Spotlight on Damned Spot ProductionsBy Laura & Mike Clark • Jun 17th, 2009 • Category: Interviews
Interviewed on June 16th, 2009
Listen to Mike’s interview with Traci Brooks, of Damned Spot Productions. [MP3 11:02 10.1MB]
Mike: This is Mike Clark with ShowBiz Radio and I am talking with Traci Brooks who is the Co-Artistic Director for a brand new theatre group: Damned Spot Productions based in Northern Virginia. Thanks for talking with me, Traci.
Traci: Thanks so much for setting this interview up, Mike.
Mike: So, tell me about Damned Spot Productions. What is it? What will it be?
Traci: We are another community theatre group in Northern Virginia. We started because Jen and I work together in other theatre productions. We decided that we both love Shakespeare and we have not seen a lot of groups doing a lot of Shakespeare at the community theatre level and so we said, “Hey, let’s start a group and see if we can get a Shakespeare group going.” We do plan to do other things. Considering Shakespeare is royalty free is always a good starting place.
Mike: So how long have you been thinking about doing this?
Traci: Really only a few weeks, maybe a month tops. We played with the idea probably back in May and it sounded like a good idea. I sort of catalogued it in the back of my mind and then a few days later Jen said that we should get together and talk about it. I said, “Oh, yeah, sure, why not.” We then got together after dinner and ended up outlining all of our principles and talked about why we choose theatre and a model for how we want to run our community theatre group. We set audition dates and performance dates. And I guess we have a theater group now.
Mike: So what is your background? Are you a theatre person?
Traci: I am. I have been doing theatre since I was, o goodness. I have done skits at church when I was little. I did a lot of theater at Northern Virginia Community College. I took acting there. I thought I was going to be a theater major when I went off to a four year university. I started out as a theater major and ended up a theater minor with a major in journalism. Even that has kept me in theater because I would always review the plays at school as well as go out into DC and write for the school paper as a theater criticism. Jen majored in theater and she currently works at a performing arts studio in Reston, Virginia, Lopez Studios, where she is the drama instructor and does private acting lessons as well as camps and those things.
Mike: And what is going to make Damned Spot different from other groups? Other community theater groups?
Traci: Right now just the fact that we are doing Shakespeare, but above and beyond that that our Shakespeare will be done in, hopefully, a repertory style. So in other words we will be casting one cast of twelve to fourteen actors roughly and then those actors will have roles in both As You Like It and Twelfth Night, which we will be putting on in an abridged fashion in August. I do not think I have ever heard any companies doing that around here. Unless it was a professional company. I know Arena did it with Arthur Miller’s shows last year or something like that. I think that is something that will hopefully bring an audience to see the versatility of these actors. How they can pull off the two roles in one day.
Mike: There was a group in Alexandria called Tapestry Theatre and they pretty much did the classics like Shakespeare. They found it really hard to find tech people to keep the shows going. They had no trouble finding actors, but they had a lot of trouble, and other groups I’ve talked with have trouble with the tech end of things. So do you think you will be able to cover that OK?
Traci: Well, since our first production will be a Shakespeare in the park, there is no tech necessary. We are very aware from listening to other theater people of how hard it can be to do a full scale production. Though, we are not skimping on anything, we are being careful to not bite off more than we can chew. So doing Shakespeare in the park does minimalize the techs. If necessary as far as not having lights and obviously our sound will be very minimal.
We do plan to have a stage manager and probably most of our actors will double as the stage crew. So to that respect I do not think it will be that much of an issue when it comes to the tech side of things. As we grow and do bigger productions I’m assuming that it will be like any other theater company where we will find people that like to do tech, just as much as we find actors who like to act.
Mike: You just said it will be Shakespeare in the park. What park will this be at?
Traci: Right now, we have two parks in mind that we have visited. We just need to check on the availability. Right now we are leaning towards Ellanor C. Lawrence Park which is off route 50 I believe. It is a cute little space. It’s got a little wooden stage. No wings or anything. It has rails. Great for the actors to do walking and that sort of thing. I think it will be really fun.
Mike: What do you see happening over the next year? Do you want to grow quickly, grow slowly, see what happens?
Traci: We do not want to burn out too fast. I think because I am finishing up my degree this Summer and Jen has a full time job and a family. It’s not like, “Oh we are going to do seven million shows this season and we are going to be next on the WATCH awards list.” I think we are very realistic about how fast we can grow. I think we are very realistic as far as how fast we can grow right now because I have been doing theater in this area for many many years. I think that we both have really good theater connections that we will be able to keep growing interest because obviously we are still doing other productions as well as working on our own company so we will continue bringing new people in, hopefully bringing in audience numbers.
We also have sort of a second component in Damned Spot Productions which is our Fusty Nuts Guild which, I know is a pretty funny name, but it comes from Shakespeare as well. It is considered our youth division. We both come working with children in theater as well. We both love exploring with kids and theater as well and how tapping into what they can be. I think they are very much sort of under estimated as to what kids can really pull out of themselves and bring to the stage.
So the Fusty Nuts Guild is going to be a way for us to get kids into doing not only classical theater like Shakespeare and Marlow, but kid stories. Stories that they can have roles that are very appropriate for them and that they will be able to learn. That is definitely going to keep us growing because kids always want to be on stage.
Mike: So tell me about the details for auditions. They are next week.
Traci: Auditions will be on Saturday June 20 from 10 AM to 12 PM. And also Monday evening, June 22nd from 7-9 PM. It will be held at Lopez Studio, Inc. which is in Reston, Virginia. The address for that is 11425 Issac Newton Square S. Suite 100. Our main role is for actors to look at least 16 years old or older. We encourage anyone as young as eleven to audition because we might be able to cast a few younger people in some of the performing roles. We would love for people to have prepared a brief monologue, preferably classical. And then comedic would be nice since this is supposed to be an a more pastoral comedy. Be prepare for cold readings and if they want to bring resumes and headshots that is totally welcome, but it is not mandatory. Tentative performances dates are on Saturday August 15 and Sunday August 16 and then our rain dates will be the very next weekend which is the 21st through the 23rd.
Mike: Very good. Do you guys have a website?
Traci: We do. It is kind of under construction, but all of the audition information is there. It is www.damnedspotproductions.com.
Mike: So I guess one loaded question I have, since Northern Virginia is an interesting area, it’s fairly conservative at the same time it is fairly liberal. So putting a four letter word in your group name, is that a concern?
Traci: It was actually. That was something we threw around quite a bit when we were trying to come up with a good name. But the reason that we ended up going with that as edgy as it could be perceived. Number one, it is from a very famous classical text by William Shakespeare. So we feel like that right off the bat should be familiar which we are hoping most of our audience will be that you won’t necessarily trigger alarm bells. The second reason, to wax a little philosophical, when you were talking about why we both do theater. We both found ourselves drawn to theater because of the relationships that it explores. Human beings playing their lives out on stage for us to bend and keep our own relationships in mind. And we though that in MacBeth, and that scene especially, it speaks very much to Lady MacBeth has just had this crazy murdering spree and now suddenly has just thrown her a curve ball. We thought that that was a very poignant and just an awesome moment in theater. We thought that those two items made it worth putting the four letter word in our company name.
Mike: It makes sense. It will be interesting to see if there is any criticism that comes at you. You never know.
Traci: True, you never know, but I feel like there are so many companies that will put on plays that contain controversial material and none of the plays that we put on will be too racy, so six of one, half a dozen of the other.
Mike: OK, well I hope you find all the people you need at your audition in the coming days.
Traci: Well, thank you and thank you so much for reaching out to do the interview. We really appreciate it.
Mike: Hope everything works out well. Let me know if there is anything we can do to help out.
Traci: Thank you so much, Mike.
Mike: You’re welcome Traci.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/3903.
Laura & Mike Clark started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.