Bad news for more than 800 Washington actors who hoped that a new casting database would help them find work on area stages in the coming season: The launch of TheatreWork, a database commissioned by the umbrella organization TheatreWashington, has been delayed until at least late fall because of a power outage at Unconformity, the Alexandria-based firm that was contracted to build the database.
Brad Watkins, director of theater services for TheatreWashington, notified the more than 800 actors who had created profiles in the database about the mishap via e-mail.
“Our web developers literally experienced a meltdown. Their leased offices lost power over one weekend, their landlord did not have a backup generator, and the 150-plus degree temps fried their entire fleet of servers,” Watkins wrote.
The actors’ information has not been lost, he added, “but every single piece of programming code is furiously being rebuilt. They have been working double time to get back on track.”
Michael Quattrone, the Web developer principal at Unconformity, said he cannot say when the Web site will launch but that he has assigned more people to work on the project, which is more complex than he anticipated. He and Watkins are aiming to be ready for 45 to 60 days for beta testing to begin with casting directors by Labor Day. Original plans had called for the database to be operational in June. Given that many theaters cast their entire seasons by September, this several-month delay is more like a year-long delay for the actors. “We are sad on 100 levels about this,” Watkins said. “We still think this is going to be a game-changer for the community.”
Once up and running, the database would allow theaters seeking actors to choose from dozens of searchable variables, such as Zip code, and 23 designated performance skills, from juggling to martial arts training. A basic profile is free to set up; actors will eventually be required to pay about $30 a year to add work sample video and multiple head shots. In light of the delay, Watkins said, the premium profile will now be available at no charge through June 30, 2015.
He declined to name the price TheatreWashington has paid or will pay Unconformity for the project but said the organization is “getting a good deal.” Eventually, he would like to expand the database to include designers, costumers and other theater personnel. Meanwhile, TheatreWashington has scaled back recruitment efforts. “We have more than 800 actors, but there are a couple of hundred out there that I want in there,” Watkins said. “I am not above calling them and telling them to sign up.”
Sometimes people gravitate to a new job because they have the perfect pedigree, while other successful candidates have the perfect résumé. Meghan Pressman, the new managing director of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, has both.
Pressman is the Manhattan-raised daughter of a retired physician who served as the official doctor for Broadway shows. Her mother is a soap opera and off-Broadway actress-turned-drama teacher. She was raised backstage but headed to Boston College planning to major in chemistry.
“Obviously, that didn’t stick,” she said, speaking by phone from New York on Tuesday. “I fell back into doing theater.” Her next stop was Northwestern University, where she earned the first of three master’s degrees and co-founded the Chicago Theatre for Young Audiences with several friends. She left three years later to continue her education at Yale and is one of only about a dozen theater professionals in the country to hold a prestigious dual MBA and MFA from the Ivy League university.
“I wanted to put myself in a position to better understand the board side and the business side of theater,” Pressman said.
Through a leadership program in 2010 at the Theatre Communications Group, Pressman ended up at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. She’s particularly proud of her work as managing director of The Ground Floor, Berkeley’s new play development program. Since 2012, she’s been director of development at New York’s Signature Theatre, which is best known for its low-cost tickets and playwright retrospectives. Still, she’s excited about her move to Washington and the chance to manage a theater that is a “thought leader,” she said, in new play production and audience outreach. As part of the interview process, she was asked to create a budget for an $800,000 grant that the theater received from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. “That was an intense homework assignment,” she said. But after a day of “speed dating” with Woolly’s senior staff and talking about her ideas, the company decided she was the one.
Pressman, 35, will replace Jeffrey Herrmann, who left Woolly after seven years to take a comparable position at Seattle Repertory Theatre.
“I know Jeff,” Pressman said. “It’s exciting and intimidating to replace him.”
Pack up the fairy dust, blue paint and flowers “purple with love’s wound”: Synetic Theater is off to Mexico next week. The Arlington-based movement theater troupe has been invited to remount its acclaimed 2010 production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the 10th annual Festival Internacional. After performing at the Teatro De Los Heroes in Chihuahua on Aug. 13, the troupe will travel on to Juarez and mount the show at Teatro Victor Hugo Rascon Banda.
About 20 Synetic artists are making the trip. Alex Mills will reprise his role as Puck, the blue-skinned merry wanderer of the night. Other actors featured on the tour include Scott Brown, Dallas Tolentino and Irina Tsikurishvili. Along for the ride to make sure everyone remembers to pack a passport (and no doubt handle other complex logistics) are production manager Ann Allan and stage manager Marley Giggey.
Ritzel is a freelance writer.