Posted by Bruce Miller
"Brilliant" - defined by TheFreeDictionary.com as "Full of light. Shining." Exactly how I feel about the five plus one shows in Barksdale's 2010-11 Signature Season.
Somewhere near the top of the list of my most important responsibilities is selecting which plays we will produce. Play selection is not something I do alone or in a vacuum. Suggestions come from virtually everywhere (Board members, subscribers, single ticket buyers, teachers, theatre artists of all stripes, contributors). I honestly appreciate and benefit from all the ideas you throw my way.
Direct input into the process comes from Phil Whiteway (of course, he's the one who has to pay the bills), Chase Kniffen (he will assist me in selecting the artistic teams that will bring each title to life), Sara Marsden (she'll sell the tickets), Judi Crenshaw (she has to articulate the strengths of each title to the media outlets and the general public), plus Joy Ross Davis (group sales), Sue Griffin (costumes), Bruce Rennie (tech director), and several others.
At the end of the day, the buck stops with me. If you hate (or love) a play produced by Barksdale, I'm the guy to blame (or congratulate).
From the millions of titles that exist (surely the world must have given birth to at least several million comedies, dramas and musicals by now), there are perhaps a couple hundred titles that make it on to one or another of the lists that always float around the Barksdale offices. From this wealth of great work, five or six titles ultimately emerge. The criteria against which each title is assessed are:
* is it a "great" play (Barksdale's mission is to produce "the great comedies, dramas and musicals--past, present and future")
* do we have the capacity, based on existing resources, to produce a first class production (our mission charges us to create "national caliber productions")
* will our production be fresh, unique and alive
* will it captivate the audience
* does it have the potential to expand our subscription base (lots of lengthy and very personal discussion here; remember, the productions that have passed this test include everything from Guys and Dolls to Intimate Apparel to Boleros for the Disenchanted to The Little Dog Laughed to Cyrano de Bergerac to Melissa Arctic to Is He Dead?)
* does it add to the diversity and breadth of our work and offer new opportunities to our artists and audiences (we try very hard not to produce on our Willow Lawn season the same type of play over and over again)
* is there or will there be a considerable font of energy created around this title among our artistic leadership and family
* is there a unique "hook" that will allow us to extend this energy to single ticket buyers, group sales leaders, and playgoers / playmakers at large
* does the season feel good as a whole--is the total greater than the sum of its parts
* would the season make our founders (Pete, Muriel and Nancy) proud; will it engender pride among our Board of Trustees and staff
This year there was a special emphasis on a final criteria.
* Will it make money?
With the continuing sluggishness in the economy, the significant declines in governmental and corporate support, and the increasing competition coming from CenterStage and the "Broadway" season, there is no margin for financial error. I know that admission is not very high-minded. I'm just being honest.
Five titles (with a sixth subscriber option) have run this gauntlet and emerged with colors flying. I'm very excited to announce Barksdale Theatre's 57th Signature Season!
Shipwrecked! An Entertainment - by Donald Margulies
White Christmas - Music & Lyrics by Irving Berlin, Book by David Ives & Paul Blake
Legacy of Light - by Karen Zacarias
Contemporary Broadway comedy - title TBA
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels - Music & Lyrics by David Yazbek, Book by Jeffrey Lane
The Bluest Eye - by Lydia Diamond, based on the novel by Toni Morrison
More to come tomorrow about each of these wonderful shows. I hope you'll subscribe!