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This Woman's Work Theatre Co., Inc.
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Our Mission:

This Woman's Work Theatre Co. is a New York City-based company specializing in the production of original plays written by emerging female playwrights.
Our company places a great deal of emphasis on producing works that liberate characters from outdated stereotypes and intends to challenge them, by producing the work of inventive new playwrights and by using the power of collaboration.
TWWTC's mission is to give voice to female playwrights and the greater artistic community as a whole by supporting their work with a full production including publicity. We aim to encourage playwrights to progress by providing them with artistic recognition and the chance to work with fellow artists on development.  
Ultimately, we plan to elevate the level of discussion regarding women's roles in the theatre.
 
NEXT BIG THING
NBT, a division of TWWTC, aims to produce the work of emerging male and female playwrights under the TWWTC umbrella. To that end, NBT will hold an annual competition to feature the work of up-and-coming plawyrights and encourage them to write and submit under a particular theme. NBT's collaborative team will weave a story together using the works, to create a unified piece.

 
 
Board of Directors:

Mary Ethel Schmidt
Jack Cox
Troy Hall
CJ Howard
Aaron J. Fili
Peyton Thomas
Tom Glynn
 
DESHJA DRIGGS HALL IS INTERVIEWED IN AN ARTICLE ON STRONG WOMEN IN THEATRE AT:
http://www.newyorkcool.com/archives/2005/April/theater_3.html
 

KATE COX IS INTERVIEWED IN AN ARTICLE FROM MARCH 17TH’S BACKSTAGE

 
FEATURES
March 17, 2005

Searching for the Right Space

By Elias Stimac
Audition, rehearsal, and performance spaces in the New York City area come in all shapes and sizes, with enough variables to suit almost any show or situation. Ideally, the locale should be able to accommodate your individual script, staff, cast, and technical needs without compromising your vision or devouring your budget. Unfortunately, there are only so many of them, the good ones are usually booked up way in advance, and the perfect place to hold tryouts or put on your play may not always be within your budget constraints. So Back Stage has gone straight to the troupers in the trenches to gather advice on how to get the best shot at finding these spaces and when to book them to get the best deals.

Scott Reynolds is the artistic director of Handcart Ensemble. He has been producing in NYC for the past six years, including presentations of "Andromaque," "The Wild Ass's Skin," and "Ordet." The group's current project is "Coole Lady," a one-woman show based on the life of the literary figure Lady Gregory, which will be performed at Theatre 315 from April 20-30. Check out the company's website at www.handcartensemble.org for details.

As artistic director of Creative Artists Laboratory, Tanya Klein has overseen a constant schedule of productions for the last nine years while only changing venues twice. She claims her group has done everything that "Chekhov, Ibsen, and Strindberg put down on paper," as well as contemporary original plays such as "The Future?" and "Secret Confessions." Currently the company is prepping Klein's original work "Outdoing the Jones's," playing at Creative Artists Laboratory April 4-30.

Kate Cox is co-artistic director, along with Deshja Driggs Hall, of This Woman's Work Theatre Company. The duo has been producing for three years in six performance spaces and over a dozen rehearsal venues. Before that, Cox produced two other plays with another company. Recent shows have included "Brilliant Traces" by Cindy Lou Johnson, and "Cold Blood" and "Mary and the Therapist," both by NYC playwright Emily Conbere. TWWTC's next offering, "Embracing the Undertoad" by Robin Rice Lichtig, will be presented April 26-May 8 at Chashama. Find out more at http://this-womans-work.tripod.com.

Peggy Pope's face and voice are instantly recognizable from years of appearances on stage and screen. An actor and showbiz veteran, she has been featured in plays including "Harvey," on sitcoms such as "Soap," and in films including "9 to 5." She produced her one-woman cabaret act in February at Don't Tell Mama and is gearing up for an encore performance on March 26 at 3 p.m.



Pertinent Questions

Choose one of the following scenarios: You're planning an audition for a musical in three weeks. You need to schedule a month of rehearsals for a night of one-acts. You put on a killer staged reading of a new play and now you need a place to do the full production. You could opt to hold tryouts at Starbucks, block and run lines at South Street Seaport, and present the finished product in a converted school cafeteria. (Take it from one who's been there!)

Unless you're one of the top nonprofits or a long-running community playhouse, you will rarely have the luxury as a producer to audition, rehearse, and perform in the same space‚€”it just isn't financially feasible. Most productions at the Off-Off-Broadway level don't get into the actual theatre until the week of the show: They load in on Monday, preview on Tuesday, and open on Wednesday. Before that, they are like nomads in the desert, going from benches in the park to subway stations to run-throughs in the playwright's apartment.

Let's assume you don't have to go to such extremes to get your play ready for opening night. Let's say you have a decent budget and a loyal following and can invest some money to do it right with the chance of at least breaking even. In that case, you're going to want to do your research, ask everyone you know for advice, analyze your findings, and make a list of possible venues. You can hold auditions at a respectable location, rent rehearsal space by the hour at one of the studios in town, and book a three-week run at a modest but versatile black box. Or maybe you hit a hot streak at Atlantic City and want to parlay your windfall into an upscale venue. Whatever the case, if you can actually afford to be choosy, you're ready to go out and find a place to call home for at least 18 performances.

As with any other purchase or transaction, however, you'll want to ask a lot of questions before narrowing down the candidates and making your final decision. This is where asking the right questions will make your decision so much easier. The following checklist can be used the next time you visit a venue looking for a suitable rental.



Rental Rundown

Availability: Just how far in advance do I have to reserve the space? Are the dates I want available? What hours will my rental agreement encompass? In other words, do I get exclusive use of the theatre space, or are classes and other people's rehearsals going to be held on my set during the day and after shows?

Price: How much is this going to cost me? Is that rate per hour, day, week, or month? Is there an additional security deposit required (and how and when do I get it back)? When do I have to pay, and can I pay in installments? I will need a receipt, of course, for tax purposes. What types of payment are accepted? Credit cards? Personal checks? Cash?

Dimensions: How big are the stage, house, backstage area, and lobby? Are there adequate dressing rooms for the actors and wing space for storing props and set pieces? How many seats are in the theatre? Is there a possibility of adding folding chairs if we sell out? Do the dressing rooms have enough space for my cast? Are there separate restrooms for performers? Does the venue have adequate lobby space or a waiting area for patrons?

Surroundings: Are there other rehearsal or performance spaces adjacent to the venue or, worse yet, above it? Will we be hearing clogging cowboys during our sensitive and soft-spoken scenes? And while we're on the subject of noise, how is the plumbing in the building? If someone flushes the toilet, is it going to sound like a torrential downpour during my play about a Midwestern drought?

Location: Is the venue located in a safe and populated area? Is it near subways and bus stops? Is there steady foot traffic past the theatre? What is the surrounding neighborhood like? Are there conveniently located restaurants and delis for meals before and after the show?

Accessibility: Are there entrances and restrooms suitable for handicapped patrons? What about elevators? What about parking?

Amenities: Does the building have phones, vending machines, a refrigerator, and a microwave oven? How about a fax machine and copier? Can I borrow items from the office, or should I bring my own stapler and tape dispenser?

Cleanliness: Do the stage, house, dressing rooms, and restrooms receive regular cleaning and maintenance? Are the seats free of dirt, gum, and food stains? Are there frequent exterminator inspections, or will my show be featuring cameos by unwanted creatures?

Box Office: How is the box office handled, and during what hours is it open for business? Does the owner take a percentage of the door? Do I have to provide someone to work the box office before shows? And who's going to take those tickets‚€”a venue employee, a volunteer usher, or my mother?

Technical: Is there any support staff on hand, such as designers, technicians, etc., and would they be available to consult with my team, especially during tech week? Are there restrictions on the type of set or lighting we're able to install and use? What type of sound system does the venue have? Are there players for tapes and CDs, and will I have access to all the equipment in the booth? Is there a tech contract rider with a detailed inventory of the equipment that's either provided or for rent? What are the load-in and load-out requirements, and can we do them without getting a parking ticket or being towed?

Hidden Costs: What exactly do I get for the rental payment? Is everything included? Or is there an extra charge for air conditioning, electricity, janitorial services, or light bulbs? What is the building's insurance status?



Ballpark Figures

Okay, we all know that whatever budget you have to produce your play, it's never enough to cover all your costs. But you can at least keep your overhead low by getting the best deal on rental fees.

For auditions and rehearsals, you will most likely be renting space by the hour. If you can negotiate a day rate, that may cut down on the total fee, but you may end up not needing the place for the entire eight hours.

Renting by the hour, you can usually find a room at one of the venues in town for $10-$35 per hour, depending on where you go. Just remember the adage: "You get what you pay for." The low-end joints may save you a few dollars, but they could be difficult to work in‚€”or worse yet, hazardous to your health.

At least one local venue has a walk-in policy that offers discounts for last-minute bookings, so you may want to ask about that as well. No one is likely to turn away a paying customer when rooms are sitting empty.

Auditions‚€”especially open calls‚€”definitely need to be held in a public building that can handle large groups of people. So shelling out the extra dough to get a clean, comfortable, controllable spot is probably worth the expense. For rehearsals, you can be more creative and work out of an apartment, bookstore, coffee shop, and so on, but be prepared for space limitations and countless distractions.

One way to avoid rental fees entirely is to cast students. College drama departments and acting schools often allow their students to use rooms for free. Even alumni may get a break when booking a space at their old alma mater.

Like audition and rehearsal halls, the cost of renting a performance space also varies. Conservatively speaking, you should be able to rent a theatre for $1,500-$2,500 a week. There are lower and higher rental rates, of course, but this gives you some idea of what you'll be up against. Another variable is that some theatres will be yours for seven full days while others will continue to book classes and daytime events around your schedule‚€”all things to verify ahead of time.

Venues with multiple stages often offer the best range of options: One location in Midtown, for example, has a small studio available for a weekly rate of $850.



Equity Allowances

If your production is going to employ Actors' Equity Association members, a separate set of rules applies for auditions, rehearsals, and performances. You will need to work in venues that are on an approved list of spaces that meet the union's safety and sanitary requirements. Equity readily provides this list, which is compiled by union business representatives who assess each location and make periodic inspections. It can be picked up at Equity's office, located at 165 West 46th St., 2nd floor. The list can also be emailed to you‚€”just call Equity at (212) 869-8530 and provide your email address.

The union's approval is necessary to make sure that certain standards are met when it comes to providing a safe environment to work in. For example, if a show requires Equity dancers, the audition space needs to have a "sprung" dance floor. If you aren't familiar with that term, it is a special floor that is multilayered to lessen the physical impact on dancers' joints and muscles. For questions concerning Equity principal auditions, chorus calls, and other union matters, contact the director of the Equity audition department, Keith Howard, or one of his colleagues, Robin Welch or Herb Foster Quebec, at the phone number above.

If you are looking for audition and rehearsal space, you may find exactly what you're looking for right at the Equity Audition Center. Anyone who's doing an Equity show or an Equity-approved showcase can hold auditions there, and they offer special rates to those who are producing union showcases. Equity members are also eligible for an exclusive discount between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. The special rates are subject to availability. Calling 24 to 48 hours in advance is always suggested.

With three studios ranging from 16'x24' to 25'x40', the center can be rented for rehearsals as well as auditions. Take a virtual tour at www.actorsequity.org/services/auditioncenter.html, or call the audition department at (212) 869-8530, ext. 302 or 380, to check on availability. Inquire at least three to four weeks in advance. To book space at the beginning of the year, you may want to call even earlier, as the summer stock companies usually hold auditions in the winter months.



Scary Tales and Good Times

If you're involved in theatre in any way, you've probably survived at least one nightmarish experience when it comes to putting on a show, whether it's bugs, blown fuses, bad plumbing, or broken promises. Our experts have their own horror stories to tell regarding renting space in the Big Apple.

For one project, Scott Reynolds advertised an open call in Back Stage, hoping to get a group of 50 actors: "Hundreds showed up‚€”far more than the building could accommodate. The building manager was miraculously sympathetic and helped us corral people, but pointedly requested we do by-appointment-only auditions after that." Reynolds has seen tiny chips of ceiling fall on actors' heads while a tap-dancing troupe thundered overhead during a rehearsal. Once, before a performance, a Lyco lamp burned out and the theatre owner didn't have any spares on hand (lamps are costly and theatre owners generally assume responsibility for replacing them). This happened two hours before showtime, after lighting supplies stores had closed: "I ran down Eighth Avenue to find a theatre that could loan or sell me a lamp. Some kind people at the Jose Quintero, who didn't know me from Adam, loaned me an entire instrument."

Before she took up residence at a permanent locale, Tanya Klein encountered plenty of horrific situations in dealing with rental venues: "To get an affordable space on a permanent basis, you have to make deals with people and put up with their various foibles. Right now, we're in our third space since the company was founded and have a good relationship to our landlord. We haven't always been this lucky. In one of our spaces, the building maintenance guy had an apartment on the same floor our theatre was at and had a real penchant for walking around the hallways in his underwear. It would really freak out the actors who were waiting around to come in and audition for us.

"A former landlord wouldn't hesitate about coming into our space and taking our props and our set pieces if he needed them for his shows in an adjacent theatre. One time‚€”it was the last weekend of one of our productions‚€”we arrived at the theatre to find that our entire set was missing. The landlord had an opening night of one of his shows and decided to appropriate our set, and we had to make do. Another time, the landlord was so broke that he decided he could rent out our space when he thought we weren't using it. But [we] really had a show going on. This was the final straw and we moved out."

Peggy Pope's horror story concerns a rehearsal room that literally left her breathless: "In the old days, there used to be a rehearsal studio in town that opened directly onto the street. You immediately climbed up two flights of stairs that reeked from the homeless using the entry as a pit stop. The place was filthy. They stopped putting soap in the rest rooms‚€”the clientele stole it. Water dripped from one faucet which never turned off. Paint was peeling. Some rooms had missing windows, or windows blackened with soot. There were missing keys on the ancient upright pianos. One day during rehearsal, I started to cry. I said, 'There's no air in here!' And my accompanist said, 'No air? Hey, we're lucky we got a piano!' "

Thankfully, Kate Cox has not had any terrible troubles with rental situations, but she has had lots of minor irritations: "We have noticed that at least in one location [where] you rent space for rehearsals, the price will go up sometimes $15 or $20 per hour if you want to use it to hold auditions. We've also rented a space that seemed decently priced, only to find that it's tiny or dirty or that there are rehearsals in the room next to you loud enough that you can't hear each other. We once had to cancel all of the rehearsals for a play that we'd booked at a particular space after passing by it and deciding that it was inhumane to ask our actors to work there." Cox remembers one space "where the price was right, but we had to provide our own trained fire marshal for all shows and we had to be out at the stroke of 11 p.m. or risk being charged another full week's rent. Otherwise, we would get loads of unsolicited input on our postcards or our set from the management."

Our panel of playmakers was also happy to share their positive experiences renting audition space in New York. Reynolds says, "By-appointment-only auditions at Champions dance studios have worked out well. You can get decent-sized spaces and arrange for chairs to be set up outside for a few auditioners at a time."

The respondents have also had worthwhile experiences renting space for rehearsals. Pope likes to rent space at Nola Studios whenever she rehearses her cabaret act and needs a room with a piano: "The owner, Tucker Johann, has just rebuilt the action in all his pianos‚€”grands and uprights. That means they sound fabulous and are a joy to play, so you naturally sing better and have more fun. He keeps them in tune, too. Next he's going to renovate the studios. He's amazing. He really cares. And he's fun to deal with. The atmosphere is friendly, the place is clean, and the bathrooms always have soap‚€”not always the case [in other places]. I call a month ahead for space."

Cox swears by Weist-Barron Studios on 45th Street: "Their spaces are primarily for their film classes, but they are quite sizeable and very clean."

As for winning performance spaces in New York, Reynolds points out that his company's current rental is a Salvation Army‚€“owned venue called Theatre 315: "It's clean and spacious. It allows us to have auditions in a very pleasant environment. Theatre 315 is easily the best facility I have rehearsed and staged shows in. However, their spaces aren't unconditionally offered. The piece has to be judged as compatible with the group's mission statement. They aren't driven purely by the profit motive there."

One reason Pope chooses to do her act at Don't Tell Mama is that the venue includes rehearsals in the cost of the performance rental: "With the room fee, we get a two-hour tech rehearsal plus a two-hour non-tech rehearsal‚€”and if you need more, they arrange that, too."

Cox has had great luck at Chashama's ever-evolving venues: "Their spaces are new and clean and in great locations. Their staff alone makes them worth talking to. The amount of notice you can give them is key. The more notice you can give a space about your show (sometimes four or five months), the better your shot at getting a decent deal."

After years of dealing with rental dilemmas, Klein solved that particular problem by sticking with more-permanent arrangements: "Creative Artists Laboratory has been in the very fortunate position of always having had its own space. Therefore, we didn't have to deal with having to rent out space separately for every separate activity."



Closing Arguments

Hold on to your producing hats, folks. When asked how much of a production's budget usually goes to pay rent, Reynolds replies, "Over one-third." Cox reveals, "In our case, often half, if not more." And Klein tops them with a rental percentage of "60% to 70%."

So do you still want to produce your own play, present your own showcase, or mount your own musical? If the answer is yes, then here are a few parting tips to keep in mind.

Klein reiterates, "My advice is, wherever you're renting, make sure the conditions are professional. You're paying a lot of money, you'll want to make sure that whoever you're paying the money to will hold up their end of the bargain. Most importantly, don't ever rent a space without having thoroughly checked it out and talked in detail to the person you'll be renting from. Read the fine print. Know exactly what the deal is. Make sure the sound system and the lighting board function properly. Don't assume whatever set pieces you see in a space necessarily belong to the theatre; they might be part of the show that's running right now and, therefore, gone by the time you move in. All in all, go with your gut. If you've got a bad feeling, don't plunk down your money."

Reynolds sums up, "The cleaner the facility, the more likely the owners are to take pride in providing quality service. If a space is unkempt, the owners probably want as little to do with it as possible and will be slower to respond to problems and concerns."

Cox concludes, "Use recommendations from fellow actors or producers. We've booked some of our best spaces thanks to word of mouth. When you see a show in a space you love, get their information. And remember, it's your money. Get the space you deserve. Think outside the box, stay flexible, and don't get overwhelmed. There's enough space for everybody‚€”and more importantly, there's the right space for everybody."

This Woman's Work Theatre Co.
P.O Box 20290 Greeley Square Station
New York, NY   10001-0003