I’m very excited to announce that the applications for soloNOVA 2010 are now online at www.terranovacollective.org. It’s our 7th year accepting applications for this celebration of solo artists spanning multiple genres, including music, spoken word, comedy, burlesque, monologues, storytelling, traditional solo plays, dance, performance and visual art. When we started the festival through terraNOVA Collective in the summer of 2004, our intention was to bring attention back to a form too often considered therapy, indulgent, cheap or just plain bad. Aiming to foster nascent works, we open submissions as well as scouting new shows around town and in various other festivals. In August, I saw 17 solo shows in the New York International Fringe Festival. My hope is to hit Edinburgh next year. Our intention is to make soloNOVA the place international solo artists strive to be. Part of that plan is to begin submissions earlier so artists may attain visas in a timely fashion. This past Monday night, the New York Innovative Theatre Awards recognized a 2009 soloNOVA artist, Jeff Grow, for Outstanding Solo Performance and Outstanding Performance Artist. Additionally, 5 of the 6 nominees for Solo Performer came from soloNOVA. We were very excited soloNOVA was able to facilitate the journey of these artists to being honored. This coming year we continue our search for the next fantastic solo artist along with celebrating great performers with successful careers. It is important to us to sustain and encourage solo artists in all their glorious forms. Looking forward to seeing what comes down the pipe.
16 years ago this week I moved to New York City. I met Jennifer Conley Darling at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. We had one of our first classes together – theatre history, the only “academic” class taught at the conservatory to lend legitimacy from New York State as an accredited school. Jen and I knew each other, but we didn’t really hang out. It wasn’t until the end of our second year at The Academy, when we were in a production of Feiffer’s People, that Jen and I bonded.
A little over a year later, post AADA, several of our fellow alums, including Jen and myself, banded together as thousands of other pie-eyed conservatory graduates do to create a new theatre company. We wanted to cultivate new work and change the face of American theatre. It was from that actors’ group terraNOVA Collective was born. terraNOVA produced new plays, discovered the business of show, and lost and gained many members along the way. The one constant was Jennifer. When Ray Yates, the original artistic director moved back to Dublin, Ireland, Jen took the company’s reigns, though she’d never held a position like this before, and steered several plays to production, including one tour.
After a few years of “down time.” I approached Jen about writing a play for her, she laughed, but I did it. We tried to get backers to support the play, but when it couldn’t find financial legs, it was Jen’s idea to use terraNOVA as a fundraising organization to produce the play. That’s just what we did, and in October 2003, terraNOVA Collective produced my play Baby Steps at The Lion in Theatre Row. The success of the play re-energized the company, and I came back on board as the associate director (I’d left years earlier to pursue other opportunities), eventually helping to create its main programs: soloNOVA Arts Festival, Groundbreakers and Subterranean.
All along the way, Jennifer has been a rock and center of this company. Last night, terraNOVA Collective, which is currently in residence in Union Square at the DR2 Theatre and D-Lounge, launched its 7th consecutive season of programming (and its 13th year in existence) with Subterranean, our monthly performance party. This past season found us nominated for 17 New York Innovative Theatre Awards, which was both exciting and humbling. There’s been many bumpy roads along the way, too. Fundraising continues to be our biggest struggle, and making it through this upcoming season seems daunting during this current climate. Still, I have faith. We’ve overcome struggles in the past, and I know we’ll meet whatever obstacles are ahead with strength, creativity and perseverance.
There’s a common bit of wisdom imparted to many a young actors starting off in this business: “If you can do anything else…anything…do it.” It supposedly speaks to the brutality this business of show brings to pie-eyed actors with dreams of fame and fortune. I’d suggest the only thing with more odds against it is starting and successfully running one’s own theatre company with any sort of longevity. Jennifer Conley Darling does that with grace under pressure and intense resilience. She idealistically continues to believe in making a mark on the face of the American theatre, and humbly, I believe we’ve made a tiny imprint thus far. The artists who’s careers launched to success and sustainability from terraNOVA programs is due to Jen’s commitment of nourishing live theatre in a time at which most people would rather veg-out on couches or play on computers.
It seems like a long time ago we blew off theater history class, goofing on the unqualified substitute teacher who rambled on about Uri Geller bending spoons and keys – anything besides the history of theatre. We’ve accomplished much together since then. I look forward to the stretch ahead.
We’ve come a long way, Baby.
Just wanted to give a quick big up to the New York International Fringe Festival. I’ve seen 15 solo shows in Fringe NYC this year. I think it’s my way of coping with not being able to to go to Edinburgh. In the past, I’ve scouted for the soloNOVA Arts Festival at the Fringe NYC, but I’ve never seen so many in one year. Generally a mixed bag (as are most fringe festivals around the world), this year’s Fringe NYC solo shows have been good to very good on the whole. It’s exciting for me, as a curator of solo shows, to see so many people attending. I have been to multiple sold out performances for solo shows, and it encourages me that there is an audience out there.
Moreover, the old misnomer that every solo show is about the author and therapy on one’s own life has generally been disproved. I’ve seen puppets, stand-up, music and character pieces, and out of the 15, I’d say 2 were great, 3 were bad and the other 10 pretty entertaining. I’m very happy, too, to see Time Out NY and NYTheatre.com reviewing all 201 shows in this year’s festival. While it may not be the most scientific way of reviewing such a behemoth, it’s gotten the word out in a great way. I’m certain these reviews helped bring in audience to shows (especially out-of-towners) that deserved to be seen.
Looking forward to the final 3 shows – 2 of which I’m off to right…now!
Six years ago, terraNOVA Collective experienced a resurgence with the production of my play BABY STEPS, which played in the The Lion in Theatre Row. Since then, the company grew and began many programs including the annual soloNOVA Arts Festival, which celebrates the best in solo performers and visual artists, Groundbreakers, a developmental program for new plays & playwrights, a Touring Wing, bringing the best terraNOVA has to offer to universities and presenters across the USA, and now a Musical Theater Development program.
I am very proud of all the work we’ve done. It’s hard work sustaining a not-for-profit theatre organization in New York City – especially in the current economic climate. It’s terrifying, sometimes, in fact. Still there are so many people who are supportive. We just brought on a managing director and literary manager for the first time. We grew our board of directors this season by 6 people, and they’ve been extremely helpful in generating more interest and support for terraNOVA. We also started a residency in the DR2 Theatre this past fall; our partnership with this wonderful organization has been a great experience, and we’re looking forward to seeing it grow.
Still, with times being what they are, we find ourselves falling short. terraNOVA still needs $10K to make it through into this next season. It’s always a conundrum, asking friends, family and colleagues for money. Any not-for-profit’s base is made up primarily from its individual donors, and we’re very fortunate to have that kind of contribution. It’s been difficult to reach out to individuals this year because we’re not the only ones hurting – our base is feeling it quite intensely, too. We looked at this gap and realized that we weren’t going to close it by asking 20 people to give $500…or 10 people to give $1000. No one’s got that kind of cash to blow right now. It hit us – why not ask our base to give what they can? I don’t have much, but I can give $10. Most of the people who make up our base are like me, so we’re reaching out in a tight time to see if our friends, family and colleagues can help us get through this tight time.
It’s only 10 bucks, but it’ll help more than you can imagine.
James (JD) Carter
Associate Artistic Director & soloNOVA Lead Curator
More information on terraNOVA can be found at http://www.terranovacollective.org
I have great friends. My friends Aaron & Gayla and their beautiful daughter, Zaeda, fill my life with love and warmth. They are also huge cheerleaders when it comes to encouraging my artistic journey. They made a wonderful gift of pesto and bbq sauce for a closing present for soloNOVA, and I thought I’d share the quote they put into the note attached to the gift:
“Have you ever risked economic security? Have you ever risked a belief? I see nothing particularly courageous about risking one’s life. So you lose it, you go to your hero’s heaven and everything is milk and honey ’til the end of time. Right? You get your reward and suffer no earthly consequences. That’s not courage. Real courage is risking something that might force you to rethink your thoughts and suffer change and stretch consciousness.”
- Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction