Post image for A New Gear In The New Year

(This post was originally posted on Think It, Do It, Blog It as part of  The MetLife/TCG A-ha! Program. We’re cross-posting on the Circle to better highlight the work of our grantees.)

By Alan Berks, Pillsbury House Theatre

So, while I missed the once-a-month deadline for posting on this blog on behalf of Pillsbury House Theatre by one day, my excuse is simply that there are so many things happening in this building right now that I’m having trouble keeping track of them all. I started as Communications Director here on July 11, but it feels like it might as well have been yesterday.

Right now, the hallway where I work is finally quiet because all our artists and artistic directors are in a rehearsal room working on a new play workshop in partnership the Guthrie Theatre. Over the course of the next three weeks, we’ll be having three more new play development workshops and readings. Tonight, we open our NAKED STAGES performance series, the culmination of a 7 month development fellowship for emerging performance artists. Last month, we produced the second 2010 CHICAGO AVENUE PROJECT where star local artists (including Minnesota local boy made good Josh Hartnett) team up with neighborhood kids to make plays, and we flew in performance poets and singers from New York to share the stage with underground hip-hop artists and dancers from Minnesota for our LATE NITE SERIES. Then, there’s our “regular” mainstage performances (anything but regular) and preparing our 2011 season—we’ll be producing the area of premiere of Tarell McCraney’s IN THE RED AND BROWN WATER, and our first show of the season, BROKE-OLOGY, will be entirely “Pay What You Can,” meaning that all our audience members will be picking their own ticket prices for the entire run of the show.

Regardless, I resolve to make up for my blogging omissions in December. Consider it an early New Year’s resolution.

The thing is that all the projects I listed above don’t even include the main reason I took on this job as well as the reason for the “Think It, Do It” grant: The integration of the theatre with the Settlement House/Neighborhood Center in which the theatre is housed. Every week I’m involved in conversations with Day Care workers and After School program staff and resident artists and others about how precisely we can integrate the arts into everything we do with and for the neighborhood.

Needless to say that we haven’t figured it all out yet, but we’re getting ready to shift into another gear. After months of planning we’ll be starting our Cultural Community Hub Institute, led by community arts consultants Bill Cleveland and Eric Takeshita and Macalester Professor Harry Waters, Jr., in mid-December. Every employee in the building, from the HIV outreach workers to the professional puppeteer, will be in the same room, asking the same questions, and working toward the most creative, innovative answers possible.

I’ll let you know what happens. Promise.