BWW Interview: Benjamin Summers of StreetCorner Arts
BWW: What is the history of StreetCorner Arts?
BS: Whiskey and a script. Rommel and Benjamin had been working together on a show here in Austin. Both had spent a time living and working within the Chicago theatre scene; over drinks, they chatted about friends, venues, and scripts. In particular, scripts that they'd like to do here in Austin if they had the chance. They both really loved the storefront theatre feel that is so common in Chicago. That blue-collar feel. Rommel had MEN OF TORTUGA at the top of his list of projects he'd like to see staged. Benjamin and Andrea read the script and loved it; a reading was held not too long after that and, from there, it moved quickly into production----like 3 weeks later! A slot had unexpectedly opened up at Hyde Park Theatre and we jumped at it! We used the opportunity to work with our friends (Ken Bradley, Garry Peters, and Joe Penrod). It was a rowdy bunch and a ton of fun. I don't think it was until the show closed that we realized we really wanted to do it all again and form an actual company. People kept asking us what we were doing next and we kind of looked at each other and said, "Next?" We hadn't really thought that far ahead. So, we spent about a year, reading, planning, applying for our non-profit status, etc. We really wanted to take our time and do it right. Then, we became a company in earnest in early 2013.
BS: Formally: "Relevant, engaging theatre in a collaborative way." Our focus is always on scripts with a clear vision and crisp, intelligent dialogue. From there, we are actor-centric---making acting the focal point of the process by hiring some of Austin's best and brightest professional actors and giving them the opportunity to shape the production through our collective, collaborative process. We seek to engage our audience in a conversation about current topics through our productions with the goal of enriching and strengthening our community by the performance of theatre. We always say that if the audience leaves the theatre and finds themselves talking about the show hours later, then we have done our jobs.