Guest director shares theater insight
Students attended the The Honors College’s guest speaker event in the Honors Commons on Wednesday night for a lesson in putting together a theater production.
The artistic director of Mildred’s Umbrella Theater Company, Jennifer Decker, spoke to students about her personal experiences, both financial and artistic, as well as potential problems one may face when trying to create a production.
“The hardest thing is finding a space. I see people still struggling with it all the time, when really, you could use any space,” Decker said. “Right here, outside on the patio — a bar, even. People need to start thinking outside the box. If you start to think this way, you could probably do a play really cheap. It’s important to stay within your means.”
When speaking on the financial aspect, Decker suggested grants and holding a fundraiser every year while at the same time advertising your production and putting the word out for patrons.
“Volunteer; do something at school. It gives you an idea of what it takes to run a theater,” Decker said. “Working in the theater or interning in the business side of things helps you understand how the production works and what’s important.”
Her company throws an annual costume-themed gala. This year’s theme was a disco with dead celebrities.
For a company that has grown in value to $50,000 from $500 in 12 years, they learned what mistakes not to make. Jumping right into things without long-term goals in mind was one of them.
“I’ve seen people fail with big companies. They jump in and think they’re going to be the Alley Theatre in a year. It’s mostly big dreams, but they don’t have anything to back it up. They spend all their money at once and crash hard. It’s sad because some of these companies have real potential artistically,” Decker said.
Creative writing junior Travis Kane was encouraged by Decker’s years of experience working from the bottom to the top.
“I think coming here was very beneficial,” Kane said. “One sense of it inspired me to try to start my own production or help out some of my friends who have worked in theater.”
Media productions and creative writing senior Caroline Cao felt inspired.
“It made me consider being resourceful when choosing a stage in even the most unlikely of places and making whatever you can of it,” Cao said.