Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How does BoHo choose its seasons?

It’s that time of year again. You can almost feel it in your bones as the daylight grows longer and snow begins to melt. Yes, once again, we find ourselves gearing up for that most sacred of yearly theatrical rituals, second only to the annual benefit or fund drive. It’s season announcement time! The company elders, having spent weeks locked away in seclusion, have sent up the plume of white smoke, and it is time to ring the bells and proclaim to the world: we have a plan for next season!

Choosing a season for a theatre company is, make no mistake, an arduous task. It is filled with hours of reading and piles of submissions. In some companies, decisions are made based on opportunities for their resident ensemble. Some choose their seasons by their expected budget, planning spectacles when funds are high and one-person shows when they are not, or choosing known crowd-pleasers when the budget is tight and riskier fare when they can afford to alienate a few regulars. Every season must reflect the mission of the company and, hopefully, growth in some way.

BoHo has quite a unique structure for choosing plays. We’ve always advertised our core principles alongside our mission and vision; those principles are the bedrock of the Bohemian philosophy: Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Love. Beginning in the Bohemian Theatre Ensemble’s third year, the company has chosen four plays per season, with each play corresponding to one of our four pillars. Certainly, no play worth staging has only ONE dominant theme, but we choose the theme we wish to cast light on in any given selection.

Simple, right? Oh, we’re just getting started. In addition to the four pillars, BoHo requires a season to contain four genres: a play, a musical, a language-driven piece, and an eclectic piece. This often results in two musicals (or a musical and a play in which musical plays an integral part, such as this season’s Dirty Blonde), and two non-musicals. The language slot was originally designated for classics, but that category become limiting, so it was expanded to a more general idea. On top of this, the company must consider if a selection fits the general BoHo aesthetic, and if the rights are even available and affordable. In some ways, all these requirements can appear constricting, but they also demand that BoHo stays eclectic, artistic, and always in search of new and unique work.

The season selection committee is chaired by the Associate Artistic Director, and all company members are welcome to participate, with the requirement that any participant must enter the process with AT LEAST a full season or more for consideration. Often, participants bring upwards of 20 plays apiece. You see how this becomes a massive undertaking? The committee then enters into several arduous rounds of reading and spirited discussion (and passionate oratory and dismissive rhetoric). According to AAD Peter Robel, one memorable incident from about four years ago occurred when a committee member's reaction upon reading a show was to bluntly state, "This is shit." A succinct phrase, which has now become regular parlance in the selection process.

Once there is a final list of less than 20, the team of the Artistic Director, Associate Artistic Director, and the Executive Director recluse themselves to make the final choices. And when the decision is finalized, we throw a party, because what is more appropriate in the art world than throwing a party to display the fruits of your intense labor? In fact, we’re throwing just such a party this upcoming Monday, February 21st, at Cooper’s across from Theater Wit. We’d love to see you there, so check out our website or Facebook page for more info.

So that’s how BoHo does it: with verve, determination, and swearing. But everyone’s process is different. Got a story to tell? Let us know!