Opportunity, Experimentation In John Drew Lab

It gives artists working on a new piece, or those experimenting and expanding their own horizons, a nurturing place to go.
Josh Gladstone and Jennifer Brondo are bringing new community groups and innovative theatrical programs to Guild Hall’s winter season. T.E. McMorrow

    Seeking to provide a haven for performing artists of all stripes, Josh Gladstone, the artistic director of Guild Hall’s John Drew Theater, along with Jennifer Brondo, the theater’s general manager, is launching an ambitious, yet relatively inexpensive, campaign to provide space, time, and yes, even some money to such artists.

    The John Drew Theater Lab “is an opportunity we are providing to performing artists who live on the East End, to share in the resources of this institution,” Mr. Gladstone said on Friday. Short of a full production, it gives artists working on a new piece, or those experimenting and expanding their own horizons, a nurturing place to go.

    The artists will be given a Tuesday night at the theater for staged readings or performances and will be able to use the facilities for rehearsal leading up to the Tuesday productions, which will be free to the public. But the support offered goes far beyond that. “We can help you, administratively, provide management assistance. We’ll give you some Jitney passes if you need to bring people in from the city,” Mr. Gladstone said. “We will give you, the artist, some money, not a lot, a $300 stipend which you can use any way you want. If you want to buy lunch for the actors, or pay for a night at a motel. . . . And we will include you in our marketing, in our e-blast to our members. We are making all the resources that are available to us available to local artists in the off-season.”

    The first reading will be Dominick Gaetano’s “Turing Test” directed by Aimee Todoroff, this week at 7:30 p.m.

    It is very important to both Mr. Gladstone and Ms. Brondo, who works at the desk next to Mr. Gladstone’s in a small basement office whose shelves are crammed with scripts and proposals, that the lab not be seen merely as a facility for theater folk, but for all performing artists.

    “We have some musicians with a new band. . . . They are going to talk about the songwriting process and play some acoustic music. Then there is a group of actors studying improv at Upright Citizens Brigade in New York. They are going to do an improv class. We want to provide chances for established artists who want to try new directions. Sawyer Avery, who you may have seen in ‘Anne Frank’ at Bay Street, we are giving him his directorial debut with a staged reading. He is bringing in a lot of actors who have performed here in the past for a reading of Neil Simon’s ‘Biloxi Blues,’ ” Mr. Gladstone said.

    Performing artists need a place to experiment, and, occasionally, even fail, Mr. Gladstone said.

    The calendar is quickly filling up. The submission process is simple: You send an email to Mr. Gladstone pitching your project or group in a couple of paragraphs. Obviously, not everybody who applies will be able to get a slot, but Mr. Gladstone is hoping that a true cross-section of the performing arts community will find a home at the lab.

    “We are always changing, always evolving,” Mr. Gladstone said about the mission of the theater. It is essential, he said, that the theater “have a real life in the community. Not just to be an ivory tower, but to be a resource for the community on every level.”