No one really understands how they do it, and what’s worse is that sometimes it feels like no one really cares all that much. Then again, some of us do care — for some of us have done it, too. We’re not talking about sex, we’re talking about Off-Off-Broadway, independent theatre. And independent it sure is: a place where money is always a problem in that costs are astronomical to produce a play Off-Off-Broadway yet, when compared to Broadway, the costs are embarrassingly modest. The contracts and pay rates under which actors act, writers write, directors direct, designers design, stage managers manage, publicists publicize and marketers market are stuck in the ’60s — some would say the 1860s — and all for the holy privilege of fighting for dramatically shrinking press coverage.
And while there are hundreds of live-theatre productions in Los Angeles and Chicago every year, most of them the equivalent of Off- and Off-Off-Broadway, those two biggest non-New York theatre markets have, for better or worse, more square miles in which to be ignored, since real estate in New York so densely packs in those productions. And everything is a fight. You fight for grants, audiences, reviews, space and care and time and jobs, and you fight, finally, for the most crucial thing of all: just to do the work. You fight because you must.
For 15 years, Tim Errickson’s intrepid Boomerang Theatre Company has waged the fight and won the bout. Never heard of them? Well, you have now. Their credits include 42 full productions, including six world premieres, seven New York City premieres and, notably, the prestigious Caffe Cino Fellowship from the New York Innovative Theatre Awards. Here’s their mission:
Established in 1999, the Boomerang Theatre Company is dedicated to producing new, classic and neglected plays that add to the vibrancy of the national theatre canon. We annually present original and re-imagined plays as both outdoor performances and indoors rotating repertory seasons…
Boomerang’s seasons have three parts. There is free outdoor summertime Shakespeare across the five boroughs, an indoor repertory of plays both newly hatched out of the egg or dusty enough to be revived, and First Flight, a new-play development series of workshops and readings. This fall, Boomerang is back with its newest rep: Johnna Adams’ splendidly titled Lickspittles, Buttonholers and Damned Pernicious Go-Betweens, directed by John Hurley; George Bernard Shaw’s Candida, directed by Errickson; and Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation of Jean Anouilh’s Leocadia, now called To Fool the Eye, directed by Cailin Heffernan.
The Boomerang’s rep runs through Oct. 13 at Theatre Lab (357 W. 36th St., 3rd Fl.). Click on the link for tickets.
And now, 5 questions Tim Errickson has never been asked:
What’s the most perceptive question anyone has ever asked about your work?
That’s a hard question; I don’t think anyone has ever asked a perceptive question about my directing. I think since most people don’t know what a director does, there are very few perceptive questions ever asked about the craft.
What’s the most idiotic question anyone has ever asked about your work?
People occasionally ask why we produce this play or that one. It always comes down to taste and the historical moment and the uniqueness of the story, the special voice of the playwright. But I often tell them to see what the performance and story meant to them, and that would answer their question.
What’s the weirdest question anyone has ever asked about your work?
Directing is that weird thing that goes unnoticed if you do it right. Blending the elements so there are no seams, getting everyone on the same page and making everything look spontaneous. When people often ask questions about it, I think a lot of times they’re asking, “So, what did you do?” Like, the actors said the lines, the lights came up, they’re wearing clothes and sitting on furniture, so what did you bring, tangibly, to it? For a long time, that was part of the draw for me, the anonymity of it. But as I’ve gotten older, that’s less attractive. So it’s weird sometimes, even to family who you know very well: they don’t know what your contribution was. It’s like trying to explain libido. Yes, the fun bits do all the work, but the drive and inspiration for all that fun had to come from somewhere.
Fifteen years is a lifetime in Off-Off-Broadway terms. What survival skills are you most proud of developing, having led Boomerang all these years? Which of the three was hardest to acquire?
Money management, time management and organization are tough for me. The left-brain thinking keeps me creating and hiring and book and designing and writing…and the receipts are over here somewhere. And in terms of survival skills I’m most proud of, that I use on a daily basis…people skills to communicate and motivate when there isn’t enough time or money, keeping calm when all around is falling down (I keep reminding myself no one hit an eight-run home run, just do a little at a time, do it well and then do the next), and perseverance. When we love these plays and these people so much, we want everything to happen on schedule and lavishly and to everyone’s fulfillment. And when it doesn’t happen that way, we are proud of the fact that we keep going, reschedule it, get raise more money, alter the design, whatever.
Aside from having bigger budgets, if you could change anything about the production process of free summertime Shakespeare in parks and indoor repertory in the fall, what would it be? What’s the obstacle to making these changes happen (again, other than money)?
Visibility, perhaps.We do a lot of work that is exceptional (not all of it, but a lot of it), and oftentimes in a city of this size, it goes under the radar. So if there was a way to continually expose people to the work, maybe making trailers and viral videos is the answer. For a while it was journalism, I think, and nothing has really come along to effectively take it’s place across all communities.
The Tim Errickson of 1999 demands that the Tim Errickson of 2013 tell him what he should and should not do in the years ahead. What advice and wisdom do you give him? What advice and wisdom do you withhold and why?
Well, 1999 Tim: 1) get a gym membership, 2) buy stock in kale chips, quinoa and soy milk, 3) Get more sleep, 4) Don’t date that girl with the piercings, and 5) stop taking money out of your 401k to cover production budget shortfalls. In terms of things I would hold back…I wouldn’t tell him how hard it’s all been. As that might discourage him. And his life wouldn’t be nearly as rich in the end.