Everywhere is a venue.

A couple of days ago I saw a tweet from Karen Lange about how she was hard-pressed to find production venues in her city. I’ve stumbled on that issue, too; when X is closed for renovation and Y is booked up until May and Z is stingy with their space, then what is an artist to do?

Then yesterday, I was having a cafe con leche in my favorite Durham restaurant, Old Havana Sandwich Shop. The owners are dear to me, and I’m there at least once a week. It struck me that the restaurant (shown in the photo above) would be a gorgeous performance space, with its high ceilings, arched windows and glossy hardwood floors; there’s even a raised platform at one end, to make a little stage.

My question is–if the owners of said space are amenable–why isn’t everywhere a potential venue? Especially for artists for whom big institutions are not a great fit? Legitimacy endowed by a big institution doesn’t really matter to me as an artist, and fancy lighting and set design doesn’t really matter to me as an audience member. I’d much rather see a production of Julius Caesar (or Eurydice…or Danny and the Deep Blue Sea…) at Old Havana than in a traditional setting.

I don’t know if all audience members are as adventurous, but, as with other assumptions, this one is investigable. There’s no inherent reason that going to a play at a restaurant, rather than a LORT, should be classified as more “adventurous.” There’s no inherent reason production values should be lower in a nontraditional setting, if we reframe the definition of production values as being not the craft of Big Spectacle, but the craft of Best Fit. I can speak for my own company, Little Green Pig–we look for nontraditional venues, which force us to invent and improvise in order to showcase that venue, which not only maximizes production values for that space, but is terrifically exciting as an artist. It also is for our audiences, apparently; we sell out most of our shows and just celebrated our sixth anniversary.

Now, every time I go into Old Havana, I see more than I used to.

Keep your eyes peeled, y’all.

5 Comments on “Everywhere is a venue.”

  1. Kat says:

    This reminds me a lot of some of the dances that Megan has performed, in non-traditional spaces like libraries.

    I also think that if we make our art in places where people normally are, they will interact with it differently, and expect to see it – it won’t be a locked away mystery, but a normal part of life.

  2. jcevarts says:

    witness both hands past venue choices. liberty warehouse, goldenbelt, kress building, and other underused or currently unoccupied downtown spaces.

  3. @J–definitely! In fact, I met with Cheryl and Tamara just today, at Old Havana, as it turned out. I think the only show of theirs I’ve ever seen was the abundance project; I wish I could see/had seen more. They taught me their scoring technique, which is pretty badass…ah, I love my foresisters.

    @Kat–aboslutely. I think both music and dance are way ahead of us (=theater) on this, the idea of integrative/integrated venues.

  4. RVCBard says:

    I am all about thinking outside the black box.

    I’ve considered bars and such, but they tend to be funny about letting people use space, even if it’s never used for . . . anything.

    I have honestly thought about using a subway platform (open 24/7, easy to get to, plenty of room). But winter is not very actor-friendly in those places.

    I have, however, reached out to someone with a nice-sized apartment to use as a rehearsal venue. That seems to be more fruitful. I’m wondering what I can do with that to make it more worthwhile.


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