create / 2014
A Paradise of Artistic Innovation and Theatrical Celebration
Please describe yourself.
Solo actor (just us on this project!)
In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.
Expanding our reach through ambitious artistic collaboration and offering scholarships to our world-class training programs.
Does your project impact Los Angeles County?Yes (benefits a region of LA County)
Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?
- South Bay
- San Pedro and the Port of Los Angeles
What is your idea/project in more detail?
We aim to expand the reach of our Teaching Theatre model by expanding our influence in the San Pedro and South Bay communities. Through targeted and ambitious theatrical projects we can grow our neighborhood into the full fledged arts district that it is just on the verge of becoming.
When we take root in San Pedro we hope to create here what the Oregon Shakespeare Festival did in Ashland, OR. Our unique teaching theatre model takes each community member by the hand and invites them into the artistic and collaborative process personally and intimately. We’d also bring aspiring artists of all disciplines into our artistic home through an ambitious scholarship and mentorship program developed at Harvard by TESPR’s founding directors.
What will you do to implement this idea/project?
Our first step will be to focus our efforts on maintaining the highest class of artistry and professionalism in Theatre in Los Angeles. Through high standards of excellence we build our reputation to bring credit and a good name to San Pedro and the surrounding areas as an arts district. This includes seeking and partnering with an increasingly large group of internationally known artists, as well as fostering relationships with LA’s growing theatre community.
This reputation, only now beginning to flourish, can be sustained through creative ad campaigning and most especially through bringing ever more students into our world-class actor training programs. This is the ultimate goal for us! We are at our best when we have students to nurture and to foster into the cycle of mentorship in combination with our professional company of artists. We will provide scholarships to these student and aspiring artists to ensure that they have the opportunity to invest in themselves. We are eager to invest in students who are eager to invest in themselves, and these scholarships will provide many such opportunities.
This will include the continued establishment of our 1 month and then 3 month conservatory programs as well as the growth of our single and drop-in class menu. In these programs we train actors, directors, and artists of all backgrounds to tap into their talent and artistic instinct to become self sustaining artists who can foster growth in themselves and also in others. The key to this process is a cycle of mentorship.
The next piece of the process will be in providing enhancements to our performance space so that our artistic ambition can be matched my technical and practical precision. This will give the professional company added opportunity to push their limits artistically, and through that process mentor the students in that process as well. The student then has the perspective to become self empowering and sustaining.
The culmination of the process is to showcase the work of our organization to the San Pedro community and our neighbors. The final portion of the project involves inviting our community to see and experience what their friends and neighbors in the city have been a part of, and inviting them to take part in it as well. After all theatre is incomplete unless the creators get to share it with the audience and give them an opportunity to filter the experience through their eyes, ears and minds.
How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to CREATE today? In 2050?
For today, LA needs an unabashed arts district that is not tied to nor unduly influenced by the Hollywood film business. It needs a place where theatrical art and artists can grow and challenge themselves without the taint of Hollywood’s glitz and glamour. The artists who train and work with us are held to the highest standards of professionalism and artistry, helping to build and sustain a culture of dedication and art that is often (though not always) lacking in Los Angeles.
San Pedro is in the process of rising to become a sought after destination in LA. We aim to lead and be a part of the cultural renaissance!
For the future… Our goal when moving our company to San Pedro was to find a place where we could put down roots and firmly establish ourselves as a major player in the regional theatre circuit. In the same way that Oregon Shakespeare Festival put Ashland, OR on the map, we want to do the same for San Pedro and the Port of Los Angeles area.
Our ultimate goal is to have San Pedro as our “mother ship” site, and have other Theatrum Elysium (‘TE’ of TE San Pedro Rep) satellites through out the city and country - envision TE NYC, or TE Toronto! But first, we establish “Elysian Fields”. This is an artistic haven on a piece of idyllic land nearby where TESPR houses it’s professional company of actors and artists. Not only will a full season of theatre and dance be produced here, but Elysian Fields will house a full accredited MFA program training Actors, Directors and Playwrights and Dramaturgs. Beyond that this training program will be multi-disciplinary and house training for musicians, singers, dancers, visual artists and fine artists. We believe that though the medium may be different the artists still speaks from the same desire to express no matter if they wield a paint brush or toe shoes or a script.
It is in Elysian Fields that the potential of the cycle of mentorship is truly seen. The professional company trains the students in classes where they learn side by side with the other professionals. The students learn how to learn from the professionals in class with them, and are further mentored in the productions that rehearse and perform in the performance venues.
In 2050 Theatrum Elysium’s Elysian Fields will be a foundation of what makes LA’s arts and theatre scene vibrant, respected and well known. We can’t wait to get there!!
Whom will your project benefit?
Our project will benefit most directly the neighborhood and community of San Pedro. This burgeoning arts district will be sustained and supported by our success. This will in turn create opportunities for other organizations to come into town to plant in the ground that we have helped to furrow and cultivate. Additionally, the restaurants, shops, bars and clubs of San Pedro will all benefit if increased traffic come through San Pedro in search of the arts.
Beyond San Pedro, the class of aspiring actors and artists who are constantly beaten down by the juggernaut that is Hollywood will certainly benefit. The training that we offer is specifically geared to tap into the students talent and help to bring out what they would think of as their ideal artistic self. This is the artist that can be self sustaining. This is the artist that can create work independent of “the biz”. This is not to say that the business at large does not create meaningful work, but to be truly meaningful the cumulative work of all the artists of every level in the city must be fostered and grown. Broadway in NYC would mean very little if Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway did not exist to challenge it and push its limits and boundaries. Similarly, the greater LA area’s work will be made better by having a community of artists who are pushing themselves and each other to be better, more innovative, less bound by tradition, less afraid of failure, and more and more proud of LA as an artistic breeding ground!
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
At this time we have no partner organizations, however, due to the collaborative nature of our work in the theatre, we are open to collaboration with other organizations.
How will your project impact the LA2050 “Create” metrics?
- Employment in creative industries
- Measures of cultural and global economic influence (“soft power”) (Dream Metric)
- Recruiting and retention rates at local higher education institutions (Dream Metric)
- Percentage of graduates from local higher education institutions that remain in LA County 5 years after graduating (Dream Metric)
Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.
Certainly we will be able to employ more artists in our theatre than would otherwise be possible, and at closer to a living wage than is usual for theatre in LA. This extends to technicians, designers, and other positions as well.
If we firmly establish ourselves as a major player in America’s regional theatre circuit we give LA added credit and reputation as a cultural player in what is generally seen as more “serious” art.
Our eventual accredited MFA conservatory will employ and retain graduates of higher learning institutions be necessity. We will attract those who both wish to teach and grow with us, but also wish to teach at other local colleges and universities.
Through the accreditation process we may find that we will partner with an extant college or university in the local area, thus funneling the graduates and faculty into our programs and projects. This will likely increase retention in the area after graduation.
Please explain how you will evaluate your project.
Measurement is relatively simple for us.
1) We measure our impact in the community though ticket sales to our shows and events. This is direct correlation to our reach and Impact at large. To date we average from 9% to 15% growth on each subsequent project.
2) The number of students that we attract will directly influence the size and scope of our training programs. Our ultimate goal for the year of the establishment of the 3 month conservatory is one that can be firmly rooted in a specific number of students who are retained though all our training programs.
3) For this project to be ultimately successful is reliant on the training programs’ success. Theatres can usually hope to only break even financially. It is in the training programs that the financial support for everything TE San Pedro hopes to do today and in 2050 will be reached. If we find that aside from scholarships brining students in, we also see and increase in students attracted by the flow of newcomers to San Pedro then we will firmly know that we have taken root and can grow to the next level. These numbers can be counted and we can build our expectations of growth over time.
What two lessons have informed your solution or project?
The first lesson was learned through experience. The two founding directors of Theatrum Elysium came out of Harvard’s MFA acting program and before that, through NYU’s Tisch School and the University of Wyoming’s BFA conservatory. The final stage of their training took place in Moscow, Russia at the Moscow Art Theatre School. This is the place that gave birth to everything we know and understand about acting, theatre.
It was in and through this training that they gained a first taste of what a Teaching Theatre might be. Though not currently in existence in the form TESPR envisions there are many theatres that house training programs. The lesson learned was that the two entities seemed isolated form each other. The professionals aloof and detached from the students and the students never getting an inside look at what a professional must do to be successful. It made more sense to them if the school and the professional theatre were intricately linked and relied on each other for their success and growth. The germination of this idea took place over a number of years, but the lessons learned in these world-class training programs have been taken to heart and implemented in the plan they have for the future of Theatrum Elysium and TESPR. This is where the idea of a Teaching Theatre and a cycle of mentorship came from, and why these principles are so firmly rooted at the heart of TESPR’s philosophy.
The second lesson comes from the school of hard knocks. We see other performing arts organizations flounder aimlessly for years without a true goal in mind other than simply surviving. Past struggles with keeping a location or home base firmly established have taught TESPR much. A building that TESPR occupied in La Crescent was sold out from under them forcing the relocating to San Pedro. Though this proved ultimately good for TESPR, the lesson learned was even better! It is monumentally important to have a stable home and community in which to grow and invest in. If TESPR has a community to invest in, that community will then invest in TESPR. This is how San Pedro has come to mean so much the Theatrum Elysium and why the name San Pedro Rep was adopted.
Without these two lessons this project could never have been formulated, let alone projected to the ultimate outcome of Elysian Fields in 2050!
Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.
We can see an impact right away as we can immediately invest the funds in the scholarships, advertising for the training programs and in improvements and additions to our performance spaces.
In the space of 12 months we can build on the reputation that we already have as a theatre that does challenging and ambitious work, and within the first few weeks see an increase in the number of people drawn to San Pedro both for training and our professional projects.
If all goes smoothly, the conservatory - first the 1 month, then the 3 month - can be set up for the spring of 2015, with the 3 month conservatory beginning in the late summer or early fall of 2015. We can schedule these training sessions to coincide with our professional company’s projects so that the two are always in contact and sustaining each other.
Once we’ve established ourselves in this first year it will be a matter of building on the momentum and student and alumni base to continue to grow our operation and staff.
Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?
Our first barrier is location. San Pedro is not well known in Los Angeles as an artistic haven. We might find it difficult to attract artists from farther north in LA (NoHo, Santa Monica, Pasadena, etc.). This can be combated by offering the scholarships based on need and the students commute (though perhaps not exclusively). We have found that students will travel almost any distance to get excellent training that feeds them artistically. Once we promote this aspect and open their eyes to San Pedro and the art that it houses we believe that this challenge will be solved.
The second challenge comes in the form of exposure. We need to be seen to be found, and we need to be found in order to be successful. We will put together an organized and targeted press campaign in concert utilizing the chamber of commerce, the San Pedro Business Development Corporation and the various print and other media outlets in our area. We believe that through this coordinated campaign we can increase our exposure to a level that represents the very best of what TE San Pedro Rep and the city of San Pedro have to offer.
What resources does your project need?
- Network/relationship support
- Money (financial capital)
- Volunteers/staff (human capital)
- Publicity/awareness (social capital)
- Community outreach