Arts & Culture / Mosaic / November 3, 2010

OpenSTAGE: a space for experimental work, freedom

After Joey Firman, ’10, started performing at Off Knox in 2008, he got the idea that an open mic night could be made into something more. During an Off Knox performance, tables and booths made up the seating for the audience so only the first row or two could see him perform a one-man short play, but he wanted people to see everything.

“I found myself wanting to do performances that were as much visually and movement-oriented as they were spoken and so I started thinking of ways that would make a space that would be conducive to that,” Firman said. “I essentially wanted to create something with the openness of such an open mic but with also the edge of theater space.”

Firman hopes to reach all parts of the community and encourages everyone to participate. openSTAGE would also allow for more experimental work than an open mic night, making each show different from the last.

“One goal of the open stage … is I wanted it to not only be an end of performance but I also want it to be a means for people. That’s what Off Knox has been for me, which is a place to go try something new and again to make a difference. I wanted something that would push me to try something new through being supported for the special and technical capacity that Off Knox doesn’t have,” Firman said.

OpenSTAGE began last spring term. In deciding how to differentiate openSTAGE from Off Knox, Firman decided he needed technical design aspects like lighting. Consequently, it took more planning and coordination —coming up with new lighting designs and getting a space approved for openSTAGE through the Theater Department. Firman said what is different from the last openSTAGE is the creation of the new group called the Second Circle, “a very new artists’ collective.” With the Second Circle, openSTAGE became more collaborative and had more support from the group than it had in the past.

“It was always my intention that this would be an event that’s for everyone. And it’s in the theater space. All theater space is open to everyone but I wanted this one to be particularly accessible, inviting, interesting to the rest of the community,” Firman said.

The challenges for openSTAGE last weekend included competing with other events during Halloween weekend and two or three acts needed more set up time, which “made the show feel a little less organized.”

However, Firman views openSTAGE itself as a challenge. “openSTAGE has been kind of my challenge to myself and the community to build work that rises to the occasion. How can you make something that actually isn’t just something that could happen anywhere but that uses the space in a very specific way—that takes advantage of the lighting, that takes advantage of the setting?”

The result of openSTAGE last Friday and Saturday were a variety of performances including games from the Knox Improv Club, musical acts and poetry readings. Firman said of the two nights, “I just felt so happy at the end of the experience because it was really exciting to see this spontaneous community happening even if it’s a little weird or jarring or alienating sometimes but also exciting and fresh to see that coming together and to get the honor of basically running it with a few colleagues of mine.”

There were a few repeating acts and some people from the openSTAGE the night before came and performed something else. “That was exciting to see,” Firman said, “both that people were seeing performance opportunities for themselves just by coming to the first night but also that audience members were seeing what would happen the second night.”

Firman hopes to have the next openSTAGE spring term. He said he would like to see openSTAGE and Second Circle keep growing and for Second Circle to keep collaborating and meeting regularly and creating work.

“In terms of hopes for the future,” Firman said, “I hope to develop our management skills in running the show and also continuing experimenting with the space—finding different audience configurations—as well as experimenting with the audience participation elements that are assumingly becoming a core part of it for me. This time we had a painting, what will we have next time?”

The result of openSTAGE last Friday and Saturday were a variety of performances including games from the Knox Improv Club, musical acts and poetry readings. Firman said of the two nights, “I just felt so happy at the end of the experience because it was really exciting to see this spontaneous community happening even if it’s a little weird or jarring or alienating sometimes but also exciting and fresh to see that coming together and to get the honor of basically running it with a few colleagues of mine.”

There were a few repeating acts and some people from the openSTAGE Friday night came on Saturday and performed something else. “That was exciting to see,” Firman said, “both that people were seeing performance opportunities for themselves just by coming to the first night but also that audience members were seeing what would happen the second night.”

Firman hopes to have the next openSTAGE spring term. He said he would like to see openSTAGE and the Second Circle keep growing and for the Second Circle to keep collaborating and meeting regularly and creating work.

“In terms of hopes for the future,” Firman said, “I hope to develop our management skills in running the show and also continuing experimenting with the space—finding different audience configurations—as well as experimenting with the audience participation elements that are assumingly becoming a core part of it for me. This time we had a painting, what will we have next time?”

Sheena Leano


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