Monday, August 18, 2008

Jen Raynak: Playing with Sound - PATA President & Bits of Color

August 18, 2008
Interview by followspot (cont'd)

Portland Area Theatre Alliance President: "Are you crazy?!"

FS – You are now the President [of PATA] as of what month?

J – April [2008] maybe? Somewhere in there?

FS – How long have you been involved in PATA? And how did you get involved?

J – Richard Kotulski asked me, one night when we were playing pool at Claudia’s, if I would be on the PATA Board. And I was like, ‘Are you crazy?!’ And it turns out, yes, I was crazy, ‘cause I went on the Board. I think I’ve been there four-and-a-half years now. And it’s a six year term [to be a board member], so I’m almost done. Which is why I hopped on the presidency, as everything is going to expire at the same time.

FS – You started out as Secretary.

J – No. I was on for two years and then I was Secretary for two years, and now I’m President-lady. I actually kinda sat on the Board for a year and watched what everyone else was doing, just to suss out the situation. I was a very bad board member. Non-participant. And then it came to pass that the person who had been hired to do the website didn’t do it and everybody was sort of mumbling and grumbling about who was going to do it and how it would get done. And I just said, ‘I’m gonna do it!’ and I didn’t know anything about html and I didn’t know anything about the interweeb, you know, the workings behind it, so I bought some books, and I built the website, and that was my first big doing-something-for-PATA.

FS – And then what other things have you contributed to PATA … in your role as board member?

J – I think just being an example and being a motivator, ‘Hey, come on….’ something like the Let’s put on a play! but it’s almost like that. ‘Let’s run an organization! And if you don’t want to participate, don’t be on the Board!’ But trying to do that in a friendly, nice way. Encourage everyone to help rather than browbeating, ‘cause that never pleases anyone.

FS – One thing I was thinking is that from a lot of people’s perspective, Trisha [Pancio] as President, what she really did is she revived PATA. It was falling apart and she really kicked it into gear. Based on the fact that it’s at such a peak right now, how do you think you will differ from Trisha, where do want to take it?

J – Well, my goal over the next about year-and-a-half left in my presidency is to really shift the focus of the Board from being a of people to…really being able to see the long-term goal of the organization, and to still maintain those projects as they pertain to the mission but bringing in other people who can work on the project so that it’s not only the Board who’s putting the auditions together. But that we have people who come in and work on the auditions, but the Board meanwhile is really looking forward to the long term health of the organization and knowing why we do auditions. And we’ll still do all the volunteering that we do, and to pitch in everywhere we can but it doesn’t have to be only us doing the projects, which take our vision away from the longer term planning. For example, being able to get a grant - it’s impossible if you’re only working on a project basis.

FS – Give me a little more specifics like when you say project-oriented, like rather than just saying 'We’re going to do the auditions we’re gonna do'—

J – Rather than 'Here’s an event.' Well you know what? We’re gonna do a series of eight events and here’s how they tie together. And here’s the why they are important for this organization to produce because [they’re] leading towards the mission and here’s how that series of eight events is going to grow in the next three years.

FS – In terms of large-range planning, is that where stuff like the Free Night of Theatre comes in? And you also got the Fulton Fellowship from Portland Civic Guild, is that right?

J – Portland Civic Theatre Guild, yep.

FS – And that’s $5,000 and that’s PATA-related.

J – Somewhat. It’s kind of 50-50. The Fulton Fellowship I’m going to use to go to two conventions. One is United States Institute of Theatre Technology – USITT, which is my personal – that’s for me. That’s for the tech theatre person of me and I’ll get to attend master classes everyday, which is the really expensive part of that convention, and just go as a technician and an artist.

FS – And that includes all aspects of tech?

J – Only tech. Everything. From rigging to underwater sound. There will be all kinds of groovy stuff there. And the second convention that I’m going to is APASO – The Association of Performing Arts Service Organizations, which are the PATAs of the world. And that convention’s in Boston, also in March. It’s gonna be a place for all us to get our heads together and it really is talking about that long-term planning.

FS – What other groups are going to be there?

J – LA Stage Alliance, Theatre Puget Sound, I believe is gonna be there, I’d have to look at the APASO website, Theatre Bay Area … those groups I know. The Atlanta folks, I can’t remember them. Obviously the Boston people - Theatre Boston I think is the name of them. Philadelphia. But all over the country. And some Canadian groups and I guess one German group.

FS – That’s awesome. This is a major, major conference.

J – It’s a big deal. And it’ll just be great to learn what programs are working in other parts of the country and learn what stuff isn’t working.

FS – You mean in terms of development of theatre in the community?

J – Yeah, and well, how the organizations serve their constituents, that there are a lot of places that have half-priced ticket booths.

FS – Portland used to have that.

J – Right. And it didn’t work in Portland, and I’ve heard some of the reasons why. But I want to find out why it does work – how works in other places. How are you able to fund that because it’s not a money making venture. It’s a money eating venture.

FS – So it eats up money but it benefits the theatre by getting people to the theatre.

J – Yeah, so how do you sustain that? So we’ll just see what things we get. Get a perspective on how other organizations like PATA are serving their constituents.

FS – Are you going to come there with any specific ideas you have for PATA right now or the Board has for PATA?

J – To some extent. There will be an agenda for the conference. I’ll need to save some of that for discussions at the bar after the meetings.

FS – Can you thing off the top of your head of any questions you might ask?

J – The half-price ticket booth is something that I’m curious about. I guess the general direction will be, 'What services do you offer that you think are the most valuable for your community?’ ‘Cause there are places like TPS – Theatre Puget Sound – who have rehearsal spaces, and is that the most valuable thing they have to offer to their community, their discounted rehearsal space that people sign up for?

You know, just to get a look at again this long-range planning. It’s not something that PATA’s gonna be able to do next week but if the consensus is that the most valuable thing we offer to the world is reduced-price real estate, or is it administrative support, or is it marketing support, or where have other organizations found their niche? How does that inform me as a leader of PATA to be able to affect what our strengths and weaknesses are? And is this community like that community, or is it different and how is it different? And how do we affect the needs of everyone when everybody has a different need? Someone’ll say, ‘You know, it’d be the best thing ever if PATA had prop storage.’ ‘Well I don’t care about prop storage but I wish that PATA had more grant writing classes.’ Where do you find that balance of serving the most people without pissing anybody off –

FS – Excluding people –

J – And also without breaking the organization. That we can’t financially sustain a $15,000 loss every year. There has to be management there. There has to be oversight of the health of the organization, as well. So that’s the kind of thing I’m hoping to get out of it.

FS – How does the new works festival [Fertile Ground] fit into long-term planning? A lot of it what the new works festival has been about is the long-term what can Portland bring to the national give itself a theatre identity.

J – That’s part of it. The PATA mission at this moment - it should change frequently - I mean, not every other day, but every couple of years revisited. So we revisited the mission again this year and we simplified it to, ‘The mission of PATA is to strengthen the Portland-area theatre community.’ Period. That’s our mission and the festival points towards that mission in that there are already a whole bunch of people doing new work in this town. By knitting those organizations together with this festival they each, hopefully, get better awareness among the greater community, the audience members, that all this new work is happening. They get marketing support, they get advertising support, they get logistic support, so that’s how that points towards the mission. That’s how [the new works festival is] part of that long term, to say, ‘Oh, it’s not just an isolated event; that Fever Theatre’s creating new work; that Hand2Mouth is creating new work; that PCS is doing a new work this year.’ It’s actually something that we all enjoy as a community so let’s knit all those efforts together and promote it to a whole bunch of people at once.

FS –What are some other ways is PATA going to strengthen –

J – The Free Night of Theatre really points towards that. It’s a huge awareness campaign. It’s an audience building campaign until we run out of tickets. So I think we have 13 companies confirmed right now and I’m working on more.

FS – PATA is a managing partner. Is that just a basic, general term for you’re the ones spearheading it?

J – Yeah. There are city partners and there are state partners. For example, all of New Jersey as state [is] participating. We fall into the city-partners – managing partners category even though there’s a company in Vancouver participating, and a company in Salem, and a company in Hood River. So we’re going outside the city but we’re still considered a city partner because we’re not statewide. You have to be producing between October 16th and October 30th to participate.

FS- It’s a two-week window. And is it that each theatre company offers one night of this of this?

J – The requirement is 25% of a house for a single performance. If that’s impossible to do, the companies can spread out that number of tickets over more than one performance. So let’s – ten on this night, and five on this night, and twelve on that night. And that’s totally acceptable. But there are some people – Opera Theatre of Oregon for example – although they’re producing during that [time period], their board didn’t feel that they could afford to give those tickets away just because they need to recoup their costs for the vent. There are some challenges for companies to participate in this but hopefully this year we show the value of if you give some away, you’ll get more back. And we haven’t done it here ever before so people don’t necessarily see [the value] when they first look at it, but they will be able to feel that value after doing it this first year and we’ll get even more tickets … next year. I’d love for Profile to participate but at this point they are not able to. So we’re working on that. They’re doing a Neil Simon season and they will get a lot of new audience members in there because their playwright is Neil Simon.

FS - Exactly.

J – So it may be that they don’t need this program this year.

FS – Do you get funding from [Theatre Communications Group] for it?

J – No.

FS – And is PATA going to have to put out any money for advertising?

J – There are a number of partners who have done this for several years now on a zero budget. Doing online marketing, doing marketing through their constituents, from send this out to your email list – get a friend to get a free ticket.

FS – Word of mouth advertising.

J – Word of mouth and online. And just free stuff. Doing a free listing in the newspaper or PSA on the radio, arrange that sort of thing. The PATA board has committed up to $1,000 towards the theatres, for the marketing and then we’re also writing a grant to RACC [Regional Arts and Culture Council]. Let’s hope for that. And that grant would allow us to do some bus-side advertising, which is a completely different place to put your message. But we can’t do it on our own so we’re writing the grant for that.

FS – Where’s this thousand dollars going?

J - Potentially for some print ads in community newspapers, and then, I dunno, I’m not the marketing person. I’m heading the committee but my committee right now Cindy Fuhrman, Nicole Lane, Carmen Hill, and Tim DuRoche. And they’re the marketing people.

FS – Some good names.

J - And that’s why I got them on the committee because I don’t know nothing about no marketing. So I let them do what they do. And PATA will fund up to a grand of their requests.

FS- Are there groups you feel PATA hasn’t reached out to before that need to be reached out to?

J – You know, for the last six years I’ve been trying to figure out what PATA can do for the techies. I haven’t figured it out but someday I will.

FS – I’ve often wondered…is there a way PATA can reach out to playwrights? I guess the new works festival maybe would address that.

J – That’s a way, although that doesn’t necessarily go directly to the playwrights because it’s more of outreach [to theatre companies]. But Steve Patterson and I have been having a little germ of a conversation of simply adding to the profile of people who are listed on the [PATA] website that they are interested in new works, working on new works. A director, for example, can check the box, ‘Like doing new works.’ An actor can check the box, ‘Like doing new works.’ A composer, sound designer. As a tool for playwrights who want to have their works read or workshopped. So the playwrights can go and say, 'Oh, I’m gonna search for male actors over 45 who are interested in new work ‘cause I want somebody to read this role who actually is the age and gender of the role.' And that’s a really simple way to help but I think that Steve and I, from this germ of a conversation, may be able to find some other ways that PATA can do that.

FS – Is there anything else you want to say about PATA, any ideas, things you want to shout out?

J – I think we have a great Board right now for this particular step.

FS – The long-term [planning].

J - It seems like a right bunch of people to make this transition. Although each and every one of the Board members right now is happy to take on a project, they all wish that they knew about the project earlier, as we all do. And they, actually, combined, have so much more experience than I do in doing that long-term planning so I’m totally gonna rely on them and I’ll just be the one saying, 'Hey, remember you said were gonna…?' 'Hey, the deadline’s coming up for this.'

FS – A reminder girl – that’s what you get to be.

J – And that’s great. And just keep the conversation focused and keep everybody’s eyes on the prize.

Bits of Color: The Lasso of Truth

FS –Soooo let’s get some color for Jen. Let’s delve into your personal life. Trying to find out a little more…

J – Ohh! Exciting!

FS - Just tell me some other things you like to do in your free time, which I can’t figure out how you have free time.

J – Yeah, mostly the PATA website is my free time. Plus I also have a day job. I’m the steward of the Winningstad theatre. My husband and I try to go out for coffee every morning, that’s one of my things. It’s pretty much the only time we see each other.

FS – And Duane [Jen's husband] works in the Newmark, right?

J – Yep, sound guy in the Newmark.

I shoot pool. We played boys against the girls last night at my favorite bar--
FS – Which is?

J – Mulligans on Hawthorne. And the girls won 4 out of 4. It was awesome. The boys were appropriately gracious about it because they thought they would beat us because we were just girls. Whatever.

FS – You ride your motorcycle.

J – I ride my motorcycle. Yes, I do in fact have a Ninja250 which my commute vehicle. Even in the rain.

FS – Tell me about your new car.

J – Oh I love my new car! It’s a Smart Fortwo, Passion Coupe.

FS – Passion coupe?! P-A-S-S-I-O-N?

J – Uh-huh. And it’s black on black exterior and red interior. And it’s a convertible. It’s very fancy. And I just drove it to Vermont and back and the most common questions are: What the heck is it? What’s the gas mileage? And how much did you pay for it?

FS – Well you don’t have to report how much you paid for it, but… what’s the gas mileage?

J – It gets about 40 in town. I haven’t calculated my whole trip average yet, but I was getting – it’s only a 3-cylinder engine so at 80-miles an hour here or, I mean 75-miles an hour here in the western states it dropped. I was getting only about 35. But, then, in the eastern states where I was going 60 or 65, I was getting almost 50 miles to the gallon. That’s pretty good. Plus, it’s dry inside. The motorcycle gets better mileage, but it blows when it rains. For longer than my 3-mile commute.

FS - If you were a superhero, who would you be? Superheroes are very popular in this town.

J – Well the Invisible Jet is pretty attractive - a Wonder Woman thing. And the Lasso of Truth. Man, if I could just get people to tell the truth. I throw my string around you and you would tell me the truth. That whole stopping bullets thing probably not that important to me. But the Lasso of Truth and the Invisible Jet. Either the two of those things would probably please me a lot.

FS – How about the spandex outfit?

J – Yeah, I don’t know that anybody needs that. I mean, to see me in that. There are other people I wouldn’t mind seeing in that.

Oh I thought of one more thing! Here’s a color thing for you.

FS – Oh good.

J – So for the past I think 6 years or so, almost every Monday, there are a gang of us who get together. We are all theatre kids who have barbeques or potlucks or Monday night footballs, whatever the weather allows that’s something that is community-building for a lot of us techies that we know on Mondays we come together at roughly 6 o’clock and it’s a potluck.

FS – Are you open to new members?

J – Absolutely.

FS – Okay. So they should contact you.

J – They can email me if they want to get on the list. It’s called the Barbeque List cause it’s frequently barbeques outside. Or grilling, for you barbeque purists. So we don’t slow cook the meat or anything. Grilling parties. And there can be upwards of 2 dozen people there who just come together and talk about some work and stuff besides work – we all like each other. I love that that exists here.

FS – Anything else you would like to share with the Followspot community?

J – It’s so exciting to be part of such a thriving theatre community. Terribly awesome. It’s so great to come back here after being other places and just to know how much diversity there is in this town, of art that’s going on for theatre. That there are big companies and teeny companies and people who do the old standards and people who make stuff up. I love that.

Some links:

Portland Area Theatre Alliance
Free Night of Theatre
The Association of Performing Arts Service Organizations
United States Institute of Theatre Technology

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