Wednesday, April 18, 2012

It Takes a Village


with Louise Pitre as Mame and Judy Blazer as Vera

I am excited to begin performances of "Mame" and of course will report on the opening of our glittering, fabulous production after our first weekend of previews. If you plan to come and see the show, I recommend buying your tickets right away-- we are selling fast! I thought I would take a moment here and sing the praises of Goodspeed Musicals' new actor housing.

One of my first jobs out of college was a season of summer stock at a non union theatre in upstate New York-- a dilapidated old venue literally in the middle of a cornfield called Fort Salem Theatre. My Mom drove me from Boston and I arrived at the theatre, excited to do my first full season of musicals. I was directed to the house where I would spend the next three months of my life, and was shocked and appalled to see the ratty, filthy old place that awaited. In my shared room, the floors had buckled, the beds were mattresses on the floor, one window had been shattered and glass lay everywhere, and the place smelled of the mold that had gathered under the damp, peeling wallpaper. It was, in short, a hovel-- one I would not wish on a squatter. But being non-union, there was no recourse to correct the problem, and since I was young and stupid and had signed a contract, I remained. By mid-season, the upper floors of the house had been condemned by the local building inspector, and all of us crammed into the remaining bedrooms on the ground floor, and were forced to share one mildewed bathroom amongst eight performers. This is an extreme story, but it illustrates the plight of the itinerant actor, who must uproot himself continually and take up residence temporarily at each theatre where he works.

As mentioned in previous posts, this is my third show at Goodspeed, but this time the experience has been immeasurably enhanced by the amazing new actor housing that the company has created. In the past, actors likened their time here to a sort of summer camp, referring to it fondly as "Camp Goodspeed." This was partially due to the homey feeling of quaint East Haddam and the surrounding Connecticut River Valley; but it also had to do with the kind of housing the theatre provided. Actors shared old 19th century houses that offered few amenities, and it was a sort of given that we all had to get into the spirit of things and make the best of our communal arrangements if we were to enjoy our three to four month sojourns here at Goodspeed. And we did! Good times were had in those well worn old houses. But Goodspeed, a place where theatre is done according to the highest possible standards, wanted better for its artists and after years of planning, the company built 17 new artists' houses. The Artists Village initiative represented the largest capital project in Goodspeed history. In total, the project cost $5.5 million, $2.5 million of which was provided through a grant from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development and the remainder through private donations. Over 120 jobs were created as part of this project, most in the construction field and all within the state of Connecticut. It is estimated that the creation of Goodspeed’s Artists Village caused an economic impact of $17.5 million on the local economy.

Best of all, we artists get to enjoy wonderful, comfortable, state of the art accommodations in a green-friendly village of charming houses that fit perfectly into the historic landscape of beautiful East Haddam. I can't emphasize enough how greatly enhanced our work life is here at Goodspeed, waking in comfortable beds, cooking in well equipped, clean kitchens, and enjoying each other's company: sharing a glass of wine on the porch, or creating communal meals. We all feel so well taken care of, respected and nurtured by the theatre. How can we not do our best work? To learn more about the Artist's Village at Goodspeed, you can visit their website here.

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