities for camps and workshopping a show, some non-audition opportunities, that feel more accessible to try out.
It's important to have varying level of seriousness and professionalism in plays, so there's the desire to do the "best" play... and also knowing that smaller roles are how people get started and get interested in theater.
Everything we have done is about empowering youth to take responsibility and ownership. Is this our mission? Our value? This is important for funding, and something that differentiates us.
How can we orient new people, not just throwing new people into a new thing?
Can we make inclusion more intentional and codified: have at least one project per year whose whole value is new people and inclusion on purpose?
Do we designate: this is the master class project, this is the inclusion project, this is the new work?
Having different "access points" to theater, so some people access theatre from a master class and some from those who just want to participate.
Someone taglines the operation: "Empowering Access to Theater"
How do you create all these different types of opportunities?
From a parent: don't lose sight of one of the most valuable qualities of a program, that you can join a production at age 11 and have a total blast and be welcomed/accepted regardless of skill. Acceptance into a community of young artists is rare, and of value.
There's lots of places to do theater, but there aren't a lot of communities like this one.
What do we do that's so different?
Whoever we are, we're hungry for a place to dig into the work, and hungry for a place to be welcomed.
The community comes from a culture that is created which brings out the best in each of us who participate.
The goal is that culture can be created by one, but then disseminated by each and every.
Communication and collaboration (and independence) is part of what we do. Adults treating kids like equals. We can connect out to the theatre community.
We're all hungry for shows (youth and young adults) - how do we share and connect?
A culture of access leads to giving people chances to play roles, to do jobs that they wouldn't have done. This is the culture that we want to perpetuate: giving people access to chances and resources, with the belief that it will make a difference and create something amazing.
The cast of the senior show (2017) was involved in how to make the project happen, which was interesting and fun and useful to be part of planning and budgeting.
Access to chances for tech and designers and stage managers, how do you find those people and how do you find the resources to support them (the costumes, lights, light boards etc)?
Where you do theatre will determine who you get. There are a lot of spaces in Seattle but not many of them are conducive to flexible scheduling.
Is it worth it to invest in our own space, or, plan our projects farther in advance?
There are lots of good unconventional spaces that are doing well, and having our own space gives us the ability to be flexible to say "yes" to projects. Can we become theatre consultants, and help our community do projects out in the rest of seattle and be resource?
A vision of an interconnected space with 3 different age classes happening and they all get together for lunch.
It's easier to build a community if you have a space. Home is important for people and for theatres.
A mission: "Empowering individuals and integrating communities through creative projects"