This past week we held our first event for ArtsEmerson members – a full dress rehearsal run-through of one act of the stage adaptation of Hemingway’s THE SUN ALSO RISES by Elevator Repair Service (ERS). The company has been commissioned to premiere the piece as part of this years Edinburgh International Theater Festival. They left for Scotland yesterday and premiere the work at the Royal Lyceum Theatre this Saturday (August 14). You may have heard of their version of Fitzgerald’s GATZ, a reading of THE GREAT GATSBY. When they return from Edinburgh, they revisit GATZ in preparation for its New York premiere at the Public Theater in the fall. THE SUN ALSO RISES will perform as part of our first season in March of 2011.
So why did we host a dress rehearsal? As you will discover, much of our programming will emerge out of multi-year relationships with artists and institutions. These relationships involve not only presenting their work, but also helping to develop it. We are blessed with both state-of-the-art support spaces AND public performance venues. Our goal is to partner with artists whose work has had little if any chance to be seen in Boston, AND to help develop it. The Paramount Center, in addition to the three public performance venues, also has 9 rehearsal studios, practice rooms, a sound stage and a scenic construction shop. We also just completed renovations on eight apartments for visiting artists. In short, we have the ability to present work, facilitate its development, and host artists from around the world. Next season, we are not only presenting 18 projects, but we’re also developing a variety of works for future seasons filling the pipe line with projects that will surface in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
So, back to THE SUN ALSO RISES and ERS. These individual relationships ask the question: how can we help? For ERS, the challenge of premiering a work in the midst of a festival was daunting. Festival environments are by their very nature crammed with multiple projects and the needed attention and stage time required to mount a new work are rarely available. Having previously produced four projects at the Kings and Royal Lyceum Theaters in Edinburgh, I was familiar with the environment and offered to host ERS for two and a half weeks in July and early August to give them an opportunity to put THE SUN ALSO RISES together on the main stage at the Paramount Center – a stage similar to Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum. In this way, when they arrive in Edinburgh today and begin work on stage tomorrow, they will have recently mounted the complete work in Boston and thus will be in a more confident position to open on Saturday in Edinburgh.
How you might wonder, did we get the complete physical production packed, clearing customs, and transported to Scotland from the dress rehearsal this past Wednesday in Boston to the first stage rehearsal in Scotland tomorrow? Actually, we built two sets. One shipped to Scotland three weeks ago by boat (the most economical means) and is now loaded on the stage in Edinburgh in preparation for tomorrows rehearsal. It will remain in Europe for touring on that continent. The second set and props was used this week in Boston and will remain in America for touring here. That way, the dress rehearsal here could happen as close as possible to the Edinburgh opening, and ERS does not have to ship the set continually across the Atlantic when touring engagements are split between the two continents. They can also offer tour dates for a more reasonable fee because they don’t have to cover these relatively expensive shipping costs. The costumes are the same in Boston and Edinburgh – individual performers in the company each packed their own costumes as part of their personal luggage. ERS paid the direct costs for building the sets, but we offered access to the spaces and selected supervisory oversight. Everybody benefits. The work can evolve with less cost and we have the distinct pleasure of helping artists do their best work and having them in our midst.
As time goes on, at major festivals and venues throughout the world, you will see a line in the program crediting ArtsEmerson and Boston with having helped to develop the work on stage. We will become increasingly known not only as a center for the presentation of work from around the world, but also as a generative force for the art form and a place where contemporary work gets created.
And, ArtsEmerson members are invited to experience these special moments behind the scenes and begin to appreciate that they too play a role in helping to shape work that will be celebrated in Boston and elsewhere on the planet.