Everywhere is a venue.Posted: November 30, 2011
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.