TOP FIVE THINGS ESSENTIAL IN THE EARLY BEGINNINGS AS A CO-OP THEATRE COMPANY by Mark Seow
Wag the Dog Theatre Company-Owned by Artists…? The very name and logo of our theatre company that you view now was subject to a process of discriminating opinions, conflicting indecisions and agreements to disagree. While starting up and being part of a theatre company exudes a cooler than cool factor, filled with the initial enthusiasm of fulfilling theatrical possibilities, the behind the scenes collaboration often gets overlooked. No doubt, the trials and tribulations of the birth of a theatre company is akin to starting a newly formed corporate entity, what with its many kinks and unseen treachery of unanticipated odds and ends, that need to be researched, planned, and actioned upon. As Wag the Dog is a co-operative theatre company, where members in common unity (and equal resources) with the common aim of producing good theatre, one can imagine and compare it to a corporate outfit filled with seven or more equal shareholders sitting on an equal platform, with equal voices, but with differing and diverse background and experiences. In short, the experience is metaphorically comparable to heading to a barbershop with 7 different barbers all wanting to cut your hair, proceeding to cut your hair at the same time, and the results? Well, whether you walk out of the barbershop looking like a certain president with a comb over, or a trendsetting K-pop singer all hangs on these factors below. A disclaimer here is that the seven of us at Wag is still learning along the way, and the tips below are part of our reflections in helping us give you a…bloody great haircut.
CHAIN OF COMMAND
The sexiness of a co-op theatre group is that individuals congregate in a shared and common vision in potentially producing a play. We pool resources, diverse experiences, knowledge, creativity in the process of production. The less than sexy bit lies in the flat as French crepe like organisational structure, and unlike most non co-op theatre groups, an absence of a ‘Mob Boss’, ‘Head Honcho’, ‘Supreme Leader’ or whatever one may call an figure of authority within an assembly of actors, may cause collective thoughts and objectives to go off-tangent, coupled with a cloud of indecisions where everyone wants to be cordial and not potentially thread out the equal parameters of what is co-op theatre. Sexy or not, an essential activity to do at the very start of any production is to unanimously vote or assign the ‘Apex predator’, ‘King of the Jungle’ or simply, the individual to lay the gauntlet in assigning tasks, breaking the deadlock in decisions, signing the cheques or just getting things going.
BUILD POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS
Over time, whether or not your co-op theatre starts to mould itself into a merry outfit of fun & laughter in a jitney joyride or a dank funeral procession for a beloved pet ultimately depends on the inculcation of positivity energy and its spread amongst your co-op members. Enough said, it beings with coming for workgroup meetings and rehearsals with a positive cheer, and leaving behind last night’s one too many 151 proof Mojitos, or that unpleasant Uber ride you had earlier (Drivers that jerk & brake excessively should be banned for life in our opinion. And oh…by the way, nobody really wants to listen or care about for that matter, to your rantings about your number of Instagram followers increasing exponentially after you posted this one X-pro-ed picture of you in skanky bikini and shorter than short shorts. Seriously.
TECH – SAVVINESS(OR NOT)
“Could you reply via Doodle the rehearsal schedule which I’ve also popped into our Google Drive, oh yes, I’ve sent the link to all as well. Do also action upon those actions that are on Wunderlist and Shutterfly.” If this statement sounds as foreign as an Inuit dialect to you, then you’re not far off in being on par with comprehension of some of our cast members with regard to tech and its ever-evolving applications to seemingly make our lives less complex and productive. Don’t get us wrong, tech is all good, but only if you know how to use it. Therefore, prior to whipping out your wiki of tech applications in which to make group collaboration and data sharing easier, spare a thought for those whom are still stuck in Windows 95 and the 2G network. Guide them and bring them up to speed with Matrix, as the co-op budget doesn’t allow us to hire an I.T. guy.
It’s a simple fact that one person can’t do everything. And if there’s one big challenge that co-op theatre companies have, is the reluctance to delegate stuff to anyone. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you must do everything yourself that you had suggested if you want it to be done right. Fear, control issues, perfectionism, and your arrogance to not delegate or take on what is delegated only make the team less effective, less productive, and less successful. Given your vote of confidence, they may well surprise you. So, go on, share the load, ask and assign that co-op member the task of getting the coffin for your play sponsored, or that seemingly meek but enthusiastic volunteer that job of putting a plan together for a fund-raising event.
Google ‘what actors should do or should not do…’ and only about 32 million results show up. Click anyone of the links and you’ll find commonality in the message. To sum up, be a professional, and don’t be a jackass professionally. We’ll refrain from adding another one of those ‘top ten tips for actors type article’ to the mix, but here’s our group consensus on the ones that really make Wag the Dog go GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR. (Pun intended)
- Punctuality & the lack thereof. Lateness is taboo. Period.
- Last minute cancellations & its last minute accompanying excuses
- Lack of Commitment & shying away from unassigned tasks left untaken in the air
- Not being ready for rehearsals. Taboo once again. Period
(Photography by Alexandra Dolibic Fancher and Natalia Wakula)
The Memory of Water by Shelagh Stephenson is showing at the Drama Centre, Black Box, from 30 June to 9 July. Tickets available through SISTIC.