Dallas — It was three weeks before opening our Second Annual First Impressions Festival, a multi-day event featuring Industry Q&As, Talkbacks, and eight premiere Readings of works from local playwrights. More than 30 artists would be taking the stage in an event that was wonderfully impactful in 2018 and we hoped would be even more meaningful in its second iteration. The entire festival is intended to be as much about networking as it is about fostering new works and is one of the most important things we do.
Cue an email and a phone call from one of our home-base locations—due to unexpected circumstances, we were losing our space. Alternative options were offered: all outdoors, in the cold, during a surprisingly seasonal cold February in Dallas. This unfortunate and unavoidable circumstance reminded us very quickly that we are indeed a homeless theatre company, like many in the area, always at the mercy of our host locations.
It’s not the first time. A phone call and email chain last summer had us believing our entire tech weekend was going to have to be canceled and our set deconstructed due to a need from the owners of the building. Luckily, we were able to negotiate, and they were understanding enough to let us stay, but such a cancellation would have been catastrophic. Such is the life of a peripatetic theatre company.
A regular conversation at our internal meetings, we are constantly on the lookout and searching for opportunities for space. While we understand this is a necessary part of our journey, the stress of uncertainty can be quite hindering, particularly as we reach a point in our growth where we want to shift more toward future planning.
It’s not just us. In a metroplex with so much available square footage and opportunities for performance locations, there are many young theatre companies starving. It’s a real problem and one I don’t know the solution for. We don’t have the capital or the manpower to yet consider a permanent home, though that is a long-term goal. But there have to be more options for young companies who are hungry and ready to do the work. The sweat equity required for more accessible spaces is also quite an investment. One we’ve made on several occasions, while many venues sit dark, too expensive or exclusive for new companies to consider.
We are so grateful for the wonderful locations who have been so incredibly generous and hospitable to us in our first year and a half, and those who will continue to be. The Bath House in particular has been incredibly accommodating and welcoming. We count them as family and truly couldn’t have done any of the work we have so far without their support, welcoming spirits, and open arms. However, we are just one of their transient companies, so our access is limited.
In the meantime, we are homeless.
After the news of losing our space, we rallied and called at least a dozen other venues. I’m proud to say the Second Annual First Impressions Festival happened and was a huge success. We found a new partner in the city of Addison, and the Addison Theatre Centre warmly welcomed us into their lovely and historic Stone Cottage. People came, we had powerful Q&As, Talkbacks, and eight premiere Readings and were able to fulfill our goal of providing opportunities for local artists. It was everything we wanted it to be.
Looking ahead, however, it’s a challenge that is constant, and a possibility. We could lose our space at any time, for any reason.
Not having roots is hard. Our staff meetings range from side rooms at rehearsals, to coffee shops, to conference calls. Our Company Manager has graciously offered the front room in her home as our “War Room” and we hold as many meetings as we can there, amongst the boxes of administrative and operational materials we need too often to put into our tiny storage unit. We regularly put hundreds of miles on our cars driving to meetings in North Dallas, rehearsals in South Dallas, storage in West Dallas, performances in East Dallas, Board Meetings in Plano… Everyone has to start somewhere, and we know this is a part of our journey, but when that email notification pops up with a space issue, it can be quite discouraging.
We’re going to keep working ahead like we have been though. We’ve got the spirit and the gumption – and every challenge makes us stronger and wiser in how we react. We’re going to forge ahead, continuing to hope and trust we can find four walls and roofs to house us until the time comes to claim a space or residency of our own. While there is a thrill and plenty of opportunity in being mobile, I have to admit I’d love a location for IMPRINT to reside.
Until that day, our home is where we make it. And make it, we shall. With such incredible partners, our home has come to be our ensemble, our audiences, our supporters, and our friends on this journey. Our home is this community we love so dearly.
Our home is you.
PREVIOUSLY IN SQUARE ONE
- Septempber: Should We Start a Theater?
- October: Taking the Next Steps
- November: Planning the Season
- December: Finding the Right Space, Part 1
- January: The Importance of Team
- February: Lessons Learned
- March: Curtain Up
- April: About the Company Manager
- May: Another Closing, Another Show
- June: Finding Clarity in Chaos
- July: Theatre Directing Life Hacks
- August & September: On hiatus
- October: Finding Comfort through Creativity
- November: Season One and Done
- December: no column
- January: no column
- February: Change Happens