Wednesday, September 5, 2012

GUEST POST: Kyle Ware on the Hows of Le Petomane

As with previous Non-Profits of the Month, My Loueyville is proud to feature a guest post from one of the members of this month's NPOTM-- Le Petomane Theatre Ensemble. 

Kyle Ware is a Louisvlle-based actor, artist, and educator. He is a co-Producing, Founding Artistic Director of Le Petomane Theatre Ensemble; serves as Executive Director for Tourism Honors Academy, an academic leadership program for high school seniors in Louisville; and is a freelance artist, illustrator, and designer. 

If I were a betting man—which I’m not, but if I were, and you asked me—I’d wager our most frequently asked questions here at Le Petomane Theatre Ensemble Headquarters fall somewhere in the category of “how do you do that?” with the “that” in question most often being a production of WhateverWe’veJustMadeUp.  To that point, it’s one of the things Melissa Lou suggested I talk about for this very post.  Sometimes the question is “Why would you do that?” depending on the show, but that’s another matter entirely.  And the “how” is actually easier than the “why” anyway, which I’m happy to share with you here.  For your consideration: How to Build a Show Like Le Petomane in 3 Easy Steps:

Step 1: Find somewhat like-minded friends, with enough variation in background and skills to make things interesting. 
Step 2: Set a performance date.
Step 3: Play with aforementioned friends until performance date arrives.

Now, to be fair, I may have glossed over a few things.  Step 2, for instance, can be tricky in Louisville, where performance spaces are tough to come by and hotly contested by the bevy of quality theatre groups in town.  For our current show, TIME FLIES, we’ll be back at The Bard’s Town (1801 Bardstown Rd).  This will be our fourth show there, and I don’t mind telling you, Scot and Doug are good people and very supportive of the arts community across the board.  We’ve been fortunate there: Ken and Sheila Pyle at the Rud, the good people at the Speed and their Art After Dark series, the producers of Actors Theatre’s now-defunct, sorely missed Late Seating, and on and on.  All great people.  We’ve been lucky.  And to the scarcity issue I mentioned before, there is good news on that front: a promising new space, Vault 1031, which should open in the neighborhood of soon.  Vault 1031 has been our base of operations for our last week of TIME FLIES rehearsal, and Jon and Barb have some exciting things in store for all of us.

Step 3 is a little more involved and changes with each show.  Some shows may require more research; others may need to gestate in a room consisting of various combinations of the six of us and seeing what happens by the end of the night.  Some are heavily scripted; others closed years ago and still don’t have a full script.  All of that is dictated by just a few factors: what’s the show about, what’s it need, and who’s available to do it?

For TIME FLIES—September 6-16, every night but Tuesday, all shows: 7:30—it was a combination of heavy research and attempting to make each other laugh while in the room together while fashioning all of that into a story statement with a dramatic structure, such that it is.  We travelled to different art museums for inspiration; we discussed the history of time; eras of civilization; what it means to have lived and be alive; who celebrates our first step onto the world’s stage and who will remember us past our final bow.  We scrawled our notes and discussion points on a giant roll of paper, with dates and facts and figures alongside characters, scenes, and ideas yet unformed.  Most of that won’t make it to stage, by the way, but all of it informs “play,” and that’s what you’re paying your $8-20 sliding scale (call  609-2520 or for reservations) to see.  

And here’s the thing about Step 2: it only really works with due diligence and care on Step 1.  Step 1 is the one that makes the show what it is.  If the show is your recipe, Step 1 is your list of ingredients.  The way we work, that means your writers, directors, designers, costumers, choreographers, composers, producers, as well as your singers, dancers, and actors:  you drop one out or add one in, you get something a little bit different.  And you’re going to need people you respect.  People whose work you enjoy and admire.  People you know will work with the same dedication and passion that you have.  People with whom you may have disagreement of taste or aesthetic from time to time, but never of their motivation to produce the best work possible.  People you like spending time with long past any reasonable expectation, because you’ll see them more than anyone else.  Friends.  You do that?  You’re golden.  

There was a great article with our pals over at Theatre [502] in The Paper (shouts to all), in which they talk about much of this.  “How do you work with three Artistic Directors?”  “Well, we all like and respect each other…” seemed to be the sum up.  To which we say a collective, “Yep.”

We came together back in 2005 for one show, a 6-person adaptation of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, brilliantly and beautifully cut by our own Greg Maupin.  A mutual professional friend asked what we would be doing next, and well, there was no next—that was to be it for us.  She paused for a while, looked up and asked, simply, “Why not?”

We didn’t really have a good answer for that. 

And so we stayed, the six of us. More family now than company (helped along by two-thirds of us being married to each other already).  Or a theatre gang, which may be about the least threatening thing this side of West Side Story or the backup dancers in “Beat It.” (“Officer!  There’s a group of people doing high kicks and a box step.  With a knife!”) That’s what I think we’ve cultivated over the years.  And I think ultimately, that’s what you see when you come to a Le Petomane show. 

Not coincidentally, there happens to be a way for you to see for yourself.  Our season opener, in case I haven’t said, is just around the corner: TIME FLIES, at The Bard’s Town (1801 Bardstown Rd), September 6-16, all shows: 7:30.  

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