Fringe Seacoast pushed back two years
Fringe Seacoast, scheduled for this summer, is on hold until 2020 says founding member Aimee Blesing (also co-founder of theatre.unmasked).
"I would say we weren't able to put together the resources we really needed," Blesing says. "Essentially the decision was are we just going to do it and hope it works, or not, and make sure next time we do it, it does."
There are a number of factors for the decision. Key is building a stronger foundation.
"We need a dedicated committee of volunteers that understand the importance of these kinds of events, and also understand what's involved in putting it together," Blesing says. "There's two sides of this. On one hand, we have some great committee members, but I'm not sure we've been able to find some that are the right fit, those people that have the time and resources to commit to the process from beginning to end."
They also lost a key venue "and had no time to find a replacement that would work."
First order of business going forward is building a stronger base, she says.
"We are going to be working with Dover stakeholders to make sure that there is funding and support," she says. "We’re giving ourselves two years to get it all together."
Blesing and others plan on meeting with stakeholders and city organizations "to see if we can work with them," Blesing says.
"We need to find out who can support us at the city level – established organizations. ... Also part of the plan over the next couple of years is to be looking at foundations and grants to see what money is available."
A stronger board is called for as well: "a committee of dedicated people." A founding board requires a lot of commitment, she says. Time and work are required: finding sponsorships, writing applications, running down opportunities, fundraising, etc. "And this year, we didn't have enough of us to cover everything we needed to happen to have it be successful."
Blesing hopes to pull members from throughout the broader Seacoast.
"Ultimately, we want this event to be a Seacoast festival, not just a Dover festival," Blesing says. "That's why we didn't call it the Dover Fringe. ... It's for the Seacoast."
Finally, there is the issue of people loving the idea of a fest, but not being "super familiar" with the concept; the closest regionally is in Portland, Maine.
"They love the idea of it, but the only way to fully understand the concept is to commit to the process," Blesing says. "And learn along the way as we're doing."
As Blesing and friends work on shoring up the project, she, along with co-founder Jamie Clavet, will be moving the second annual theatre.unmasked "Bard in the Yard" series forward. This year, the mini summer tour will perform "Romeo and Juliet" at three locations. For info see www.theatreunmasked.com/
Changes at VIPA
There's a few things shaking with Veterans in Performing Arts. For starters, Founding Artistic Director Jonathan Rockwood Hoar is "slowly stepping back."
"The reason we formed VIPA was so it could be a group-ensemble, but I had to keep staying in a lead position," he says. "I'll still be producing artistic director, but Stacy Lynn Brown and Scott Degan (a backbone) will start to step up a bit more."
The plan is for Brown, Degan and others to take on more administration duties and directing shows. VIPA's next production "Baby with a Bathwater" is scheduled for the 2018-19 season at the Ring. The director's position is still up for grabs.
"I'm not sure who will do it," Rockwood Hoar says. "We'll see. I might direct, ... but it may be another member."
The other move is to get the company back up to three or more productions annually. After producing several per year, VIPA cut back to one in the 2017-18 season. (The play was "All The Way" at the Ring, which recently took Spotlight Awards for both Leading Actor and Supporting Actor in a Play, Don Goettler and Scott Degan respectfully).
Rockwood Hoar and wife Erica Hoar (a founding member of Afternotes) welcomed their first child last year. "That meant we didn't have that much time," he said.
So, now the company is in talks with a number of local theater companies and venues regarding spots, he says.
"We're trying to combine with more theaters. We're talking to WEST (West End Studio Theatre) and SRT (Seacoast Repertory Theatre), and others about doing co-productions. We're really looking at the 2019-20 season," Rockwood Hoar says. "We'd really like to map it out and try to expand our playing field."
The company is also exploring the idea of producing other types of shows with different groups, notably teens from military families. VIPA member Andrew Grassie has already done some solo work with the population.
But the "biggest goal right now" is connecting with more veterans, Rockwood Hoar says.
"We're doing really fine work with what we have," he says. "But, we want to reach out to more ... veterans who miss that feeling of being a part of a bigger group."
To get involved with VIPA, check out the company's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JRHVIPA.
Brown and Lavin to produce independently
The aforementioned Stacy Lynn Brown, along with VIPA collaborator (and boyfriend) Brandon Lavin, are branching out with a first-time independent project.
Brown, who started working theater in 2013 as part of VIPA's "Biloxi Blue," will co-produce "A Backwards Fairy Tale," her first producing effort, along with Lavin, also a first-time producer. "Backwards" by Allie Lehnhoff is scheduled for the 2019-20 Ring Late Night Series.
Lavin came up with the show title.
"Actually, one of the reasons we were picking shows outside VIPA was we were looking for something family-friendly," Lavin says. "But, we wanted something adults could go to and enjoy as well."
Lavin has no qualms with VIPA's outstanding show selections such as "Biloxi Blue" and "Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo," but wanted to produce something that would be appropriate and of interest to all ages.
"Backwards Fairy Tale" is a clean show, "no swearing or graphic stuff," he says. "And also, it's a fun story." It starts as the classic "princess needs rescue," but then, well, she doesn't.
The pair also "just want to branch out to see if we could do something on our own, to put on our wings and fly," Brown says. "It's a training ground for myself and my boyfriend. ... It is gutsy, but at the same time we won't know unless we try."
The two do have a few actors in mind, but are holding off on casting and director selection for now. "Where we have so much time, we haven't made any final decision," Brown says.
This project allows Brown and Lavin to explore new territory, she says. It's good for personal, artistic growth, and ultimately will benefit VIPA, which she fully plans to continue with.
"VIPA is like a second family for me, an outlet where I feel safe, and I really connect with everyone in our group," Brown says. "I think there's a lot more potential for us to grow as a company."
Jeanné McCartin has her eyes and ears out for Seacoast gossip. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.