Recently New Repertory Theatre (where I worked from 2003 through 2006) posted the documentary video that I had worked on during June 2005. The video was played before the 20th Anniversary Gala, which also was the theatre community’s first opportunity to see a performance in the Charles Mosesian Theater at the Arsenal Center for the Arts in Watertown.
After the video, the audience was treated to a spectacular concert version of New Rep’s award-winning production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. It was a fitting celebration for a company that has had a meteoric rise from the small church space in Newton Highlands to a resident company at performing arts center.
Creating this documentary for such an important event was a particularly exciting opportunity. New Rep partnered with NewTV (Newton Community Access Television) and I had a great time working with then recent high school graduate, Josh Woolf, who was an expert in video production. Josh’s expertise in knowing nearly everything about the equipment (all mine was a few years out of date) helped us tell New Rep’s compelling story. Josh’s technical experience and my background and knowledge of theatre, a desire to learn more about New Rep, and experience conducting interviews helped us capture some wonderful moments. It was a great experience in storytelling. Josh has since gone onto study at Emerson and has worked on a few films as a production assistant.
The interviews took us to New York City to talk to Founding Artistic Director, Larry Lane, and around the greater Boston area to interview other founding members, board members, and Rick Lombardo, the Producing Artistic Director who recently announced he would be leaving to assume the same role at San Jose Rep.
While at Antioch College, Bob Devine, the then-President and Professor of Communications, once said that all Antiochians inevitably work on or create a documentary. As community members, we recognize there are important stories that must be told. At that moment in time, I was a student of theatre and psychology, and I didn’t envisioned myself working on any types of documentaries.
I was wrong.
After working on the New Repertory Theatre 20th Anniversary Video, I understood what Bob meant. When a staff member has the time and freedom to research and present a history of an organization, they are able to fully become part of a tradition. They understand the context of their daily work in the bigger picture. The history, as it did for New Rep, illustrated the broader contribution of many different people over an extended period of time that made the theatre what it is today.
When documenting a growing cultural organization like New Rep at a historic moment of moving to a new performing arts space, you begin to learn what it takes to be successful. You learn about the diverse group of people, each with their own, opinions and personality quirks. You also learn how each one of these people has contributed to the success and sustainability of the organization. Above all, what you discover is that through the difference, they are all working together towards a singular, mission-based vision for the organization.
It is a commitment to success.
The stories of the hard work, sacrifice, and commitment that build cultural organizations and institutions into essential parts of life must be told. They serve as a constant reminder of what is important in our communities and how, if we don’t support them, the can disappear.
“Insist that we support science and the arts, especially the arts. They have nothing to do with the actual defense of our country — they just make our country worth defending.” - Ken Burns