This autumn, thanks to the generous support of Lisa Canning and Jennifer Kincaid, Ensemble Free Theater Norway has had the opportunity to work, rehearse, and experiment at the Greenhouse Theater Center in Chicago.
The decision was not made lightly. In fact, it was a huge risk for myself, the Norwegians in EFTN, for Lisa (whom I had only met during a panel we shared in 2009, hosted by Columbia College), and for Jennifer (Greenhouse´s General Manager, whom I had never met).
We all had something at stake. We all wanted the experience to be a successful one, but we didn´t know in advance. We had to take a chance, to think creatively, to Go For It. In essence, to practice artistry and entrepreneurship on a big scale.
EFTN and I are now 3 weeks away from the conclusion of this 12-week residency in Chicago, and I am happy to say that the risk has paid off, for all of us.
The fact that the emerging Norwegian theater makers enrolled with EFTN this autumn have had the opportunity to work in the Greenhouse–which houses not one, but four–theaters is H-U-G-E- Not only do they get to practice scenes for acting class or movement sequences in improvisation & composition class, but they get to try original scripts on their feet, under real conditions. This past weekend (11-14 Nov) our students got to perform two original plays of their own for the public: “Come Closer” by Mette Fjæreide, and “The Anxiety, The Panic, and The Hatred” by Ida Mailen Hagerup and Dina Narverud.
They got to premiere two of their works in Chicago! While in school!
Further, because the Greenhouse hosts 7 resident theater companies–from Remy Bumppo and Theatre Seven to Eclipse Theater and MPAACT–EFTN students have gotten to meet countless professional actors, directors, playwrights, literary managers, dramaturgs, and more, simply by being in the same building in Lincoln Park. We have been offered discounted or free tickets to shows, and some have volunteered to come in for Professional Development courses with our students. One of the companies was so impressed with our group that they have asked us to participate in a play-reading series of theirs next month.
Lisa, along with her colleagues at the Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship (IAE), have also provided EFTN students to participate in two intensive “Boost Camps“, where they are given tools in marketing, writing a mission statement (and how it is distinct from a vision statement), doing a SWOT analysis on their artistic-business models, practicing negotiating and pitching. All of these essential skills dovetail perfectly into EFTN´s mission of creating artists who are truly independent and autonomous, who can create their own sustainable economy.
Simultaneously, Jennifer and I realized that we have a number of common goals in terms of how we want to contribute to the Chicago theater scene, and how we can provide resources to incubate emerging theater artists and theater companies. These discussions have lead to EFTN being invited back to work at the Greenhouse in the autumn of 2011, for another 15-week period.
Lisa has also offered me to join her esteemed faculty at IAE for their inaugural year, which promises to be exceptionally exciting. Not only is she going to be working across disciplines with her students here in Chicago, but IAE is getting support from the Aspen Institute and the US State Department to create arts entrepreneurship education with select partners in North Africa.
But let me get back to my original point: we all had to take a risk, for any of this to occur and unfold in our lives, in our artistic businesses.
None of us knew in advance how successful this fall would be, with all of us working together. Would we get along? Would our goals be in accord? Would we see any possibilities for future growth or collaboration?
When taking a risk, as an artist or an entrepreneur, I think it is important to trust your gut. Listen to your heart. In my life, my own mistakes tend to happen when I don´t listen to that Sixth Sense, and try to rationalize my way into (or out of) something.
In this case, I thought that the fall would be Pretty Good, given the people involved, and the information I had before booking tickets from Oslo. I felt confident that we could all have a good time, and that it would be a good fall term.
I did not realize that it would be Extraordinary, or so Supremely Fulfilling.
But none of this would have happened, if I would have waited for all of the pieces to fall into place. I had to take a risk: to just Trust that things will work out, that possibilities will reveal themselves through time, and that such risk-taking is worthy of time, money, and energy.
I had no idea that such risk taking would be yield such a tremendous return. Jennifer, Lisa, and I now have the “luxury problem” of coordinating how to manage the time to do all of the creative projects that we want to, for the coming year.
I encourage all artists and entrepreneurs to have such luxury problems in their own lives, in their own businesses, in their own work. There is a front row seat for everyone, I believe. But the price of admission is risk.
Director, Ensemble Free Theater Norway
Ensemble Free Theater Norway creates an artistic international community that is independent, sustainable, and dynamic. Through performance, collaboration, and international educational programs, EFTN aims to nurture new playwrights and theater-makers, especially within the Nordic region.
EFTN was created in 2010 by American theater artist, Brendan McCall. Originally from New York City, Mr. McCall has worked professionally as an actor, choreographer, and director in over 20 countries on 4 continents. He has taught for undergraduate and graduate Theater & Dance Departments since 1994, including: Rektor, The International Theater Academy Norway (2008-10), Yale School of Drama (2002-08), New School for Drama (2005-08), New York University´s Tisch School of the Arts (1994-2001, 2004-05), and others.
To learn more about our upcoming productions, or how to enroll in one of our international theater-immersion programs, contact the EFTN Director at firstname.lastname@example.org.