As the 2011/2012 performing arts administration intern, a position that is grant-funded by the Tin Man Fund, I get to curate my very own showâ€¦ and I canâ€™t believe how quickly the date is approaching! When I started my job at MASS MoCA seven months ago, I had no idea how much work (and joy!) would go into booking, planning, and finally bringing the stunning modern-Irish steppers of Darrah Carr Dance to the museum:
1. RESEARCH: Before I could book a performing artist, I needed to figure out what my interests were. What was I passionate about? What did I want to see more of in the Berkshires? As a recent grad of Connecticut College (go camels!) with a double major in Human Development and Dance, I immediately knew that I wanted to bring accessible and innovative modern dance to MASS MoCA. My Human Development interest in communities and education also fueled my desire to curate dance that could interact with the public, possibly through a workshop of some kind. I spent a few days in NYC visiting our performing arts curatorial team and researching dance companies that appealed to my interests and to MASS MoCAâ€™s audience. In the end, I decided on Darrah Carr Dance â€“ Darrah blends traditional Irish step dancing with modern dance vocabulary and techniques, and also has a developed educational outreach program, so she was a perfect fit.
2. MAKING THE DEAL: Next, I reached out to Darrah, to see if she wanted to partner with MASS MoCA â€“ she did! I drafted an offer letter outlining the basics such as show date, compensation, and travel arrangements for Darrah, the curatorial team, and my cool boss Sue (Manager of Performing Arts + Film) to signâ€¦ and voila! We were set to do a show together. That meant that Darrah and I had lots and lots of questions for each other. I wanted to know about which dance pieces she might bring, who her audience was, and the specifics of her community programs. She wanted to learn about the size of the performance space, our tech capabilities, and if our hotel served continental breakfast! Darrah and I were (and still are) in constant phone and email contact to iron out all of the details that go into producing a show. We eventually both signed a much more in-depth contract together, so that all the details we discussed on the phone and via email are put into one organized document.
3. SPREADING THE WORD: I was excited about the performance, Darrah was excited about the performance, so then it was time to get everyone else excited about the performance! Under the guidance of Katherine, our amazing Director of Marketing, we started spreading the news about Darrahâ€™s performance. Our talented graphic designers printed beautiful posters, the super marketing intern Cora put up flyers all over the Berkshires, and Keifer down in the Box Office enthusiastically plugged the show to all incoming patrons. We also created advertised on many types of social media, contacted local professors of dance or Irish culture, reached out to Irish dance academies all over New England, and asked a few newspaper and radio stations to give us a shout-out. Getting butts in seats is important for obvious reasons (we want MASS MoCA to always have the funds to showcase inspiring performances in the future!), but itâ€™s also important because Darrah and I want to share our passion for dance with as many friends as possible.Â
4. BEHIND THE SCENES: I canâ€™t even express how muchÂ backstage work went into producing this performing arts show! First, there were a billion technical aspects that need to be prepared; luckily I had the hilarious duo of Eric and Eric, who keep the Production department running smoothly, to help me through it. Together we decided on a seating set-up, a one-of-a-kind stage plot, ad-hoc wing space, necessary lighting and sound equipmentâ€¦ the list goes on and on. With Meg (Company Manager and, more importantly, my MASS MoCA Mom), I arranged all the artist services components of the show. I booked hotel reservations, organized meal plans, and prepared the dressing rooms. I also organized ushers, planned house management, and wrote the program with the help of Court, who coordinates volunteers and coordinates front of house during performances.
CURTAIN CALL: And now, finally (finally!), the show is looming only a few days in the distance â€“ soon, Darrah Carr Dance will be at MASS MoCA in the flesh (the shuffle-ball-changing, pirouetting, flying leaping dancing flesh)! Iâ€™ll have a busy day helping Darrah and her dancers with their arrival, community dance workshop, tech and dress rehearsals, and the evening performance, and I absolutely canâ€™t wait. Curating my own show was a huge undertaking that opened my eyes to just how much effort and how many people it takes to produce a performance. I am so, so thankful for all the generous, cooperative, wacky-wise-wonderful friends who helped me pull this off. Darrah, Sue, Katherine, Keifer, Eric & Eric, Meg, Court, and everyone else who was involved: you guys are the beeâ€™s knees.
Come see what weâ€™ve all been working so hard on â€“ Darrah Carr Dance at MASS MoCA on Saturday, January 21 (free workshop at 2:00 pm/ticketed performance at 8:00 pm)! Call the Box Office at 413.664.4481 for more information.
See you there! Love, Emily