Free break­fast at early morn­ing city theatre warm-up shows

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - WINE -

It is not of­ten the All Blacks and the arts are men­tioned in the same breath – but an Auck­land theatre is do­ing just that.

The Base­ment Theatre is giv­ing writ­ers a chance to test their pro­duc­tions at free early morn­ing pub­lic break­fast per­for­mances in a move it likens to an All Black pre-sea­son warm-up game.

“Theatre is all about rhythm,” says Gabrielle Vin­cent, the theatre’s pro­gram­ming and artist de­vel­op­ment man­ager. “The All Blacks play warm-up games ev­ery year and that’s what this ini­tia­tive is about as well.”

The theatre, which is lo­cated in Lower Greys Ave be­hind the Auck­land Town Hall, pro­vides a break­fast of cof­fee, crois­sants and bagels for those who turn up to watch in re­turn for their feed­back.

Vin­cent says the ini­tia­tive is a chance to test pro­duc­tions - which are still in de­vel­op­ment and yet to hit the stage - for au­di­ence re­ac­tion ahead of open­ing night.

“It’s great for peo­ple with jobs in the city – they can roll out of bed, get given cof­fee and break­fast and watch a show all be­fore work.”

The Base­ment and Break­fast pro­gramme is staged about eight times a year. A Face­book in­vi­ta­tion is set up and the theatre also wel­comes mem­bers of the pub­lic along for the pre­views - pro­vid­ing the free break­fasts as an en­tice­ment be­fore they watch the show.

Those at­tend­ing are asked to fill out a feed­back form and a ques­tion-and-an­swer ses­sion is also held.

Vin­cent says although overseas theatre com­pa­nies stage two or three weeks of pre­view shows, in New Zealand feed­back like this is rare: “Writ­ers and artists are quite ner­vous and of­ten are not sure how an au­di­ence will re­ceive a show be­cause they get so close to it,” he says.

The 8am ses­sions are prov­ing pop­u­lar usu­ally at­tract­ing around 30 peo­ple – although there have been up to 60 at some pre­views – with many also go­ing on to watch the fin­ished pro­duc­tions.

The Base­ment Theatre - which de­scribes it­self as Auck­land’s cul­ture-defin­ing pow­er­house - has a phi­los­o­phy of show-cas­ing works by new and emerg­ing tal­ent.

Vin­cent says since open­ing in 2008 well over 500 pro­duc­tions have been staged mak­ing it the “busiest theatre in town; we lit­er­ally cram it full of con­tent.

“With tick­ets at no more than $25 - and with no book­ing fees - we pro­vide live art at a very ac­ces­si­ble price.”

Base­ment’s Spring Sea­son launches on Septem­ber 1 with up to 25 works to be per­formed be­tween then and the end of Novem­ber.

A char­i­ta­ble trust, the theatre runs a suite of artist de­vel­op­ment pro­grammes in ad­di­tion to Base­ment and Break­fast in­clud­ing:

# Play­science - a week­end work­shop giv­ing artists a paid op­por­tu­nity to de­velop their work along­side pro­fes­sion­als.

# Pro­ducer-in-res­i­dence - a 12-month paid de­vel­op­ment role for a young pro­ducer to hone their skills and learn about the in­dus­try.

# Labs, Not Dogs – an ini­tia­tive pair­ing artists from dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines to work­shop new ma­te­rial over three days.

The theatre op­er­ates a risk-share box of­fice by not charg­ing artists an up-front venue hire fee. In­stead Base­ment takes a per­cent­age of tak­ings.

It also runs a schools pro­gramme in which three shows a year are per­formed for six low-decile schools in the Auck­land re­gion, with one show tour­ing the schools. The theatre is seek­ing funds and grants to help cover the costs of th­ese shows which are also partly met by dona­tions from in­di­vid­ual and cor­po­rate sup­port­ers.

Visit to view Base­ment Theatre’s pro­gramme.

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