By Brandon Burke (Marketing Associate)
Van Leeuwen, a small table, four people and REALLY great tasting cookies, the basis of the first meeting regarding the National Theatre for Student Artists’ project for the summer of 2013. I arrived upon a rather small ice cream place at the end of January with only one initial thought in my head, “This will be interesting.” I walked in and immediately saw Victoria. I remembered her face instantly from our previous meeting and recognized the wide smile on her face, causing a smile to spread across my face. Next I was introduced to a man that I would come to know as my Marketing Mentor, Mr. Harris Sockel, one of the coolest and most down to earth guys I have ever been introduced to. Almost immediately, Victoria offered to get me anything I wanted. Since it was January I thought twice about ice cream, and decided to try a cookie. When the cookie appeared in front of me I was immediately transported to a world unknown to any human life form. The cookie came on a small plate and was basically the size of the whole plate. On my first bite, my taste buds combusted into a supernova of ecstasy. It was as if I had gotten a golden ticket into the chocolate factory and happened to be the only one in there, backstroking in the ice cream lake. It was as if I was the first person to land on the moon and had interrupted a fiesta going on up there and was asked to join, but I digress.
While I continued to finish my Grand Cookie, Victoria and Harris filled me in on the search for venues. Apparently, there are some really good venues in New York City, and then there are some really bad ones. They told me about one that possibly had a backstage area the size of a public bathroom. The only people that could most likely fit in that backstage area would be Victoria, Harris and I if we squeezed in tightly. While I became very disgusted and my imaginative mind started to envision some of these venues, another of my colleagues walked in. This was Henry. He would be the Casting Director that would work with Victoria. Upon Henry’s arrival, Victoria and Harris started to hand out the unofficial syllabus and terms of our new “jobs”. We covered ground on the goal of the National Theatre for Student Artists and were able to define our goals. Victoria took the time to explain that we aimed to put on two shows in the summer of 2013, Clipped and Circuits. One play is about a woman with a talking parrot and the other is about a girl talking to her dead brother in the form of a ghost. She explained that the whole process and play will be run completely by students. This meant student designers, student directors and student tech support. One long-term goal expressed by Victoria and Harris was the idea of creating a national production like the one being created for this summer, but one that would include student specialists from all over the United States in 2015. They said that based on the performance put on this summer, the support for the national show might be provided right off the bat. At the mention of this, my heart skipped a few beats. This meant that the 2013 project would have to be nearly flawless, which meant no mistakes on behalf of the cast, which meant no mistakes on anyone supporting the cast, MEANING MYSELF. By far this was the greatest challenge I had ever accepted. I would be a marketing associate for a real play that would be put on later this year. The idea of technically being a publicist amazed and scared me beyond measures. I had always seen those overly stressed out publicists on television and I thought that I would be next with a Bluetooth headset and a hand full of coffees. At the same time I was excited to take the position and determined to not turn into that stressed publicist. The schedules for the next few weeks were displayed and Henry and I got a rundown of what we should have done and in what time frame. As a unit, we looked pretty productive sitting at that two person table in a crowded artisan ice cream parlor. By the end of the meeting we had discussed the mores of the program, the goals and the individual projects needed to get us to that point. The last topic of discussion in the meeting was how to get people to actually show up because there’s no play without an audience. We brainstormed several ideas to make sure that every night the venue was packed. If the ideas are executed the way that they should be, I will quote Victoria in saying that, “People should be getting turned away from the door because there is no more room.”
While leaving Van Leeuwen, I thought about the new project that I would be embarking on with my new co-workers, Harris, Henry and Victoria. I couldn’t help but think that 2013 would be the year of the National Theatre for Student Artists, and the year of the Grand Cookie which I quickly made a reminder to go back and try again.