The Little Theater Who Could…
An Interview with Tricia McDermott.
Founder/Producing Artistic Director Airmid Theatre Company.
This following article recently appeared in the 2012 January/February Arts and Entertainment issue of GEM Magazine.
Despite arts advocacy groups’ efforts to prevent the decline of arts inclusion, the budgetary solution remains to be that the arts are perceived as an amenity. To challenge that notion, my blog First Online With Fran interviews ordinary people doing extraordinary things in The Arts to make our world a richer, deeper, better place to live. The Founder and Producing Artistic Director of the Airmid Theatre Company, Tricia McDermott shared her thoughts and vision for women in the theater and how the work at Airmid enriches our community.
Although Tricia was adamant about NEVER starting her own theater company, the professional director/producer/consultant/educator felt compelled to promote classical works of women playwrights when the opportunity arose. After the success of the Broadway revival of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House reaped Tony-Award winning accolades with Janet McTeer’s performance, McDermott found an original source called True Women and wanted to present the play. When she was unable to find a producer she pioneered the idea of a production company that would be specifically devoted to classics by women. Founded in 2000, Airmid Theatre Company creates a safe home for women artists, igniting broad public recognition of the essential contribution women have made to the worlds of theatre and dramatic literature.
One of Airmid’s missions is to establish the history of playwriting by women by professionally producing their work with actors of both genders, and to thereby broaden discussions of women’s roles today. Tricia shared an anecdote of a 60 year-old man who supported the theater and attended a reading of a piece called Making a Scene, a compilation of scenes of 16th to the 20th century women playwrights. Although he considered himself to be a male feminist, and believed that he saw women as equals, “he didn’t quite do that as much as he thought he should.” In an email he told Tricia “He recognized that seeing this same event told through the eyes and experience of a woman [made it] a different world.”
Airmid has an intern program with college age students and works with some high school students in various programs. A public reading of two plays written by the German nun from the tenth century, Hrosvita of Gandersheim, was attended by a high school English and Drama class from Babylon High School. Students were enlightened to learn through the reading that “all things of a religious nature are not strictly about religion.”
Tricia commented on the value of the arts, particularly the theater: “Theater lands in a very unique place. It makes people well-rounded. And no matter what time you start your child off, or even yourself, and get involved in theater, you get an opportunity to collaborate with people and create a team.” As far as the new Common Core Standards is implemented across the nation’s curriculums to prepare students for college readiness Tricia felt that working in the theater fulfills that goal: “You have to do it on a lot of imagination and very little money. You have to work within a budget. You often have to create something out of nothing. And you then have to market it and sell it to the world. Theaters have an accounting office and often a contracts department, a development department that writes grants. We have every other aspect of business; it just happens to be that the product is a piece of art.”
This construct is to create jobs, to create an economic and tourist destination. Tricia explained how theater is community based: “The community has to be engaged. It’s people speaking to each other, breathing each other’s air. It’s experiencing the same moment. For me, there is a great affinity to finding a spiritual life within the theater whether it’s as a participant or as an audience member. But whether you’re participating in the actual creation or the experience of it, there’s a communion that happens. And you find yourself engaged with people in a way that you don’t in any other art form.”
Let us Know: Airmid continues its search for performance space and is presently looking at sites both on the South and North shores of Long Island. To learn more about Airmid and their program offerings go to www.airmidtheatre.org
If you’re an ordinary person doing extraordinary things in the arts, then be sure to arrange an interview with First Online With Fran at www.francesmcgarry.com