13. SHOW TRUCK
For those of you that read the last blog post (which you should read as Part One to this), there was a little teaser at the end about taking the show on the road. When it came time to figure out what the stage was going to look like for The Ballad of R & J, I approached one of my favorite scenic designers, Arnel Sancianco, with this pitch:
just so i lay all my cards on the table, i'm not looking for a normal "set." no balcony, no barn, no tomb. i'm looking for a unit that can pop up and be broken down anywhere. the abandoned lot, an open field, a warehouse. one that is created for all new american myths, not just r & j. it's in the round. it's a space for ritual. it's flexible in its storytelling.
As with most ideas, the evolution from conception to now is blurry, but there are influences that I can clock. Certainly, Shakespeare’s Globe is one of them, as is the scenic element of Kabuki theatre. I also keep coming back to a workshop I did with Unspeakable Theatre in Chicago. The founder, Marc Frost, studied Lecoq and became entranced by a particular exercise that restricted the playing space to a small, elevated platform, so he chose that as his stage for every show they create. From that moment, I became rather obsessed with choosing my singular stage. I’ll extend my Willie Nelson metaphor from the last blog post (again, you should really read that one if you haven’t). A successful guitarist can have a truck full of guitars and have the roadie trot out a new one onstage for every song. Willie, on the other hand, has one guitar, Trigger, and as far as I know that’s the only one he’s ever played or recorded with. It’s an extension of him and as authentic as it gets. That’s what I’ve been daydreaming about and why I turned to Arnel. He understands my aesthetic in ways that I can’t really articulate, which makes the process a whole lot easier.
That’s the personal side, but the functional side comes right out of the AMC’s goal of reaching the community. One of the restrictions the city gave us in allowing us to perform in the lot downtown is that it had to be struck after every weekend’s performances. While that might sound like a headache, I took it as an opportunity. If we have to do that anyway, why not design it to pop up and break down easily? Arnel then floated the idea of putting it on wheels, I realized I had just bought a truck it could be hitched to, and before we knew it the idea for a mobile stage was in front of us. Once we had that, the possibilities began to reveal themselves. As long as we can find a flat parcel of earth, we have a theatre. Instead of asking the community to come to us, we can go to them. We can install our show in a space for a period of time, book a tour and go from place to place, or pop up for a one-off event. This is how we can open the invitation and rewrite the contract (again, this will make much more sense if you just go read that last blog post).
All that said, when I realized that I had made the theatre version of a food truck, it suddenly made sense. I’m a food person and the ecosystem of food trucks in Asheville is strong. I’m constantly inspired by food culture. How do you start a restaurant in Asheville? Food truck. How do you start a theatre in Asheville? Show truck.
This is all how the Show Truck has come to be. With a little help from serendipity, we’ve found a new, local fabrication company (Brother River) who is excited to execute the design and as of last week, the build has begun. As this has obviously far exceeded the typical set budget, I’m spending many of my hours writing grants and asking for money. I won’t do that here but allow me to say that any donations made to the AMC between now and the end of April will go straight to this undertaking. I’ll be sure to post photos of the process on our Facebook page for those interested in the build. Until then, enjoy these beautiful designs by Arnel.