Austin, Texas, fall 1999
Christa and Judson had very little experience as producers, but they found ourselves searching for a project. So along with four other artists, a handful of clip lights, and, yes, an actual barn, they produced Desire, a reconsideration of Eugene O’Neill’s amazing play, Desire Under the Elms. After an overwhelming response from the community, critics, peers, and award panels, they put a name to it and founded the dirigo group.
Over the next five years, the dirigo group helped set the pace for Austin theatre. From the beginning they felt it paramount that artists be competitively compensated, and budgeted to do so (and during those six years we were able to operate completely in the black). With each show they raised their production values, expanded their audiences, and took artistic risks. They produced twelve shows, ranging from contemporary texts (Daniel MacIvor’s In on It and Neil Labute’s bash), adaptations of classics (Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler and Eugene O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms), and original works (Lowell Bartholmee’s The Middle of the Night and Kirk Lynn’s The Jinn). They worked with a community of over 75 artists, were honored with the distinguished American Theatre Critics Award, five B. Iden Payne Theatre Industry Awards and twelve nominations, and received nineteen Critics Table Award Nominations. Out of the twelve shows produced in Austin, eight of them made annual Top 10 Lists, both in the Austin Chronicle and the Austin-American Statesman. And in 2004 the dirigo group was recognized as a company that was “Hot, Hip, and on the Verge” by the national publication American Theatre magazine.
New York City, fall 2004
After moving here and working on various projects, the two found a new home at Alchemy Theatre Company of Manhattan; it wasn’t long before they were asked to come on as Associate Directors in an effort to reform the company and make the move into the Off Broadway market. Their efforts were mainly concentrated into producing, development, and marketing. Over the next three years they produced two critically acclaimed shows: the premiere of Christopher Durang’s The Vietnamization of New Jersey (NY Times Critic’s Pick) and the premiere of Texas playwright David W. Crawford’s Harvest (Back Stage Critic’s Pick). The production of Harvest also earned us a spot as “producers to watch in 2008” on PBS’s Theater Talk with Cindy Pierre. In addition, because of that production, Harvest was chosen for the Smith & Kraus publication of Best New Plays of 2008. In the three years with Alchemy, their community grew as they utilized bloggers to reach the online community and offered substantial discounts though online forums such as MySpace and Facebook. In an effort to better know their growing community, they began having talkbacks with audiences following performances. They also helped oversee the transition with Actors’ Equity Association to attain our Off Broadway status.
New York City, fall 2008
Drawing on the community they had built over four years in the city, they felt it was time to create a home of our own. Thus, with the help of Joseph Mitchell Parks (a fellow artist we had worked with in Austin and who had just made the move to New York), they formed Theatre East and began work on their first production, the New York premiere of Tim Blake Nelson’s Eye of God. The show exceeded our wildest expectations, playing to sold-out houses and bringing this powerful story to over 1,000 audience members. Most importantly, the community grew even more enabling them to begin boldly planning for the future.