It has taken three long years, but in six weeks a new theatre in Mansfield, OH will be born -Theatre 166, The Black Box Theatre of the Renaissance Performing Arts Association.
It has taken three long years, but in six weeks a new theatre in Mansfield, OH will be born -Theatre 166, The Black Box Theatre of the Renaissance Performing Arts Association.
By Nik Demers
I have loved Theatre as far back as I can remember. Whether it’s acting, designing, building sets, stage managing, etc., I love getting to see a show come together from the ground up. Seeing live theatre was what sparked that love for me when I was a little kid, and the first shows I ever saw were right here at The Renaissance Theatre. Despite coming to see many shows over the years, Newsies is the first production I have gotten involved with and I’m so glad that I finally did. It is home to a wonderful and incredibly talented group of people that we are so lucky to have in our community.
“Clothes Make a Statement, Costumes Tell a Story”
At the Renaissance Theatre, we take great pride in the beautiful costuming being presented onstage each show. But where do these costumes come from and who’s behind the magic of creation?
Many costumes at the Renaissance Theatre are made by our very own staff! For example, the fabulous Ursula costume featured in last year’s production of “The Little Mermaid” was made by our Teaching Artist and Education Assistant at the Renaissance, Dauphne Maloney.
by Colleen Cook
When I look around Richland County, I’m in awe of the incredible talent we find at every turn. Simultaneously, I’m shocked when I come across people who have been born and raised here who think they have to leave town for great arts and entertainment. Not being native to North Central Ohio, I’ve got to tell you: you don’t know how good you have it!
For evidence, look no further than our production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame which will have its regional premiere in March on our stage. This show boasts world-class talent on every single plane – not only among the incredible cast (feat. the likes of Ryan Shreve, Maddie Beer, Scott Schag, Colton Penwell, Stephanie Hayslip, Matt Mayer, Patrick Clinage, Jay Reid, and many more).
Most of the talent on our stage and behind the scenes is native to North Central Ohio. Many have moved away for a time and returned, and some have stayed, but they all share one thing: the talent they bring to the arts and culture scene in Mansfield is unmatched.
It’s impossible to talk about our musicals and not rave about our director, Michael Thomas, whose vision and skilled direction of our musical theatre productions simply takes our entire organization to the next level. He shares about his experience writing for television and theatre, as well as his background as a Second City alumnus in this blog post.
Jason Kaufman has designed our remarkable set, hand-carving nine life-size gargoyles, gutters, and grotesques based on the actual design at Cathédrale Notre-Dame in Paris, where the Victor Hugo story is set. Jason is a well-known local artist with pieces featured throughout downtown Mansfield (most notably at Relax It’s Just Coffee) and an upcoming exhibit at La Luna.
This show we also welcome lighting designer Brad Cronenwett, a Shelby native who has worked as a lighting designer for Disney and is currently coming to us from Cirque du Soleil Brazil. (More on his story and vision for the production in next week’s blog.)
Local singer, teacher, and music director Kelly Knowlton, (most recently seen on our stage as Ursula in The Little Mermaid) brings together sixty performers: the cast along with an on-stage choir as well as the first live orchestra accompanying a musical at the Renaissance in seven years. The orchestra, which will include several members of the Domka family, will perform an Academy Award-winning score by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz.
Once again, Shannon Maloney returns to share her talent for choreography with our community. Shannon currently lives in New York City, but was raised here in Mansfield and is the daughter of another remarkable individual involved in the production: Dauphne Maloney, who designs and creates the costumes for our musicals.
We’ve barely scratched the surface on how many remarkable professionals have come together to create an unforgettable production. When you look around this region and think for a second that you need to drive an hour or more to see incredible productions, you’ve missed some of the greatest gems sitting right in your back yard. But don’t take my word for it – come to Hunchback on March 3-4, 11-12 and see for yourself.
I used to read this design magazine (remember those?) called ReadyMade. It was a quirky diversion from typical magazines because it focused on things we don’t tend to associate with the design industry such as sustainability and DIY projects that discourage consumerism in favor of reuse and repurposing of castaway items. As a lifelong lover of making things with old junk (ask my poor mother about raising me) it was probably my favorite magazine of all time.
They had a regular column titled “How did you get that f@#$%^& awesome job?” I read it religiously. It featured creative people doing sometimes remarkable, and occasionally off the wall things. Who knew someone could make a living with a skeleton shop? And yes, that is a real thing. While I was fascinated by these people I hadn’t yet considered that I could be one of them.
Aside from a period in third grade when I planned to be a princess/cheerleader, as far back as I can remember I planned to be an artist. I didn’t really know exactly what that would look like, and nobody really questioned the idea until I didn’t outgrow the crazy notion. Eventually my parents pushed me to explore some “real jobs.”
I wasn’t super keen on the idea, but it made everyone else feel better about my aspirations when I chose to major in art education in undergraduate school. Turns out I loved teaching, but long story short, I hated working for a school district. I worked on a masters degree, this time in psychology, and I studied creativity theory. I got the offer of a lifetime and at a very young age became an executive in one of the largest museums in the country. There wasn’t a day that I worked at the Detroit Institute of Arts that I didn’t feel honored just to be there.
Life happened though, as it is want to do, and I ended up having to leave the museum due to a divorce-related comedy of errors that is another story unto itself. I found myself in Ohio again, trying to find work in museums or art centers, and working a string of unrewarding jobs along the way. I met my husband, moved to Mansfield, had one last stint in an arts organization, and when that fell apart so did I.
Up to this point I held this limiting belief that the only way I’d make a living as an artist would be to work for some arts institution. With only one employer in my field in Mansfield, now a former employer, my future looked pretty bleak.
Sometimes adversity is opportunity if you choose to see it that way. You’ll never hear me say, “Everything happens for a reason,” because I simply don’t believe that. Life is messy, horrible things happen, and it’s perfectly acceptable to experience the low times for exactly what they are–miserable. BUT–we can’t dwell there.
“Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together.”
― Elizabeth Taylor
I took Elizabeth Taylor’s advice and continued to show up at meetings and events, and volunteered more for the causes I cared about.
A friend messaged me and planted a very important seed. She said, “Maybe now is the time to start something of your own.” This began an interesting journey to find my footing and really flesh out an idea that had legs.
Somewhere in the universe you can find this perfect overlap of what you know, what you’re good at, who you are, what you’re passionate about, and what people will pay for. It takes time, reflection, openness, confidence, risk taking, and a bunch of other things that don’t cost a penny, but will tax your soul.
In time I launched Tog Loft. We’re a unique organization that helps photographers of all types to grow in the way that works best for them. Whether you want to take better snapshots of your kids, or plan to transition to becoming a full-time photographer, we help you achieve those goals. It’s incredibly fulfilling work and I’m very proud of our members and what we do in our community.
I also had this side hustle doing public relations, freelance writing, and marketing. I’d never taken it particularly seriously, but at some point I realized that I had a “real business” and maybe I should treat it as such. We took our formerly part-time business full-time and Graziani Multimedia became an agency. We help businesses to grow, and that is such a wonderful privilege.
None of it happened overnight, and looking back it’s interesting to see how my career has evolved, and no doubt will continue to do so. As a kid I never would have dreamed that I’d own a digital marketing agency, in part because the internet didn’t really exist then, but also because I lacked exposure to the vast array of cool careers that exist. And I certainly didn’t think about creating something that didn’t exist, like Tog Loft.
As it turns out a combination of education in the arts and psychology is the perfect blend of art and science that makes my mind wired wonderfully for marketing, especially in a digital age. The most important lesson I’ve learned along the way is that sometimes the perfect job will never be posted on a job board. Occasionally it is up to us to make our own luck, and that has made all the difference for me.
I’d also like to point out that there are many paths that artists take, and sometimes a person’s day job is a means to support their work, but not their creative work. Many a gifted artist have worked non-arts jobs in the post office, as did William Faulkner, as theater managers like Bram Stoker, or even as a stockbroker, like Paul Gauguin. Sometimes art as a job takes the joy out of the work and another job is a better service to the artist.
Whenever I hear someone snark that a foolish college kid is going to end up working in a coffee shop or bartending forever because they chose to pursue the arts I cringe. Many great artists have done just that, and were all the happier for it. I know I am.
by Colleen Cook
Arts Administration (also called “arts management”) is a diverse field of employment in the arts, with a broad range of jobs and workplaces. An arts administrator is a business-minded leader of an arts and cultural organization/festival/institution. Degree programs in the field of Arts Administration have been available in higher education since the 1970s, and focus on elements of business administration, non-profit administration, advocacy, fund development, marketing, arts law, along with other elements of the arts and cultural industry.
At the Renaissance, we employee arts administrators in the departments of fund development, marketing, executive leadership, bookings, box office, finance, and direction. Many of our staff have experience in both the arts and business, and some of our staff members hold degrees specific to arts management. Successful arts administrators possess a dual understanding of what it takes to make great art, alongside what is required to run a viable business.
I’ve had the opportunity to work in roles in both marketing and development at the Renaissance, as well as some positions and internships at institutions of higher education and non-profit arts advocacy. Before entering the field of arts administration, I studied music education and worked as a voice teacher and vocal music teacher in the public schools. In my experience, it has been especially helpful to be familiar with the composers, artists, shows, and elements that come together to perform a show so that I can communicate that story with our patrons, donors, and community at large.
An arts administrator needs to be organized, a self-starter, hard-working, and passionate about the arts to be successful, in my opinion. While the field is broad, many arts administrators are responsible for multiple job roles, particularly at smaller organizations. There’s always more that you can do to support a performance or exhibit, and being on top of your workload is key. In my specific roles in marketing and fund development, great communication skills are essential as well.
If you boil down my job as Director of Marketing to just one phrase, it would be “communicate with the audience about the organization and its programs.” In my previous role as Director of Development, that phrase would be, “communicate with donors and potential donors about the organization’s programs and opportunities to give.” We communicate through dozens of channels, in an effort to reach each individual in a meaningful way that is comfortable for them.
All of our arts administrators have to be great communicators, but often for different reasons. Our executive leaders (for us, that’s our President and CEO, Artistic Director and our Executive Director) need to be effective communicators with the staff, board, volunteers, and artists to ensure that the organization runs well, that the performances are successful, and that everyone stays on the same page.
Our Box Office and Front of House team need to be great customer service representatives, helping to communicate with the audience directly at the point of purchase and at our events, or when a problem arises. Our Bookings Manager must be able to negotiate and communicate with agents and with our artistic and technical staff to land on contracts that are reasonable for our team, profitable for our organization, and bookings that are attractive to our audience. Our Finance team needs to be detail-oriented and communicative with the staff and board about the financial position of the organization so that we are sustainable in the achievement of our vision and mission.
Interestingly, great communication skills make a great arts administrator, as well as a great artist. In my opinion, it’s one of the things that makes working in this field so much fun, and the people who work in it so fantastic.
by Colleen Cook
High schoolers are often expected to determine their career path at the ripe old age of 16, planning out colleges, programs of study, and future careers they’d like to take up in their adult life. In some cases, students have a broad exposure to a wide field of employment, but students are human beings who tend to follow the paths that are familiar. When choosing their future careers, they consider those of their family members, mentors, and idols. They think about what they enjoy doing as a teenager and translate that into a profession.
When I was a high school student, I loved to sing. I enjoyed the camaraderie of being in a musical or an ensemble, and I had been mentored by my music teachers, so naturally the career path I chose was music education. I might have chosen music performance, but music education seemed like the more viable career option of what I thought were two choices in the music field.
Years later, I discovered the field of arts administration, along with many other careers, and I’ve often wondered: if I was aware of these career paths when I was in high school, would I have pursued something different?
Arts and culture as an industry contributes $704 billion to the economy in annual revenue. There’s a wide range of careers and jobs in the arts, and many creative local economies are beginning to shift to an arts and culture-based model from an industrial economy.
In an effort to build awareness about careers in the arts, we’ll be doing a multi-week series of blog posts about the various career paths one can take in the arts in the coming weeks. You’ll hear from people working in the field as entrepreneurs, administrators, artists, and more. We can’t wait to share with you the depth and breadth of this fulfilling field.
by Colleen Cook
One of my favorite elements of working with the Renaissance has been the amount of people, organizations, and businesses I’ve been connected with as a result of this work. I’ve heard people in Mansfield say that collaboration doesn’t work here, and I admit that sometimes people don’t play well together, but more often than not I’ve been able to witness Mansfield at its very best when creative collaboration is allowed to happen. Each person, each organization, brings its best to the table and the results are exponentially more than if the collaboration hadn’t existed.
A few examples of these creative collaborations come to mind right away. In 2015, the Renaissance partnered with Little Buckeye Children’s Museum to address a problem at the museum that I had witnessed first-hand with my children. The stage exhibit at the museum had a hard, wooden painted panel functioning as a curtain. More than a few parents slammed their heads against it as they exited the stage, and the exhibit was underutilized because it was missing some of the critical elements that make a theatre so magical.
Our staff and board got involved and within a few months, we built a new theatre exhibit, “The Little Ren” with a functional curtain, a video monitor, a tech booth, actual theatre seating, a box office window, and a concessions window. Opening this space for our young families gave us a place in the community outside of our own building to foster relationships early on with our region’s youngest arts lovers, and a chance to showcase the many careers in the arts available to our area youth. Today, it remains one of the most popular exhibits in the museum!
Another creative collaboration has been with Richland Source, our area’s online news organization. One of the core values of Richland Source is to proportionally cover the great things happening in Richland County alongside the negative stories, and their unique business model affords them that opportunity. Their team, in particular reporter Brittany Schock, has regularly brainstormed with us ways to think outside the box and partner creatively on projects that benefit the community through playing on the strengths of our two organizations.
This partnership has included creative journalistic pieces like live interviews broadcast on Facebook, a documentary following a young performer from auditions through to performance, and most recently the creation of a new journalistic tool, the Listening Post. A listening post is a microphone stand attached to a digital recorder partnered with a question for individuals to answer without the intimidation that might go along with a news interview.
Richland Source approached the Renaissance to help build this post, since the Renaissance’s brilliant tech team regularly solves carpentry and audio challenges such as this in show production, they were able to create a sleek and functional design in time to launch it at the Community Baby Shower hosted by Richland Source on September 9th. On its inaugural use, the Listening Post received 110 interviews from expectant and experienced moms.
(Warning: If you’re anything like me, this will probably make you cry.)
Here at the Renaissance, we’re particularly excited to place the Listening Post in our lobby for certain events to give our audience voice in a different way than we ever have before, and we’re equally excited to see how it will be used throughout the community by Richland Source and other area businesses.
We could talk about other creative collaborations endlessly, because we’re better when we’re working together. For now, though, stay tuned for some other exciting collaborations coming soon.
by Colleen Cook
At the Renaissance, we frequently have auditions running for upcoming productions. The audition is a critical moment for any performer, because it’s your chance to show your best self and potentially secure the part of your dreams. For our casting teams, auditions are challenging because so many talented individuals show up and perform well, and many factors (age, look, personality, etc.) all go into the final casting decision.
If you’re curious what auditions are upcoming, we keep all of our audition information current on our website, and we also post our cast lists there as well; we also try to keep our social media audience informed on our Facebook page. Each type of production has a slightly different process for auditioning: some register for specific time slots and specify what they’d like to hear and see, others offer an open process where there is more flexibility. When in doubt, follow directions and be flexible in the moment!
Our artistic team has offered up some pro-tips for having a better audition. Here are our top tips, and a few things to avoid:
“Be prepared, flexible, respectful, focused and friendly. The auditors take notice of you the second you walk into the room, so be self-assured but not arrogant. Roll with the punches and do what is ask of you to the best of your ability without apologizing or making excuses. Producers and casting agents know that big egos cause big problems. Act like a professional, don’t tell them you’re a professional.” – Michael Thomas
“Be pleasant throughout the audition process. We watch you, and try to engage with you, from the moment we first meet you. If we sense a challenging attitude, it may not matter how well you audition. As directors, we need to know that you are willing to work WITH us; and that we can successfully communicate with you.” – Dauphne Maloney
“When approaching an audition, and while in the audition process, fully commit to everything you’re asked to do! If you’re asked to read for a role that doesn’t interest you, do it anyway. Still apply yourself; use your training, skills, and experience to show us the best of what you’ve got (don’t try to “throw,” or sway an audition by downplaying your ability to audition well in ANY role.)” – Dauphne Maloney
“If it’s a musical audition, have several varying selections prepared. The auditors may not like your choice and may want to hear something different. Have your music clearly marked and in a three ring binder. No accordion/taped-together mess that flows over both ends of the piano. No loose sheets. If your music is a Xerox copy, make sure the music is printed on both sides, so there are less page turns. Clearly mark where you’re beginning and ending, taking liberties with tempo, pauses, ritards, etc. If there is a coda or you’re going back to a certain part of the music, print that sheet out again so your accompanist doesn’t have to flip through the pages to find the right spot.” – Michael Thomas
“Don’t audition unless you’re willing to accept any role.” – Lori Turner
“Come in the room and make us believe that whatever you do is what you meant to do.” – Kelly Knowlton
“Be familiar with the show and the composer, and select audition material that is aligned with that show/role/composer’s style.” – Lori Turner
“Be clear, concise and friendly to the pianist – even if they mangle the accompaniment to your song. Soldier on as best you can. The auditors know it’s not your fault, you don’t need to point it out.” – Michael Thomas
Pet Peeves/Things to Avoid:
“Worst for me is when someone comes in the room and is apologetic or making excuses for their performance.” – Kelly Knowlton
“Don’t bombard the auditors with excuses – such as: you’ve recently had a bad cold, you’re nervous, you haven’t had time to adequately prepare, etc.” – Michael Thomas
“Starting off your audition by telling me the reason you may not sing your best that day.” – Lori Turner
…sensing a theme here???
“When someone is unprepared or underprepared, without having music explicitly marked for the accompanist, and copping an attitude when things don’t go perfectly.” – Kelly Knowlton
“When a performer auditions with the wrong style of music for the show they’re auditioning for.” – Lori Turner
“Don’t overstay your welcome or try to be hilarious.” – Michael Thomas
“Children choosing to sing songs which are inappropriate for their playable age; for example: “I Dreamed a Dream, ” from Les Miserables–sung by a seven-year-old. A more appropriate choice for/from that show would be “Castle on a Cloud.” – Dauphne Maloney
Staff meetings. Social media scheduling. Blog writing. Brain storming sessions.
There are a number of things that happen during a day at the Renaissance Theatre for the Marketing and Development Intern. My name is Audra DeLaney and I am a third year public relations major and political science minor at Bowling Green State University. I have had the pleasure of interning under Colleen Cook this summer. I have an interest in working in arts advocacy after I graduate from college, so my summer at the Renaissance was a wonderful learning experience.
I found out about this internship back in the spring of 2016 after I got home from a spring break trip to New York City. I quickly fixed up my resume and decided to apply. I did not get the internship that summer but I stayed in contact with those at the Renaissance. I applied again this spring hoping to become the intern and the rest is history!
My responsibilities varied day-to-day during my internship. As my title states, I was a part of two departments at the Renaissance. In the Marketing Department I was responsible for scheduling social media, writing blogs/a blog series on the Renaissance Education Department, filling out event calendars, creating an Instagram strategy document, and doing a few other small projects. In the Development Department, I entered donor and member information into our system, filed donor and member paperwork, went to development committee meetings, attended board meetings, and created a document that holds ideas for the Annual Fund Campaign.
My favorite part of interning this summer was working with the Renaissance staff. Each staff member brings a new perspective to discussions and decision making. As well, they each have hidden talents! The Marketing Director is a singer, the Graphic Designer can play the violin, the Director of Operations got her undergraduate degree in horn performance, the list goes on and on. From impromptu pizza parties to coffee runs the Renaissance has felt like home since the day my internship began.
My advice to anyone wanting to intern in marketing or development for an arts organization/a nonprofit is to be willing and ready to soak up as much information as possible during your internship. The people mentoring you have stories and pieces of the advice they will share with you that will serve you well throughout your career, so listen!
I was not the only intern at the Renaissance this summer. Production Intern/Assistant Director Andy Blubaugh worked with President & CEO Mike Miller, Guest Director Kris Kyer, the Renaissance tech crew, and the whole cast of our most recent musical, The Little Mermaid. Andy is a second year theatre management and visual arts double major at Kent State University. She heard about the internship from Mike Miller after she talked with him about her interest in directing theatre.
“He mentioned the internship and it sounded like a great opportunity,” Andy said. “So I knew immediately it was something I wanted to apply for.”
Andy said her responsibilities changed daily.
“If I was not working on constructing and painting props, I was sending out backing tracks to the cast so they could rehearse at home, or I was talking to Kris about what we needed to accomplish for the day,” Andy said. “I would take notes and cue tracks and sound effects during rehearsals, take t-shirt orders, and help with the odds and ends that needed to be taken care of.”
She also said that her hours varied based on what was going on at the theatre each week and that she thoroughly enjoyed her time interning at the Renaissance.
“My favorite part was getting to learn so much about production that I never had the chance to be involved in before. Especially in making giant fish puppets, working with Cue Lab, and figuring out how to be best organized among a cast of 35,” Andy said. “Watching Kris work was awesome as well. I got to sit in on a few of his coaching sessions with some of our actors, and it showed me a lot about the communication of the director to the actor, and then translating that into their character. Being a part of this show really opened some doors for me to be involved with more parts of theatre than has ever been available to me before.”
Andy felt supported by other members of the staff of the Renaissance and the cast of The Little Mermaid. One of Andy’s biggest projects this summer was working on props for The Little Mermaid. When they were unveiled to the cast, they thought they were wonderful.
“As an artist and as the assistant director, it felt like my work was really appreciated, which made the whole experience so much more fulfilling,” Andy said.
Andy has a piece of advice for those wanting to intern in the production area of performing arts.
“Try lighting, sound, costumes and makeup, audition to be onstage, and offer your assistance to a production in whatever way you can. Every opportunity gives you the chance to learn something more, which can only better prepare you.”
Andy and I would like to say thank you to those who mentored us during our time at the Renaissance. We wish everyone a fun and successful 2017-2018 season!
May 31, 2019 for Annual Members
June 18, 2019 for Non-Members
June 25, 2019 for Annual Members
July 9, 2019 for Non-Members