This week we chat with Artistic Director Morris Ertman about the upcoming Season Announcement, getting a look into his selection process for next year's shows at Rosebud Theatre.
Is the season set for next year?
It sure is.
When are you announcing it?
Well, we’ve shared a special sneak peak with our donors last Saturday… So, it’s out! We’ll announce it publicly very soon.*
If you were going to describe it in one word, what would it be?
How do you decide what goes into a season?
It’s a combination of conviction, audience appeal, opportunity for artists, and availability of rights. There’s all kinds of input from people when it comes to suggestions. In fact, two of the shows in next season’s lineup were recommended by colleagues in the business who know our audience. The shows are vetted by Rosebud staff and our Board of Directors – all of whom inform the viability and potential impact of the show on our audience. And because we fall under the organizational umbrella of Rosebud School of the Arts, the Leadership Team that deals with all of the interfaces and other facets of our organization speak into the short list I compile for each season. So there’s a lot of perspectives garnered. All of that is taken into account, along with the costs of projected ticket sales. Then the Season is approved by our Board of Governors as part of the operational budget for the whole organization.
I also take into account our Resident Company of actors, the mentorship students in RSA’s theatre program and guest artists I’d like to see involved in our productions.
Wow. So.. if next season were a mythical creature, what would it be?
What does a play need to get on that short list? What’s the magic quality that makes it right for a particular season?
There are shows that just keep hanging around, making their way to the top of the pile of options year after year. They usually migrate upwards during January and February, trying to hold their place with new discoveries at the top of the script piles in my studio. They’re plays and musicals that inevitably render human beings in a spiritual light. That happens to not only be my personal obsession, but a big part of the reason Rosebud Theatre produces plays. And because we collectively believe we are part of a grand story of humanity in the light of God’s grace, there’s a great deal of hope in the plays that make their way into those piles of possibility. That’s what makes them right for Rosebud.
I do read a lot of plays, but it seems I’m always behind in that. That’s why recommendations from colleagues are so important. There’s a synergy that happens when a number of people say that “This would be a great show for Rosebud.” It helps prioritize the reading list. And I do investigate shows of interest when they are produced. I’m always looking at what other theatres are programming. I see as much as I can see. And whenever I can, I get far away to see shows in an atmosphere where I’m just going to the theatre for the love of it, not for the research. I need to be further afield for that to be true. I think it has to do with shedding my responsibilities for awhile and being an audience member. I went into this business because I loved going to the theatre. It’s good to find myself in that place of wonder again.
If next season were a living machine, what would it be?
A rose-bush stereo.
As Artistic Director, you obviously have your own point of view when you approach a play. How do you balance what you want as an artist with what the audience might be looking for? Or do you toss that aside and just go with instinct?
At the end of the day, the audience is everything. A big part of our job as theatre artists is relevancy. And that’s not just some esoteric notion about artistic fulfillment. It’s about how a story is received and whether it has any kind of connection to the people we serve. It’s a presumptuous idea, making choices about what is relevant for others. So, a bit of trepidation and humility is in order. That’s why I’m so grateful for the community of colleagues that help refine the choices. They aren’t just theatre practitioners. Each of them in their respective fields are representative of a swath of audience members.
And then, of course, there is instinct. But it’s instinct informed by reading the news every morning over breakfast, garnering insight about who we are as people from the latest literary best-seller, watching amazing series television on Netflix, or having just witnessed a show at The National Theatre in London and thinking “maybe we could do something like that here, and It’ll give the audience something wonderful they’ve not experienced before.”
And all of it gets wrapped up in the passion coming out of falling in love with a story and wanting to find a way to mine it. I should add that I love all kinds of theatrical genres, so it’s not hard for me to get excited about different kinds of plays.
If next season were a dessert, what would it be?
Something spicy and tangy and sweet
That’s a list of adjectives. The top Google result for that description (and your official answer) is:
What’s a show you’ve always wanted to direct, but isn’t quite right for Rosebud?
Sam Sheperd’s A Lie of the Mind. Years ago I saw a production at Vancouver Playhouse under Larry Lillo’s direction. It was stunning. The play is so dark, but burns with the possible restoration of a profoundly broken marriage. I love that possibility in the middle of dark places. It fits our mandate in that way, but the subject matter [of the play] is so dark and difficult that its translation to our audience would be difficult, regardless of the glimmer of light. There’s a quote by Leonard Cohen that sums up how I feel about grace and story. “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
Oh, and Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd… and Leonard Bernstein’s Candide which is a bit too esoteric (which we likely could do, if we could find a way to afford to produce it). The last song in the piece is so sublime. I play it very loud in my studio often.
Let dreamers dream
What worlds they please
Those Edens can’t be found.
The sweetest flowers,
The fairest trees
Are grown in solid ground.
We’re neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We’ll do the best we know.
We’ll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow.
And make our garden grow!
Leonard Bernstein - Candide
If next season were alone on a deserted island, and it could only have one luxury item, what would it be?
Well, that makes a strange amount of sense.