089: More theater! The past, present, and future of Manbites Dog Theater with co-founders Ed Hunt and Jeff Storer. [Durham 150 Artist Spotlight]

“If a dog bites a man, who cares, but if a man bites a dog…that’s news!” This episode features Ed Hunt and Jeff Storer, the co-founders of Manbites Dog Theater, a professional company founded in 1987, dedicated to world and regional premieres of contemporary work. Ed and Jeff discuss the past, present and the future of the company including the inception and growth of Manbites Dog Theater, as well as the transition to the Manbites Dog Theater Fund. With the closing and selling of their Foster Street location in 2018,  Manbites Dog transitioned into serving as a funding and support agency for theater companies and artists in the Triangle region. What a magnificent gift to theatre artists (and their audiences) in our community!

On a personal note, Manbites Dog Theater, Jeff, Ed and the rest of the Manbites Family have had a profound and lasting impact on my life personally and professionally. There are scores of other Triangle theatre-makers who can say the same. I was one of Jeff’s students at Duke way back in the 90s and his teaching and directing are still reference points for me today. Thru the early 2000s,  both hands theatre company, a company that I co-founded with Cheryl Chamblee performed our unconventional work at Manbites Dog multiple times, and I was thrilled to be onstage at Manbites Dog Theater multiple times over the last 15 years including during both of my pregnancies and in the final season at the Foster Street location. The performances that I witnessed there as an audience member affected me deeply. Scroll down to see links to podcast episodes related to Manbites Dog Theater.

Jeff Storer and Ed Hunt

BIOS

In addition to being co-founder and Artistic Director of Manbites Dog Theater and the Manbites Dog Theater Fund, Jeff Storer is co-author of Indecent Materials, which opened the 1990 season at Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival, and has co-authored Tune for Tommy, Hotline, and an adaptation of Allan Gurganus’ Plays Well With Others. Jeff has directed over 150 full length works since 1975 in New York City, Portland, Oregon, Boston, Winter Park, (Florida) and Dallas. He is currently a full professor of the practice and former chairman in the Department of Theater Studies at Duke University, where he has taught since 1982.

Ed Hunt has served as managing director and co-artistic director of Manbites Dog  since its beginning in 1987. He grew up in New Bern, North Carolina, and saw his first Broadway plays (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Beyond the Fringe, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) at the age of 16 on a 1963 trip to New York with his father. Since 1984, he has lived in Durham, North Carolina with his partner Jeff Storer, whom he married in 2013 after an extended courtship. 

Related posts and podcast episodes:

This episode is brought to you by the Soapboxers, the official patrons of the Artist Soapbox. If you like these episodes and want more, get on the Soapbox! This episode was recorded at Shadowbox Studio. Artist Soapbox theme music by Bart Matthews. Additional audio editing by Merrybelle Park Productions.

2019 is a year-long celebration honoring Durham North Carolina’s 150th anniversary. Artist Soapbox received a grant from Durham 150 in Support of the City of Durham’s Sesquicentennial Commemoration. This episode is one of three Durham 150 Artist Spotlights in which I interview a few of the many brilliant artists living in here. Happy Birthday, Durham! Thank you Durham artists. Thank you for the grant, Durham 150. Listeners, support local artists and help them and your community thrive!

This episode is brought to you by the Soapboxers, the official patrons of the Artist Soapbox. If you like these episodes and want more, get on the Soapbox! This episode was recorded at Shadowbox Studio. Artist Soapbox theme music by Bart Matthews. Additional audio editing by Merrybelle Park Productions.

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QUESTIONS FOR ED & JEFF

PAST

Manbites Dog Theatre was founded in 1987. Why did you found a company? What were your hopes for the company at that time? How did those initial hopes/plans compare to what happened over the subsequent decades? What’s one thing you wish you would have known?

Why do you think Manbites ‘worked’? What was the special sauce or convergence of elements made it last for so long? What are you most proud of?

Your partnership seems like a crucial ingredient in the story of Manbites Dog Theatre. What was it like to grow and raise a company as professional and personal partners? 

After 10 years as a theatre company, you purchased a building on Foster Street in Durham which would be your artistic home for the next 21 years. How did having a space change your work as a company? What are the pros and cons of owning/having a physical location?  How did you say good-bye to that building? 

PRESENT & FUTURE

Congratulations on the transition to the Manbites Dog Theatre Fund and your first round of granting to 25 theatre projects in the Triangle. Thank you! So exciting!

What is it like to be ‘on the other side of the table’ financially speaking? What are your hopes for MDTF? What longer-term effect do you hope to have on the local theatre community? 

ANYTHING ELSE?

Quotes:

  • Theater reflects the society it serves.
  • If a dog bites a man, who cares. But if a man bites a dog, that’s news.  
  • We didn’t know how hard it was going to be. We also didn’t know how much fun it was going to be. (Ed Hunt)
  • There was no plan. There was no blueprint. But what it did become and what it will continue to be was quite remarkable, and I feel very privileged to have been a part of it. (Jeff Storer)
  • Putting energy, money as energy, into the theatre community cannot help but be beneficial to our basic goal, which is more theatre. (Ed Hunt)
  • Art pushes through to say what needs to be said, politically and socially. It can be the most important antidote to everything that’s going on. (Jeff Storer)
  • We are a funding agency that’s prioritizing the artist. (Ed Hunt)
  • If you are supporting the arts, the first thing you need to be thinking about is supporting the artist, because everything beyond that is optional (Ed Hunt)
  • Support the art you value and that way you stay connected to it. (Jeff Storer)

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