(Local group, Elev8 for Life, a leadership and empowerment program that serves youth from Wyvernwood and Estrada Courts. The girls component of Elev8 for Life met in The Shop’s craft room and kitchen. Photos by Jesus A. Reyes. The following post features work by a MetLife/TCG A-ha! grantee–to learn more about the program, click here.)
Turning Our Private Space Public
When we embarked on this idea for The Shop we discovered layers of questions – about liability, security, safety, and access that needed to be answered before we could open our heretofore private costume and prop shop into a welcoming venue for public activities. Questions like: What rooms can we utilize for meeting space? Do private office doors have working locks? What is the maximum occupancy of the various facility rooms? How many tables and chairs do we have in stock for gatherings? What are emergency protocols? Where are the fire extinguishers located? Who on staff knows CPR?
Thinking through all the various scenarios for hosting the public was challenging. Procedures, forms and systems needed to be created and vetted in order to ensure that CTG and our guests were being properly protected. We have been able to tap our field-wide colleagues to get help (special thanks to Milwaukee Repertory Theatre and the Music Center). We have now put in place the gamut of thoughtful systems for safely hosting activities at The Shop – everything from new earthquake kits to new emergency signage throughout the space to incident report templates.
At the end of the day it took many conversations with everyone in our company from lawyers to insurance brokers in order to ensure that The Shop program runs smoothly and can be enjoyed without worry!
From Warehouse to Open House
As we’ve been talking through and planning our outreach effort for The Shop project, a couple of things have been noted about the workspace where the events will be held. First, the space is in a warehouse complex that has some limitations when it comes to holding events. These include: lack of secure parking, evidence of gang activity in the area, lack of street lighting and general lack of accessibility. Second, the building itself is not what most would categorize as inviting. Some of this is by design. Most businesses in the area avoid advertising the type of work or materials that they have inside to avoid being the victims of crime. That said, for The Shop to be successful, we all agreed that the building needed to be more welcoming.
We began this process by cutting back the mature greenery in the front of the building to allow more natural light to enter the front windows. (In the future and as budgets allow, we hope to be able to paint the building and add more flowering plants.) Next, during the holiday break, while much of the staff was away, we stripped and repainted the floors in the entrance area of building in order to create a more formal “lobby” space. We also painted the walls in this area a soft cream. We have left the walls blank so that we can use the area to display the outcomes of our workshops. It is not possible to keep this space set up as a lobby area permanently due to the needs of the shop during production. However, we all agreed that we could utilize it in such a way that, with little effort, it could be transformed into a multi-use space by clearing costume rolling racks and setting up tables for workshops, sofas and a rug for casual gatherings or leave it open for movement or performance-based events. There is a place now for a coffee/snack station and it is directly adjacent to the entrance, bathrooms and kitchen.
We hope to continue the improvements to the building by reconfiguring and redoing the floors in the “Craft Room” which we have already utilized as meeting space for 40+ people. Our main constraints in doing these types of improvements are that the space continues to function as a work space most days. Nonetheless, our plan is to continue to develop and the space for multiple purposes and to open our doors to our colleagues and neighbors.
CTG’s Shop Project Facilities Team includes Assistant Department Director for Education and Community Partnerships Patricia Garza, Director of Production Dawn Holiski, and Production Operations Manager Elizabeth Leonard.
Jesus A. Reyes is the Program Manager of Community Partnerships at Center Theatre Group’s Education and Community Partnerships Department. Mr. Reyes was formerly an L.A. County Arts Commissioner for the First District and is the Creative Artistic Director of East LA Rep. He was also the a cycle 7 TCG Future Leaders Mentorship Grant recipient, mentored by Diane Rodriguez.
The intent of the MetLife/TCG A-HA! Program is to enable theatres to dare to try new approaches to problem-solving artistic, managerial, production and/or technological challenges–to try things the organization doesn’t and couldn’t normally do. To learn more about the program, click here.