Friday, November 30, 2007

Inside Source Has Moved...

Hello Readers,

Just a quick note to let you know that Inside Source has moved; our new, improved blog can be found at http://sourcedc.wordpress.com/

So come visit and find out what's new with Source!

Don't forget to change your bookmarks to the new Inside Source blog.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Noi Chudnoff

We are all stunned and saddened with the passing of Noi Chudnoff, who died unexpectedly on Tuesday November 6. A unique soul, Noi was owner of the 14th Street design shop Go Mama Go! and a generous benefactor of SOURCE and many local gay and arts focused organizations. A public memorial will be held at SOURCE at 2PM on Saturday, November 10th to gather, share tribute and remember Noi. For additional Information, please visit www.ganymedearts.org.

Photograph by Todd Franson / Metro Weekly

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Pack Rats, Be Warned!

I remember in college whenever I had a big paper due I would use cleaning my room as a means to procrastinate, thinking that a spotless space would lend towards a clear mind. The practice has stayed with me except now the tasks are a lot larger than a term paper and to make up for it I have an entire house maintain. And although CuDC really isn’t trying to procrastinate with renovating SOURCE, I still have the same creeping feeling that I have to clean it out before we get to work on it and you would not believe the amount of stuff we have to clear out. When CuDC purchased SOURCE it came with a mountain of old office furniture, set pieces, files, archives, costumes, props and knick knacks that are just plain weird. We’re doing our best to preserve everything that is salvageable or has history to it. Pat Sheehey was making regular trips to pick out important Source Theatre archive materials. Old company members have made frequent visits to what I affectionately call “the pile” to pull out that useful door, chair or prop that was used in another production long ago.

You have to understand that there literally is a “pile” of garbage that can fill more than one industrial sized dumpster on the second floor that is slated to be taken out with demolition. CuDC was able to save a lot of props and furniture from becoming landfill during a Dog Days of August Sidewalk Sale. Yet even from the broken and less useful props left behind a lot of history can be discerned. Considering what shows have been at SOURCE, I shouldn’t surprised by the amount of (mostly) fake weaponry. I’ve found swords, rifles, pistols, maces, spears, grenades, bullwhips, handcuffs, laser blasters, dynamite and detonators. There was also a coffin lid. Some props may or may not want to be claimed (red rubber crotchless underwear, anyone?) There is also an inordinate amount of filing cabinets and office furniture in various states of usefulness and disrepair and a few computers that can now be qualified as antiques, most of which may be making an appearance on Craigslist any day now. Don’t be afraid to call us if you think you can use any of it!

-Travis Bowerman, Director of Operations

Friday, November 2, 2007

Source: Not Just for Theatre

Cara Pomponio, Director of Development for Cultural Development Corporation, is excited to add Source to her list of favorite alternative live music venues around town.

I’ve seen lots of theatre at Source over the years—Psycho Beach Party with Daniel Escobar in 1992 is a stand out—but what I’m really looking forward to is Source being a multi-disciplinary venue, so in addition to theatre we’ll have dance, music, comedy, and pretty much anything else you can think of. One of my favorite things to do is listen to live music and I love all the different clubs in the area: Black Cat, 9:30, DC9, etc. However, I also love seeing music in alternative venues, i.e. churches, rec. centers, galleries, parks, etc. and now we’ll have Source as another great alternative space for live music. My friend Norm Veenstra who is a member of the instrumental rock band Tone curated a music festival at Source in 2003 called Speechless in which he invited several instrumental bands/artists to play sets, including: Amy Domingues, 302 Acid, Southkill, and Tone. It was an amazing evening and made me see what a perfect music venue Source is. Something Norm and I often talk about is how there are lots of people in the area who love seeing live music, but for whatever reason—age, “real” jobs, families, just can’t stand for 4 hours (which I guess goes back to the age issue)—don’t get out as much as they’d like to hear bands. With an 8:00pm start time, comfy seats and getting home before midnight, seeing bands at Source could be like going to see the NSO at Ken Cen, only much cooler and without that expensive parking.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

“Yikes!” An Interview with WIT

Karyn Miller, Manager of Visual Arts & Communications at the Cultural Development Corporation, sat down on a recent rainy morning to delve into the wonderful world of Washington Improv Theater (WIT) with Artistic Director Mark Chalfant and Managing Director Topher Bellavia. WIT, currently a resident organization at Flashpoint, will become a resident organization at Source upon completion of the renovations.

How long have you been a resident organization at Flashpoint and how has being a part of an arts incubator helped your organization?

Mark: We became a resident organization in 2004 when Flashpoint opened and were one of the pilot resident companies. It was really instrumental to the organization and came at just the right time for WIT’s growth. We were starting to develop a training program – so the community organization and the peer organization was very helpful.

What do you look forward to with your move to Source?

Mark: We’re looking forward to having a bigger audience and connecting with that bigger audience. Also, the technical aspects of being in a bigger space – there’s more you can do with more space to play in. There are more organizations using the stage to interact with and I think it’ll be more intense since there will be a lot of overlap with the way that we’ll be rotating the use of the performance space. There’s really no loss of intimacy because the space is so flexible. You can still have a really intimate show. When we do Improvapalooza we’ll be able to get 300 people in and out of Source in 5 hours – we couldn’t have done that at Flashpoint.

Also, Source was one of the first venues that we played in, so it feels good to go back. It’s like we’re completing the circle.

If funding was no obstacle, where would you be and what would you be doing?

Mark: We would have bought Source ourselves.

Topher: If there was one change we could make to Source, it would be to put a putt-putt golf course on the roof.

How do you juggle simultaneously being directors, administrators, artists and teachers? Do you ever improvise or forget to improvise at the wrong times?

Mark: We’d probably be voted “guys most likely to make wise-cracks during serious meetings.” But then again we’ve really never felt much pressure to turn that off completely. There’s an opportunity for levity and humor everywhere – it helps us communicate better as people. Though, sometimes when we’re stressed because of all the organizing and management that we have to do, it can be hard to let that go at the beginning of a rehearsal or performance.

Topher: Mark and I have been working together for 8 years and we’ve developed an ability to play together offstage, as well, which helps when we’re making business decisions or dealing with conflicts. The hard thing is having an office upstairs and a playing space downstairs. On Friday, I have to finish up paperwork and then go downstairs to be funny onstage.

What attracted you to this form of theatre? To me, it’s always been analogous to the archetypal dream where you’re speaking publicly… naked.

Topher: I have nightmares that I’m onstage and don’t know my lines. I was a theatre major at Wesleyan and did theatre in high school. I was always horrible at memorizing lines. I was good at getting the essence of the dialogue, but couldn’t ever remember my exact lines and other actors would end up having to adjust their lines because of me. But I knew I was an actor and being able to perform improv allows me act in a more immediate way than scripted theatre. I go to a play and think “oh my god” you have to say the exact same thing every night – torture.

Mark: I was a student of improv before I wanted to be a performer. It’s about personal transformation and pushing yourself to explore other personalities and other strategies to deal with people other than the default way. I was able to discover parts of myself that I was on the verge of losing. It can be very hermetic in DC and it’s easy to get sealed in a box. It’s healthy to shake those expectations up. At the time I came to improv, I was temping, I had just come back from Russia and I was looking for a job in international relations so that I could use my language skills.

Topher: I was also temping for two years. I intended to go into politics, but immediately fell into the throws of bi-polar depression and mania and just went to work and then home for two years. I saw an ad for WIT’s classes and went and those classes pulled me out of my shell and helped me to understand myself and seek help. Improv literally saved my life. The nature of improv is freeing – it’s putting the cart before the horse.

Are there common misconceptions about improv?

Topher: The primary confusion that people have is that you don’t aim to be funny, you aim to be truthful and that’s funny. If you aim to be funny, you’re not going to hit it.

Mark: One of the fundamental things of improv is to be honest, to speak and live the truth of the moment no matter how awkward, violent or painful it is, so that you get better at doing that in your own life.

After seeing the iMusical, I had to wonder if there are covert ways that the actors communicate and cue one another on stage. What’re your secrets?

Mark: We have some structure like “verse chorus” songs versus “tagline” songs though 1/3 to ½ of the songs end up being free-form. The ensemble is so connected to one another that you know when someone needs help. If I’m doing fine, no one really needs to come; if people can heighten, clarify or add to what I’m doing, then they’ll come onstage.

Topher: That’s why we have rehearsals. To establish trust and understanding between people. To learn to listen and read subconscious cues.

Mark: There is a maxim in improv that if the scene is going great, leave it alone. And if it starts to sink, jump in and paddle. It may seem counterintuitive because if a scene is going well, you’d want to join it, but you may end up breaking it.

Topher: One human trait is required to do improv: basic human empathy – the ability to read other people and know what they are going through and to know why they are doing what they’re doing

It’s time for random questions… What’s your favorite pop culture guilty pleasure?

Mark: “What the Buck” on YouTube. It’s a black hole of delicious, trashy, celebrity goodness. It sticks to your teeth. Forever.

Topher: Sunday morning news shows. Meet the Press. It’s terribly trite and shallow, but I DV-R and watch all of them.

Would you rather do improv with Keanu Reeves or Patrick Swayze?

Mark: There’s a Zen-like saying that “A good improviser should be able to improvise with a paper bag.” So… Keanu Reeves.

Topher: Keanu because have you seen Patrick Swayze recently? Oh yikes!

Is there anything that I didn’t ask, that you want to say?

Mark: Our classes are held at 13th and V Street, so we’re really looking forward to being at Source and being able to teach classes, perform and have our offices all in the same neighborhood [the 14th Street corridor].

Topher: That neighborhood is seeing a real resurgence and we’re excited to be there for it.

Mark: Having our classes and everything in the same neighborhood will help us to build a community. We’ll all be able to have a designated hang out. We just need to find a watering hole without $8 vodka tonics…

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Source Construction Delay(s)

Anne Corbett, CuDC's Executive Director, gives us an update on the renovations and delays at Source...

You may have noticed that Source still looks the same…no open-topped dumpster obstructing the sidewalk, no crane flying in the sky, no fresh new fa├žade calling out to you as you drive by. Yes, it’s true, the renovations that we said would begin in January, then in the spring, then absolutely no later than August after the fringe, still haven’t begun.

What can I say? We at Cultural Development Corporation are suckers for chasing dollars with strings – I mean chains – attached to them.

Good news is that we applied for a federally-backed funding through DC Department of Housing that we just might be able to get. The bad news is that it takes time to vet the funding process and we become ineligible if we start construction prior finishing that process. So we are stuck in hurry up and wait and leaving all of Source’s fans wondering. Sorry about that.

For now, we are still programming Source in its as-is condition – perhaps you enjoyed Arabian Nights and didn’t even notice? And we will continue to do so through the end of the year.

The new story is construction will begin first week of January 2008. If that changes, you’ll be the first to know.

Thx for the patience, anne

Friday, October 19, 2007

Source Documentary

Nadine Gabai-Botero is CuDC’s Campaign Director and focuses on the campaign to raise $3.5 million for the renovation and initial operations of Source – targeting leadership gifts, donor cultivation, marketing and communications strategies for the project, as well as special events. Over the summer, I worked with local filmmaker and producer Marty Huberman (VideoArt Productions) on a documentary about Source. It is one of the most interesting projects I’ve worked on in the six years I’ve been at CuDC (and we’ve done some pretty great projects)! CuDC hired Marty to tell the Source story from the perspective of the artists, directors and playwrights who worked at Source over the years and the many people who were involved with saving the theatre in 2006. Not being one of the theatre buffs on staff, I didn’t know much about many of the people we interviewed. I was captivated as I listened to Eric Schaeffer describe what Source was like there in the early 80s, or heard Rick Foucheux his experiences on stage (including the time he crashed his head on the theatre’s cement floor and they had to stop the show so he could get stitches!). It sounded like an exciting, crazy time to be in the DC theatre scene. In addition to the 5-7 minute video we are producing, the DVD will include an “oral histories” section, where you can listen to the artists talk about their experiences. Like I said, I’m no theatre buff, but I think it’ll definitely be one to add to your collection if you have an interest in Washington theatre history. We hope to have the finished DVD in time for the holidays (stocking stuffer, anyone?).