077: Producing independent theatre. Artistic Director Brook North on the work, the traps, and joy of making “what we want to do.”

With candor and vulnerability, Artistic Director Brook North describes what it’s like to run a small local independent theatre company — not just logistically and administratively, but emotionally & psychologically too. Using South Stream’s THIS DOESN’T END WELL as an example (a theatre piece Brook wrote, directed and produced), we tease apart thoughts about money, value, asking for help, ego, gratitude, defining success and more.

Brook North is an Actor/Writer/Producer/Director – more or less in that order. In 2012, Brook Co-Founded South Stream Productions with John Honeycutt. Since then South Stream has produced seven plays in seven years. In addition to running South Stream, Brook has acted with groups throughout the triangle, having appeared in more than 20 plays since moving here in 2008. He also writes short plays, many of which have been produced both locally and abroad. Seven (and a half) of those short plays appeared in his most recent production: This Doesn’t End Well, produced in January of 2019.

SEE Brook in upcoming projects!

Of Good Stock at Theatre in the Park June 7-23, 2019.  He’’ll also be appearing in the short film “White Label” from Bad News Media which will premiere in late summer 2019.

Mentions: 029: What I learned from 40 years of not being famous: PART ONE. Define and redefine success.

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This episode was recorded at the ASBX home studio.  Additional audio editing by Merrybelle Park Productions. Artist Soapbox theme music by Bart Matthews.

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NOTES FOR BROOK:

MISSION STATEMENT:

You are the co-founder and artistic director of South Stream Productions. “South Stream Productions is a group of actors who want to do theatre in the triangle area that we think is interesting, engaging and entertaining… but most of all “fun stuff we want to do.”  We’re not doing this for money (well, you do have to buy tickets, but trust me, we’re NOT doing this for the money). We’re doing this because we find stories we like, that we’d like to tell and we think we’d be good people to tell them.  Characters we’d like to play, shows we’d like to direct. That’s it. So come join us.”

Why did you choose this approach?

THIS DOESN’T END WELL:

South Stream was founded in 2013, your most recently production was earlier this year in January 2019. You directed and co-produced a collection of plays that you wrote. The performance was titled The Doesn’t End Well.

It’s always interesting being on the other side of a big project. Let’s talk about your experience wearing all of those hats at the same time. What was it like to produce and direct your own work? How did you toggle between being an ‘artist’ and being a ‘producer’? What are the challenges associated with being a producer of indie theatre? What did you learn?

INDIE ARTIST TRAPS:

What are some of the ‘easy’ traps that we can fall into as artists making/producing our work locally? [This could be any number of things that we talked about — angst over paying people, feeling resentment for people not showing up, feeling weird about producing our own stuff, competing with TV, needs as an artist vs. reality of production, comparison, vulnerability]

In our phone conversation, you said that ‘theatre as you make it, is based on donations — the cost of doing theatre is borne by many people’s contributions’ — would you say more about that? (I believe 100% this is the experience of most of the theatre-makers in this area and we don’t talk about this explicitly). How do you feel about donation theatre?

So, how do we handle these psychological tripwires? How do we keep making art and ‘be ok’ with it? Why are we doing this anyway? And why do you think so many people are willing to work with South Stream and show up to see what you make?

Anything else?

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