(DG) Dialogues are conversations with theatre directors about their process, vision, and experience working on specific productions in the Philadelphia theatre community. This year, in honor the Philadelphia FringeArts Festival, we are hosting short-form (DG) Digital Dialogues with members of (DG) who have work in the Fringe.
This week, Jack Tamburri, director of Not For Profit:
Directors Gathering: How did this project come about?
Jack Tamburri: I came up with the project and proposed it to my collaborators. I knew I wanted to make a Fringe comedy with MJ Kaufman again, after the success of GAYZE two years ago, and I’d been working at the Wilma on their last two productions of the season. Watching Blanka Zizka go through a season planning process and deal with institutional challenges reminded me of how interesting I find non-profit arts institutions. So I sent MJ a text that said literally, “Do you want to make a Fringe comedy takedown of regional theater called Not For Profit?”
DG: What makes this particularly ripe for satire?
JT: I think there’s a lot we take for granted as “emerging” artists in this field. We take the structures of production and distribution for granted. We take for granted that we are banging on a door trying to get in. But on the inside, the institutions are often just as broke, desperate, and frightened as we individual artists are. The regional theater production and distribution model — take a written script, new or old, rehearse it for some brief number of weeks, tech it, preview it, open it, rinse, repeat, and pay for it with front-loaded ticket sales through subscription packages, is starting to rattle and come apart. Subscriptions are down across the board — audiences don’t want to plan their experiences that way anymore. The relationship to the institution is totally different now. And the institutions haven’t adjusted to accommodate that. Nor have funders. So you’ve got a situation in which young writers, actors, and directors are trying to get seen by these theaters that don’t actually have the resources we think they do. Everyone is just scrambling around in fear trying to nail down an audience that might not really exist.
What makes this show right for Fringe?
JT: Our take on the topic is pretty loose and silly. We had a lot of long, serious conversations about the problems of being a theater artist in Philadelphia, and then we created a theatrical world and a set of circumstances that is sort of a cartoon version of the original concerns. So it’s fun and outrageous but also about real problems. We’re also making it fast — we make a choice and run with it because we’re racing against the clock to put this thing up. If you set things up right, that can be a fun way to work because you don’t spend a lot of time cogitating, you just do do do. The play is also about things that theater people worry about, so the Fringe, when you’ve got an incredibly high concentration of theater people focused on the work and seeing each other’s work, is a great time to speak to that audience.
DG: What shows have you excited for the Fringe this year?
JT: I am a big fan of the work that Tribe of Fools does — I think combining circus-trained physical performance with progressive politics is a genius move — so I’m thrilled about ZOMBIES… WITH GUNS. I’m also a big fan of the director Brenna Geffers, but I’ve never seen her work with the Philadelphia Opera Collective, so I’m excited about that show. On the FringeArts presented end, I have loved the work of Ivo van Hove and Toneelgroup Amsterdam for years so his Bergman pieces are must-see for me. And I’m working on UNDERGROUND RAILROAD GAME by Jenn Kidwell and Scott Sheppard and I think that piece is going to be incredible. Hysterically funny and also deeply uncomfortable to watch. The perfect Fringe experience!