at Annex Theatre, Seattle WA

August 25 - 27, 1995

September 8, 1995

The Recap: What follows is sort of a mood-poem-contemplation-evocation -fill-in-the-blanks-cause-we-want-to-send-this-soon kind of report. We had a great time with ya'll and are looking forward to malls, the Great Dane Adventure, Vegas and more free stuff in the months to come. Thanks for coming to visit our tree house.

All the best,
Andrea Allen
Annex Theatre, Artistic Director

Friday, August 25

Getting to know each other:

After a warm greeting from our hostesses with the mostesses, Christina and Kathleen, we gathered on the Annex mainstage to get acquainted. We went around the room and described ourselves and our theatres. Since there were over 70 people in the room, this process became pretty involved--not to mention lengthy. But at least we got to put names to faces.


Pizza party at Allison Narver's house. Another chance to chat, more informally. Always good to eat together--or "break bread together" as Erik would say. Later, many us went to Annex's late night show, Up Past Your Bedtime. Fun was had by all.

Saturday, August 26


"What we want RAT to be." Led by Erik and Allison. A lot of ideas were discussed:

  • survival tactics;
  • ideas of peer review/self-assessment;
  • road trips;
  • dealing in different currency than money (spirit, integrity, language, imagery);
  • growth (how and WHY -- do we necessarily want to grow?);
  • "RAT banking" (barter, exchanging models, scripts);
  • divorce from success paradigm;
  • questioning everything (e.g. 12-month year, managing director/artistic director dichotomy);
  • having a responsibility to exist/survive as a political medium;
  • RAT meetings like beginning of labor union in a service industry;
  • difference between the left vs. right is independent/outsider vs. organized insiders which tends to make the right more effective lobbyists.

Agreed that we wanted the opportunity to meet and get to know one another's work. We did not, however, want to form another formal, 501(c)3 organization. Metaphors about rats being urban survivalists and running through drain pipes soon gave way to blowfish and other aquatic imagery.


Budgeting and Finance, led by Annex's Business Boys, Jim Chesnutt and Jason Cannon. We talked about planning for the future and how specifically Annex does that. First, deciding how far ahead we can plan. At first only a month, later six months, now a year or so. Everyone agreed that the key to being flexible in planning and fiscal decisions is having good accounting software and someone to keep on top of it at all times. Without the numbers at your fingertips, you are hosed.


Self-Publishing, led by Mark Lutwak of Rain City Projects (Seattle). Discussion of how to publish scripts on a small budget and provide services to playwrights and audience, e.g. give playwright 100 copies of scrips (= royalty) and selling rest the night of performances; sell some to schools, bookstores which earns enough money to break even. Discovered that it's easily done with 9 point type and "booklet" printing in WordPerfect.


Marketing, led by Wier Harman (Annex) and Jason Neulander, Salvage Vanguard (Austin). The bulk of the conversation concerned the everyday applications of marketing. For small theatres, everything we do in customer service and outreach to new audiences is extremely important.


(concurrently) Touring/Guest Artists -- Freshly returned from Macedonia, Katherine Owens from Undermain (Dallas) gave practical and philosophical tips on doing a low budget tour.


(concurrently) Nick and Gaby of Thieves Theatre (Brooklyn) led lots of talk about ways to keep in touch/sharing information: "the Net", zines, video library, script exchange. Everyone agreed that dialogue between face-to-face meetings was important.


Theatre of the Oppressed (Augusto Boal) workshop.


(concurrently) Theatre in bars, alleys and unusual places. Ralph Lewis, Catherine Porter and Barry Rowell from Peculiar Works Project (NYC) and Karl Gajdusek from Theatre E (San Diego) led discussion of site specific and other unusual places.


Some of us went to the Sit and Spin to discuss (and/or learn about) Hakim Bey.

Big Herkin' Party started around 11pm, after many of us watched Chris Jeffries' I See London, I See France (directed by Allison Narver -- which we are bringing back for Christmas.) We danced around to ABBA and schmoozed some more.

Sunday, August 27

Morning Session -- talked about why we are committed to Big Cheap Theatre and what exactly that means (some takes: "aesthetic and ethic of resourcefulness and ingenuity"; "a way of living/being"; "if the Seattle Rep can't do it, we can"; "you're included if you need to be"; "a model of generosity and abundance vs. elitism and scarcity). Lots more great stuff was said, including some heart-stopping metaphors from RAT's resident philosopher, Erik the Ehn.

Afternoon Session -- Some practical applications. Talked about cool effects, lights, painting, sets and props and how to do them cheaply. We traded scams somewhere in there as well. A few of the ideas:

Lights -- candles, flairs, halogen lamps, Christmas lights, sparklers, goggles with penlights on them, flashlights, florescent tubes (gelled), welding steel and then turning lights out, sodium vapor lights, projector lamps, computer fans for water/fire effects.
Paint -- mix glue and sawdust, human hair, sand; ask people who are renovating, industries, hazardous disposal sites; canvas primer: half glue half water.

Failure Workshop -- We started off being all metaphysical about learning from failure. But Karl was hot for gossip and horror stories. Luckily, Howard from Woolly Mammoth, Jerry from BTE, Annex and others were quick to satisfy.

End of Day

Talked about where to go for the next meeting. Some wanted Vegas, others the Mall of America. Vermont also came up, as did Denmark. We decided that whatever was supposed to happen would. Decided against gathering money as an organization to cover costs, and instead to scam and barter our way back together. Or at least I think that's what we decided. If it's not, then I guess I sound like some revisionist patriarch, and I apologize.

Finally, since we were all such agreeable folks, Nick from Thieves was calling for a way to comfortably disagree, too. With most people opposed to the hiss, Mike Shapiro of Annex came up with a new cat call, in this case a rat call: Viva the Chew!

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