May, 2018 Issue

From the Chair...




Norcostco: Stagehand Overhire


Annual Conference and Stage Expo
Newsletter Archive Links
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UnrivaLED Roadshow @ CTC
LED Fixtures by Chauvet
Productions Around the Region
Student Scholarships to attend National Conference



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From the Chair

by Corey Shelsta, NBS Section Chairperson

Todd      One thing I have sometimes found odd about us theatre folk, especially those of us in the academic realm – students or teachers – is how we spend our summers.  Others go on vacations, play in softball leagues, enjoy summer evenings walking in parks, camping… all sorts of activities.  But for some reason we feel the need to do more theatre!  Why is that?  What’s the draw of summer stock?
    I was thinking about this as I was working in my yard today.  So when I got back into the house I got out a few of my theatre history books and did a bit of looking for some sort of history of summer theatre.  Google helped a lot too, I must admit.
    The term "summer stock" comes from the concept of a resident company performing in a theatre over the summer using stock scenery and costumes that are reused for numerous shows.  Different plays were presented in repertory, rotating on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.  I also learned that there were touring companies that could perform in stock theatres.  They would tour with props and costumes and go from theatre to theatre where the lights and scenery would be waiting for them.
    Depending on the climate and typical weather, some theatres even did performance outside or in tents.  Having worked at a few outdoor venues over the years, there are certainly pros and cons to that approach.  No matter what the venue however, it appears that the traditional plays presented tended to be lighter fare – comedies, romances or mysteries.  That still seems to be the case for many summer theatres now.  Comedies, farces, musicals, etc.  You don’t typically see Endgame or Buried Child on a summer playbill.
    I also found it interesting that the concept of summer stock originated with only four theatres, then spread across the country.  This is from Wikipedia:
    Summer stock started in 1919-1920s with four theatres: The Muny, St. Louis, Mo. (1919) is the nation's oldest and largest outdoor musical theatre; Manhattan Theatre Colony, first started near Peterborough, New Hampshire (1927) and moved to Ogunquit, Maine; the Cape Playhouse, Dennis, Massachusetts (1927); and the Berkshire Playhouse, Stockbridge, Massachusetts (1928). Many of the theatres of the heyday, the 1920s through the 1960s, were in New England. Part of the "straw hat circuit," theatres also were in New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, among other states. (There had been earlier summer theatres: the Gardens Theatre, Denver (1890) and Lakewood Playhouse near Skowhegan, Maine (1901 for summer), but they were established stock theatres that had then been used as a summer venue
    Originally summer stock theatre was a venue for professional actors.  While there still are many of these professional theatres out there, a majority of summer stock now is done by students at early points in their careers looking to establish themselves and build up acting or design/tech credits.
   So we spend our summers not vacationing or camping, but joining in the long, rich tradition of summer theatre.  Perhaps this season is your first summer theatre experience.  Or maybe you have been returning to the same theatre for many years.  Whatever the case is, enjoy your experience to the fullest.  Make friends with the people you work with, they will be great connections for you later in your career.  Learn from the challenges the tight schedules of summer theatre can present. Doing theatre is a great way to spend a summer.  [ ]