“This is a big experiment with this first production,” said Sutow. “Seeing if the audience base we built in H Street will follow us here, whether there’s a new audience base for us here, all of those things are still unknowns. But this is undoubtedly a huge step forward for us. The challenges that have come from it are all good ones.” For instance: “A degree in acting did not prepare me for the administrative side.”
At Signature, No Rules is enjoying “mentorship on all levels,” said Morgan, including marketing, development and production. “What we’re learning is so tremendous.”
The big-league association with Signature comes with plenty of perks — office space, professional credibility — and some major adjustments, from having to work within normal business hours to “look[ing] at the company in a different light,” said Morgan. Since founding the company in March 2010, “we’ve really tried to run it as a business that could eventually sustain itself full time.”
“Everyone has a different idea of what No Rules means,” said Morgan, adding that he did miss “[being] in the theater at 2:30 in the morning as we stuff programs and paint the floor.” He said, “We are now operating on a different level.”
This does mean no more “getting naked, wrapping a sheet around your body, and painting the set because there’s no crew,” he said.
“Of course it’s bittersweet, because H Street is where we started,” said Sutow. “But I think [moving] helped to dispel that myth of people thinking we’re one thing that we’re not. No Rules is really about creative possibility. . . . Our programming is actually geared toward making theater that is accessible but challenging; that theater is for everyone. I think there were things about the H Street Playhouse that were a little limiting for us.”
For instance, Morgan once had to restage a show in the middle of the run because “a piece of the ceiling had fallen on the stage.” An upshot of being at Signature is “the ceiling isn’t going to fall anymore.”
“It was time for No Rules to take that next level up,” said Morgan. “To say that we are interested in becoming D.C.’s next major player.” Ticket sales for “Black Comedy” are “way above where we normally are,” he said.
The two hope that if this arrangement with Signature is successful, it could serve as a model for other area theaters. “I think this is potentially a segue into a dialogue on a larger level about what might be possible in this continually growing arts community,” Morgan said.