“Open Stage Variety Show opens”

“Open Stage Variety Show opens”
by Rob Calvert
Antioch Record, October 14, 2005

The Open Stage Variety Show, brainchild of student Vanessa the Curator, opened for its first show Friday night. Essentially a talent show in which any form of written, visual, or performance art is free to take the stage, the Open Stage Variety Show was created to include more kinds of art than similar events at Antioch.

“I like to think of it as a kind of open mic night, only better, because with an open mic you just have literature or poetry and maybe some music. But this is music, dance- which is why we want it in the theatre, more open space for dance- we’re probably going to have video showings, theatre, improv, anything that can happen on stage,” Vanessa said.

The Variety Show began low key with people conversing in the aisles, occasionally getting up for a drink or snack at the entrance. A resident DJ known as Earthdog provided music. Everything was very relaxed in preparation for the show.

Once the show got started it included poetry readings, singing, as well as skits and live theatre from Antioch students as well as faculty and visitors.

Katie McDermott read two poems, “That Marilyn Appeal” and “Aurelin and Thalo”. Josh Amses read an untitled prose piece. Theatre professor Louise Smith sang two original songs and read a prose piece she wrote to a song by Laurie Anderson. Emma Woodruff played two unfinished songs. Vee Levene and Jill Summerville did a structured improv sketch, “Bus Stop”, which they will also do at the next show to include audience participation due to the sketch’s controversial nature. Katrina Molnar did a modern dance about codependency.

“This is the first in the series so it’s going to be pretty casual, there’s not a lot of performers. It’s been advertised, but not as much as it could be. I wanted to start it out small to see how it works because this is a new thing in this community. Cabaret Horace has been kind of a big thing in the past but this is a little bit different. Tonight [was] really just to test out the format of it and respond to it,” Vanessa said.

Vanessa says she was inspired to start the Open Stage after co-opping at Dixon Place, a non-profit performance space in downtown Manhattan. There she ran the stage and house for many shows, sometimes single-handedly, learning what it takes to run nights of shows in a theatre.

“[It was] an idea I’ve had for years. But before, I didn’t know where to start, I couldn’t visualize it,” Vanessa said.

“Previously my theatre experience and education has focused either on the creative- writing, performing, directing- or on tech and stage [management] for individual shows. But with Dixon Place I gained more experience setting up shows, dealing with the audience, things like that,” Vanessa said.

If the variety show successfully takes shape into the Antioch community, Vanessa says, it will provide artists of all kinds a chance to express and perform their work for a live audience as well as a good Friday night’s entertainment.

The Open Stage Variety Show has four more performances: October 21, November 4 and 18, and December 12. Each show is on a Friday at 8pm at the Antioch Theatre’s Experimental Stage.

the full online half of the interview

In our interview I asked you about where you got the idea for the variety show, I remember you saying something about a co-op could you tell me a little about it?

I co-op’d at Dixon Place, a nonprofit performance space in downtown Manhattan. I was called the “tech intern” but really I ended up doing so much more, including running the stage and house for many shows, sometimes single-handedly. Through that experience I acquired a lot knowledge of all the aspects of what it takes to run nights of shows. Previously my theatre experience and education had focused either on the creative (writing, performing, directing) or on tech and stage for individual shows. But with Dixon Place I gained more experience setting up shows, dealing with the audience, things like that. This inspired me to form the idea of the Open Stage, an idea I’ve had for years- but before, I didn’t know where to start, I couldn’t visualize it.

You see, I’ve always wanted to produce, to curate. Supporting the creative works of others and providing a space for them has always been passion of mine, because as an artist of occasionally somewhat bizarre persuasion I have constantly run into problems of getting my work out there. For years I ran (and still run, technically, though it’s kind of on hiatus) a web site that was devoted to this: I e-published writings and artwork by people who may not otherwise get the chance to have their work see by a broad audience. It’s called Lights Out Media [ http://www.fluxing.net/lightsout ]. Maybe the Open Stage will inspire its rebirth…

Do you have any specific plans about the direction the veriety show will go in (advertising, location change, format change)?

Though small in numbers, the energy of the first night is exactly what I’m going for; so my goals involve maintaining the energy and intimacy and casualness of it and increasing the numbers: of audience and artists and the diversity of the artists and what they bring. I would also like to continue to open it up to the wider Yellow Springs and Miami Valley communities. So far people from Dayton and Columbus have expressed interest in the series. So that’s kind of it. I hope to expand and continue to develop my own vision of the series as well as incorporate the visions of others. Because, above all else, this is a series for everyone, and I want people to feel like it belongs to them.

How did you pull this all together, who did you have to talk to for the time and space? where did you get the resources? Any support from the school?

Over the summer, at the end of my co-op, was when I got really serious about the idea. I wrote out a proposal highlighting anything I could think of that would need to be covered surrounding the nights of the shows- structure, advertising, pricing, staffing, etc.- and sent it to John Fleming, who’s running the theatre this year. I’m sure it helped that I’ve been a sometimes annoyingly consistent part of the Antioch theatre community since my first term, Fall ’02. John loved my idea and agreed to it, giving me the space of the experimental stage and any support and resources I might need that the theatre could provide.

I want to take this opportunity to thank specific people who helped the first show come together: John; Louise Smith, head of the theatre department; Adrian Davidson, the technical director of the theatre; Alex Kesman, my stage manager; Mark aka Earthdog who was the DJ; the artists; and the people who came out to see us.

From where do you have experience in theatre or manegment?

The aforementioned co-op at Dixon Place, house at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Manhattan, assistant stage-managing for the San Francisco Mime Troupe, stage-managing at the Chocolate Factory Theater in Queens, lots of everything here at the Antioch theatre, house for the Rhode Island International Film Festival, production assistance on a few independent films, production internship at Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, not to mention managing a coffeeshop for a while, but I don’t think that counts.

Has there been anything at Antioch like this in the past?

The closest as far as I know is Cabaret Horace (created by John Fleming), a once-in-a-term event that lately doesn’t get put on every term. There have also been open mic nights held at the C-Shop in the past, and in the spring there was a series of spoken word showcases as part of a class focusing on feminist prose and poetry (taught by Ami Mattison) that I was also involved with. With the Open Stage I am attempting to bridge the gap between these other ventures in addition to creating a space for works-in-progress.

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