BWW Special Feature: 99 and Under the Radar; Where there's a Whale...
Welcome to 99 AND UNDER THE RADAR: A LOOK AT INDIE THEATER'S MOVERS AND SHAKERS, BroadwayWorld's new weekly series that showcases standout productions and production companies from the independent theater scene in New York City. Each week, independent producer Michael Roderick will be discussing the latest goings on in the theatrical wings, highlighting those with potentially bright futures.
This Weeks Totle: Where there's a Whale, there's a way
This week 99 and Under sat down with Dan Moyer and Nathaniel Kent of the fast rising Shelby Company to discuss their views on developing shows, starting a company, and their latest project which culminated in an epic Kickstarter campaign success.
99: Tell everyone a little bit about how Shelby Company was started
Shelby: Shelby Company's creation was very organic. Many of the founding members met as children or teenagers in the San Francisco Bay Area, and spread across the country during college. When college ended, we were hungry for exciting original theatre, and Artistic Director Dan Moyer just happened to be a wonderful playwright. We came together at first to simply put on one play - New Beulah. At the same time though, Dan had written a play for his high school friends - WINNEMUCCA (three days in the belly) - who were all about to graduate from college. We applied these two plays to various festivals around the country (under the name Shelby Company, so named for Moyer's high school drama teacher) and were accepted to a few in New York and beyond. We loved the experience of producing our own plays, traveling, and ultimately feeling so much support from so many all across the country. We knew we had to continue making theatre.
99: The company does a lot of work outside of the city. What is that like?
Shelby: Performing outside of New York City is, for us, extremely vital. I think a lot of people get caught up in the mentality that if you aren't making it here, then you aren't making it anywhere. But there are so many diverse, vibrant theatre communities outside of our little island. Minneapolis, for example. Besides The Guthrie, The Playwrights Center and the other major venues, there are tons of young companies putting up amazing stuff. There's are great alternative scenes down in New Orleans and Austin and they're wonderful places to go to because people, on the whole, are a lot less jaded. You hand someone a postcard and they say "Cool a play!" As opposed to "Oh, you have a theatre company. Who doesn't?" And a lot of people say to us, you know, isn't all that travel expensive? But compared to the cost of renting a theatre out here, well, not really.
99: Discuss some of the challenges associated with being a New Theatre Company.
Shelby: It's very difficult. But not without reward. One thing I've personally felt is a challenge, as an actor, is running Shelby Company, holding a job (gotta pay rent) and going out to auditions outside of the company. It's very tough to manage those three very time consuming jobs.
As for the company, what makes it tough to survive is the amount of work we do. We have been going strong since December 2008, and our first real time off was the month of February this last year. In March we picked back up and were producing one project or another through the end of August. Our longest break to date has immediately preceded this production, a short two months (and that's not to say we actually took a break. Pre-production for The Land Whale Murders started in September!) And with that amount of work we are constantly in need of funding, which is always a difficult job to acquire. Funding has come for Shelby in many different forms. But producing theatre in NYC is expensive, and it's always a challenge to do the work we do with the budgets we are able to put together. The Land Whale Murders is the largest budget we've worked with, and still our incredible designers are working under constraints. The scope of this show is larger than ever before for Shelby, and we are grateful for the ingenuity and resourcefulness our designers are able to build with.
99: Have you collaborated with any one else in the Indie Theatre community? What was that like?
Shelby: In New York we've collaborated with a few artists. We've done work with The Centrifuge a few times, a really great theatre company we have a few close ties to through NYU. Their Fresh Ground Pepper series is certainly a great place to find exciting new things happening, and we've had the pleasure of presenting a short or two through that venue.