Downstairs Studio Ready for Action

Aside from figuring out how to deal with the six 6-foot bookcases full of books that were relocated to the middle of the office floor — and making some furniture and lighting changes — the studio renovation is complete!

The masonry along the bottom is a perfect touch!

The floor is partially sprung so will serve our needs well for physical activity.

And the acoustics are lively.

Best of all given our near 90 temps this last week, it’s COOL — about 10 degrees cooler than the upstairs.

Can’t wait to host our Sunday Salon here next week!

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Let’s Talk Honestly about the Death of Arts Orgs

This post is slightly modified from comments Zhenya Lavy originally made on Facebook July 4-5 regarding Devon Smith’s post about a debate she engaged in at the recent American’s for the Arts Conference in Nashville.

Zhenya tapped into the conversation when Theatre Puget Sound Executive Director Karen Lane pointed to it and asked, “Is this something we have or can talk about honestly in our community?”

Here is what Zhenya wrote:

This conversation… yes, please. In Seattle and elsewhere. My inclination: Let Them Die. It’s sad, but 9 times out of 10 it’s the right thing. Convince me otherwise.


The author definitely misses the mark on her substitutions for theatre, but I am 100% behind the argument that it’s usually the wrong things being saved: the administration, a space with a name on it that no longer comes even close to founding mission, etc. There are a lot of points of connection in the post that I could go on about.  It’s almost never the actual art or artists being “saved” when the call is heard that x org needs $y millions in z months or it will close its doors (which has happened on a large scale 3 times in Seattle since we moved here). Those crisis moments have always been a bail-out for inexcusable mismanagement of funds and resources by administrators and ADs who ran the org into the ground for years without taking adequate, responsible steps to right course or allow the public a hint of the true situation… and then jumped ship just before it all fell apart (often leaving a new team to take the fall, as if they had actually caused the demise because they just couldn’t handle the awesome responsibility of such a large org as masterfully as their predecessors).

As the most recent example, Intiman looms very large here. Those of us running arts orgs in Seattle in the early 2000s knew Intiman was in financial trouble then, that they were building lavish shows on the expectation of funds not yet raised through grant-incentivized budget processes that demanded such risk. It was an inside topic of conversation among arts leaders that the sign of Intiman’s end game would be Laura Penn’s departure. She and Bart Sher drove that org as far as they could without fixing it and got themselves promoted to bigger gigs before allowing the damage of their leadership to become visible.

On a separate but related line, I’m particularly fascinated that the author of the linked post lists Intiman among the theatres now dead. Why, then, do we still have the re-jiggered Intiman Festival purporting to be its partial-year continuation (as if it were the same org, just doing work in a more focused timeframe and without the overhead expenses of their own space)… but what it has really done is just parasite off the board connections, fundraising machine, unearned goodwill of the playhouse owners/managers, and audience association of the historical name to a new group who — whatever the quality of the work — is no longer connected to Intiman’s founding mission and, frankly, has no business continuing to squeeze the Intiman name for resources and audience.

As Joseph said the other day, the Rolling Stones are an arts institution, but when either Jagger or Richards goes, that will be the end of it. Nobody would consider finding a replacement so the band could go on.

When Julian Lennon began his musical career, there was public speculation that The Beatles might have him stand in for John… but nobody in The Beatles actually entertained that notion seriously.

And you never hear, “Seattle’s best Thai restaurant is going to go out of business if everybody doesn’t pull together $35 million in donations in 4 months.” Businesses go out of business.

Why is it different with theatre? Is it because the non-profit model attaches public-governance to arts institutions and turns them into bricks-and-mortar properties rather than a particular collective of artists? Is it because non-profit boards are usually comprised of well-meaning civic and business leaders with the deep pockets/connections an org needs to get by but without actual personal artistic experience or merit themselves… who collectively believe one actor is as good as the next or one director can be replaced equally by another? That kind of thinking works with presenting orgs like On The Boards or LaMaMa, but it would never work with Odin or Foreman’s Ontological-Hysteric Theatre (not even with the Incubator) or … name any others. And, frankly, it only very marginally works with the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski, even though Grotowski named his artistic successor.

Today’s WET is not the WET of its founders, whose artistic synergy fired a potent spark. Today’s Seattle Rep is not the Rep of its founders… it’s not even repertory…. and the work is spotty.

So what actually gets sustained?

And what else might be permitted to flourish if resources and attention weren’t focused on the buildings and administrations? Who knows what orgs never even had the opportunity to get off the ground because donors dumped money into saving dying institutions whose artistic moment has passed? It’s just an org, it’s not the art.

The issue only attains to orgs with a particular “scale” — it doesn’t apply to all. The recognition that institutionalization kills some art and artists as much as it might prop others up is not new. I myself soundly argued against institutionalization back in 2005 when I participated in a TCG panel with Molly Smith of Arena Stage and Lou Bellamy of Penumbra titled “S-M-L-XL: Size and Scale in American Theatre.” As co-artistic director of Akropolis Performance Lab, I represented the “S” in that equation. I urged young artists and collectives to resist the drive to institutionalize because it diverts their focus and energy away from the art — that they can still achieve their artistic vision and thrive without a 501c3, board, or dedicated space. Part of that argument is also the recognition that for most, the organization IS its people. The Living Theatre survived the loss of Beck but BOTH Beck and Malina??? Never. The composition of Akropolis Performance Lab’s ensemble has changed over time, but the org will not live beyond me and Joseph. The same is true of theatre simple — Andrew and Llysa have worked with a range of artists, but the organization is inextricably tied to them. This is positive valence.

Everything has a natural life cycle. Dying orgs can and should die so new orgs can appear.

Stop propping up corpses.

You know what they say about empty barns…

If a farmer fills his barn with grain, he gets mice.
If he leaves it empty, he gets actors.  ~
Walter Scott


Barn Show posterAPL Artistic Associate Annie Paladino is performing in Blood Ensemble’s Barn Show, which opens next weekend. The immersive, ensemble-generated piece is set in and around a turn-of-the-century barn in Marysville. Dinner is included in the event. Ticket options are priced for driving yourself or getting a ride on the show bus.

It promises to be more than mere entertainment. The rest of Akropolis is going to the July 12 performance.

Join us!


Evolution of our studio renovation

Joseph had this to say, "Loving having a rehearsal studio downstairs. Was able to spend almost 2 hours working on Vanya after the family went to bed. There's still a lot to do, but it works!"

Joseph wrote this back in November: “Loving having a rehearsal studio downstairs. Was able to spend almost 2 hours working on Vanya after the family went to bed. There’s still a lot to do, but it works!”

In November 2013, we began the process of converting the downstairs space of our home into a studio for rehearsals and training. We started by cleaning out all the family living stuff — including six 6-foot bookcases with their nearly 150 boxes worth of books — leaving only items to be used for Uncle Vanya rehearsals.

With the exception of a new paint job over the holidays, the conversion was interrupted for about five months while we rehearsed, produced, and recovered from Uncle Vanya.

But just before Memorial Day, the carpet came out.

Then came the subfloor. We wanted a fully sprung floor because of our physical work and our daughter’s Irish Step dancing, but that plan was stymied by the height of the fireplace threshold. So contrary to conventional technique, we put the moisture barrier on bottom, then installed a floating subfloor on top… onto which a floating finish floor would be added. The old carpet came in handy as impromptu shim and leveler for our wavy floors! Joseph spent a few days working out some over-enthusiastic creaks.

Studio Renovation 5.26.14
Studio Renovation 6.8.14
Studio Renovation 6.21.14

On a whim, we tore out this unnecessarily large platform. C fretted it might hold a dead body. The thing was built like Fort Knox — serious overkill (but no dead body). Before and after, and the day’s total progress: just shy of 3/4 through the subfloor part of the job.

Studio Renovation 5.26.14
Studio Renovation 5.26.14
Studio Renovation 5.26.14

Recognize that bench in front of the fireplace? It’s from our 2003 production, Jeanne the Maid: A Trial & Execution of Jeanne D’Arc.

How are we going to deal with that 9″ edge of concrete circling the room? Or the now garish threshold of the sliding door?! These questions puzzled us for weeks. In vain, we called in experts for professional solutions. We tried a tile application that failed dismally. We decided it would be better to install the floor first than wait until we had a viable solution to the surround, so we moved on.

Joseph put the floor in over the course of a couple evenings — after having already put in a full day at the office. He made it about 1/3 of the way across in the first evening.

As of tonight, the floor is done.

Studio Renovation 6.24.14
Studio Renovation 6.28.14
Studio Renovation 6.28.14

Those boxes along the wall contain the stone that will solve our finish issue. Stay tuned!

Dates Scheduled for 2014-15 Sunday Salons

Joseph Lavy as the Utah State Senator and Deborah Jacoby as his wife in the January 2014 reading of Jim Moran's new play, Fangs.

Joseph Lavy as the Utah State Senator and Deborah Jacoby as his wife in the January 2014 reading of Jim Moran’s new play, Fangs.

Mark your calendars now for the next season of Sunday Salons!

  • July 20 | The Farce of Sodom, or the Quintessence of Debauchery | John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester
  • October 12 | Play TBA
  • January 25 | 2nd Annual New Year New Play Reading Workshop | Submissions by PNW playwrights will be accepted in the fall for consideration.
  • April 26 | A special, guest-curated Salon. Look for announcements about curation of this event.

And don’t forget to join us June 22 for the special Salon we added to coordinate with Odin Teatret’s livestream performance of Clear Enigma, celebrating its 50th Anniversary!

Regular Sunday Salons begin at 4:00 pm and end around 10:00 pm. The June 22 livestream begins at noon.

Full details can be found on each event’s page.

Special Salon to Honor Odin’s 50th Anniversary

Odin 50th anniv image - APL with dateWe are thrilled to add a special Sunday Salon to our regular, quarterly line-up and hope you will join us for this rare opportunity!

When Odin Teatret celebrates its 50th anniversary on June 22 with a one-time-only performance of CLEAR ENIGMA, Akropolis Performance Lab wants to “be there” — and we invite you to join us, too! The performance is being livestreamed. “It will take place after the conclusion of the Festuge, a week of festivities [...] in which Odin Teatret, local associations, institutions, and individual citizens ally themselves to theatricalise their community, revitalise its ties and honour its differences.”

We highly value the work of Odin Teatret, with which we share artistic heritage and which has had meaningful impact upon our work, as well. More information.

Downstairs Studio Renovation Progress

After a five-month hiatus from the renovation while we produced Uncle Vanya, work has begun again!

This is happening now. Downstairs Studio Conversion Part 2. And the answer to "What's under the awful, beige plush carpet?" is "Even more awful, flat, multicolored carpet AND a cracky floor." So.... yay-ish?

This is happening now. Downstairs Studio Conversion Part 2. And the answer to “What’s under the awful, beige plush carpet?” is “Even more awful, flat, multicolored carpet AND a cracky floor.” So…. yay-ish?

This is happening now. Downstairs Studio Conversion Part 2. And the answer to "What's under the awful, beige plush carpet?" is "Even more awful, flat, multicolored carpet AND a cracky floor." So.... yay-ish?

We found pennies under the carpet. The oldest was just from 1986. See how the carpet carries up the wall about 9 inches? Yeah… that’s a challenge we’ll have to figure out how to handle.

Announcing Our New Company Members

L-R: Margaretta Campagna and Annie Paladino

L-R: Margaretta Campagna and Annie Paladino joined Akropolis Performance Lab as Artistic Associates in May.

We are delighted to welcome Margaretta Campagna and Annie Paladino as Akropolis Performance Lab’s new Artistic Associates! As Artistic Associates they will not only participate in APL’s artistic projects and ongoing training but also contribute to charting the ensemble’s direction both artistically and strategically.

Margaretta‘s affiliation with APL began in fall 2005, when she was cast in Seneca’s Oedipus (2006). She played Tiresias, for which she earned well-deserved critical praise, and she also provided much of the production’s musical soundscape on her cello. When the fretboard on her cello broke just one hour before curtain, Margaretta went to extraordinary lengths to secure a replacement — including cheering on (through tears of panic) another Oedipus actress, Liz Erber, as she scaled the side of a building to enter the window of a friend’s locked apartment (with permission, of course) and retrieve a suitable instrument! Since then, Margaretta has participated in every APL production and activity, most recently appearing as Sonya in Uncle Vanya (2014).

Annie, a recent transplant from San Francisco, began training with APL in our summer 2013 Performer’s Lab. We later learned that at Wesleyan University she had studied with Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento — one of the Lavys’ former NWPL colleagues. Annie came on board to assistant direct Uncle Vanya (2014) in the fall. Above and beyond her AD duty, she participated fully in the music rehearsal process throughout and was such a proficient ensemble member that we once “rewarded” her with 11th-hour call to be on-deck to perform due to actor illness (although she was not, ultimately, subjected to that trial-by-fire)! You’ll also see Annie credited with a majority of the extraordinary Vanya photography.

For more information about our new company members and their wealth of artistic experience, see our Collaborators & Artistic Associates page .

Please join us in congratulating Margaretta and Annie. We anticipate great things from their collaboration!

Curtain Calls & Curtain Speeches: Why, How, and When Do You Do It?


Curtain Calls & Curtain Speeches, co-moderated by Zhenya Lavy & Annie Paladino.

Curtain Calls & Curtain Speeches, co-moderated by Zhenya Lavy & Annie Paladino.

Annie Paladino and Zhenya Lavy co-moderated a very lively Twitter chat today as part of the peer-produced conversation series on Twitter at #newplay.

It never ceases to amaze what can be accomplished in 140-character bursts!

If you missed it, the transcript is archived on Storify. Check it out!

And The Total Is…

In addition to knitting the gorgeous socks (featured previously) while on stage in Uncle Vanya, co-artistic director Zhenya Lavy also spun all this gorgeous yarn!

In addition to knitting socks (featured previously) while on stage in Uncle Vanya, co-artistic director Zhenya Lavy also spun a remarkable amount of yarn!

1,355 yards! That’s how much finished yarn Zhenya spun during rehearsals and onstage as Marina in Uncle Vanya.

The finished yarn is a two-ply, meaning it was created from two single-spun strands. So…

Multiply 1,355 by 3 (once for each singles and once to ply them together), then add a bit extra — made-up number — for how much more length was required on each singles in order to ply down to 1,355  yards… and…

… well it’s close to 3 total miles of spinning. Wow!

The finished yarn is a worsted weight, suitable for heavy sweaters.