by Casey L. Oakes                                                                                                                       Director of Artistic Engagement

Open up your theatre program, read the bios, peruse the head shots, study the artistic mission. What do you see? The same names you’ve seen before. While a select group of theatre maker’s bios grow past the acceptable amount of characters and their resumes balloon over the standard single page, most are left on the proverbial sideline pouring someone else’s coffee. How do we change this trend? How do we create a more inclusive environment that fosters a wide array of theatrical voices?

Enter The Collaborative.

In my opinion, we’ve gotten lazy. We’ve gotten comfortable. We’ve gotten safe. That undeniable urge that compelled us to go out and follow our nutty dream of working in the theatre seems to have deflated. As we mature we’ve come to compromise. We negotiate between our passions and the preference of the masses we hope to lure into becoming our audience. We choose a musical because it sells. We do the two-man show, not because it stokes our artistic flames or speaks an essential truth, but because it’s cheap. We bargain and accommodate, adding heaping spoonfuls of vanilla until we have nothing but milquetoast flavors in our mouths. In our attempt to appeal to everybody we appeal to nobody.

We hire our friends because it’s easy.  We choose our season not for us, but for an imagined them. We serve a diminishing audience the same fare and continue to ask ourselves why a more contemporary audience isn’t stampeding through our lobbies, buying season subscriptions, or drinking our locally sourced, seasonal craft beers.

We are scared. Scared to lose our donor base. Scared to chase away the established audience we managed to cultivate once upon a time. Scared to lose the comfy seats behind our desks and our weekly paychecks. Scared to invest in the kind of theatre that initially compelled us to work in a “perpetually dying” institution. Because what if we are wrong? What if they don’t show up? What if we fail?

The theatre is not dying, it’s evolving.  We must evolve with it. We must find ways of welcoming in new artists and new audiences. We must risk. We must fail. We must learn. We must teach.

Enter The Collaborative.

The Collaborative is a new apprenticeship program at Gloucester Stage designed specifically for theatre makers just entering into the world of professional theatre. Give them payment, a roof over their head, eliminate insecurities of job stability and give them a push. A push to construct theatre they believe in. A push to devise work that hurts, that deepens, enlightens, stretches, educates, widens, offends, risks, fulfills, enlivens, and inspires.  We must push them, support them, guide them and ultimately allow them to guide us.

Now let the audience through the door.  Allow students to see shows for an incredibly low price. Reduce ticket prices across the board and have the audience leave their suit jackets at home. Trust the audience to follow down the path we forge. The theatre once belonged to the people; it’s about time we gave it back.

Casey Oakes Signature



*GSC Blog posts are the select opinions of individual employees and may not necessarily reflect the views of Gloucester Stage as a whole.