From the standpoint of a Marketing Director, it’s always a priority to make sure tickets are sold and people actually attend your production. However, an equally important task (and some may wager it an impossible one to manage) is to participate in the conversation that continues long after your audience leaves your theater.
Post-show talk backs have been an obvious way to offer an immediate dialogue with your patrons, allowing them to pose their questions to the creative team immediately following a performance. But what about those subsequent conversations, those ideas that crop up after a gestation period?
Our new artistic leadership and our Education Department have made efforts to curate those conversations in a series of events and programming that address the issues explored in our current Mainstage productions and continue the discussion within the community.
The first of these events for this season is EXPOSED: Women You Think You Know…, a collaboration with Your Real Stories. Founded by Jaye Sheldon and Dr. Lillian Dunlap, Your Real Stories uses storytelling, theater, and media to challenge people to talk and listen to each other across perceived differences of identity, experience, and opinions.
I recently sat with Jaye Sheldon and our new Producing Artistic Director Stephanie Gularte to discuss the collaboration between the two organizations.
This is a really exciting night of two different arts organizations coming together. What will the evening consist of?
Jaye Sheldon: It will feature original scripts based on the lives of three local women from our community. Dr. Dunlap and I have spent the last few months interviewing these women and creating original scripts based on these interviews.
Stephanie Gularte: Then three talented, professional actresses will bring the real stories of these women to life on our stage in a really vibrant way. We’ll follow that up with a lively conversation between the audience, the artists and the women whose stories are being told.
Will there be a tie-in with the themes of our current mainstage production, Intimate Apparel?
Jaye: Absolutely. This evening of theatre is inspired by exploring our human longing to soften and blur the lines that separate us from our dreams, and ultimately each other– so much at the heart of Intimate Apparel.
Stephanie: And that’s very much our goal in this collaboration. This partnership with Your Real Stories deepens our commitment to powerful storytelling by connecting the work we produce as part of our season directly to the lives of those in our community.
Jaye: Yes! This partnership has allowed us to broaden our reach and has provided another avenue for storytelling, which we are commited to, as a powerful vehicle for change in our community.
Who are the women in our community that you have interviewed for this project?
Jaye: Dr. Dunlap and I have chosen a trio of women with varying backgrounds who have, each in their own way, left an imprint on our community. We have Mrs. Myrtle Williams, former Associate Provost of St. Petersburg College Gibbs Campus; Marika Robinson, American Sign Language Instructor at St. Pete College Clearwater and deaf community member, originally from Czechoslovakia ; and Katee Tully, former Executive Director of the Morean Arts Center, artist, arts advocate, and civil rights advocate. It’s a really dynamic group of women.
Stephanie: Bringing the women’s stories to life is an equally dynamic group of actresses. Portraying Mrs. Williams is Andrida Hosey, Theatre Instructor at John Hopkins Middle School. Portraying Ms. Robinson is Elizabeth Bonni, former troupe member of the National Theatre of the Deaf and ASL instructor at Hillsborough Community College. And we’ve just gotten word that Ms. Tully’s story will be portrayed by Broadway performer Ann Morrison.
Wow! That’s a really strong group.
Jaye: And the way we’ve approached each woman’s story is very special. Katee Tully has made a huge impact on the arts in this community. Mrs. Williams was one of the first teachers chosen by Mr. Vyrle Davis in 1973 when he was appointed the first black principal of St. Pete High School. And Marika’s story… I’m excited about all of the women, but the method we’re using for Marika’s story- I think it’s going to be very powerful.
What other types of collaboration can American Stage audiences expect this season?
Stephanie: Look for more conversation-creating experiences at American Stage through our upcoming production of 4000 MILES, a funny and soul-stirring story about a grandmother’s relationship with her 19-year old grandson. We’ll be inviting grandparents and their teen and young-adult grandchildren to join us for a lively dialogue that pushes beyond the boundaries of age and generation.
EXPOSED: Women You Think You Know... will be a special event on Tuesday, Oct 6th at 7pm at American Stage. The evening is free for American Stage subscribers and only $6 for general admission. For more information, visit americanstage.org/spotlight-series. To learn more about Your Real Stories’ projects in the community, visit yourrealstories.org.
——–Joey Panek, Director of Marketing and Communications at American Stage Theatre Company