Wednesday, June 2, 2010

THE EQUUS PROJECTS: Hub Site Project #1

We just premiered the first of our large hub site projects: A forty-minute work for eight dancers, six horses and riders created for a panoramic hillside on the XO Ranch in Aubrey, Texas. Spectacular. Challenging.

Some things worked brilliantly.

Our cast for the project included our company of dancers plus three Texas dancers (who had never worked with horses before) and six local riders and their horses. Rather than plunge right into rehearsal mode, we began our creative process with a 2-day clinic for riders and dancers. Inside a fun, learning environment we were able to introduce the basic principles of what we do and begin experimenting with ideas for the piece. The 2nd day of the clinic was actually taught right on site at the XO Ranch.

In an effort to save on food costs we arranged for hosted dinners every night. These were not only great money savers but a great networking opportunity: time to hang out with our Texas cast of dancers, time to talk about the work with local supporters, time for the community to support us in a way that they could afford and enjoy at the same time.

To promote the performance we arranged open rehearsals. The local schools were in their last week and not able to arrange for trips to the ranch. However we hooked into a home schooling network that brought groups of children and parents to two of our morning rehearsals.

We took our own Site Coordinator with us. She made sure we had driving directions, bought groceries for lunches, set up the box office, monitored our online sales, orchestrated our local volunteers day of performance, secured donated water that we sold at the performance, ordered chairs for audience seating and the porta potty (yes, when you perform with horses in outdoor venues, the audience bio needs must be taken into account). She was our production manager, company manager and site organizer all rolled into one person. Having our own in-house Site Coordinator killed numerous birds with one stone.

In addition to triumphs there were some important lessons learned.

Our ERPA Plan was to secure local presenters in each hub site. For this project our presenter was an equestrian who was very excited about our work but decidedly not a producer. She had no concept of the complexity and magnitude of such a project. Motto: Enthusiasm, commitment to your work is not enough to produce a project.

We invested heavily in this year’s project but will be hefty leverage for a return visit. A wonderful, responsive audience and a host of volunteers are determined to have us do another project next year. My motto for next year: Not without a guaranteed performance fee, some institutional support and a seasoned local producer.

Lesson Learned: Enthusiasm alone does not a producer make!

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