Kickstarting a Creative Project

Nickolaus Hines

Ryan Marcone had on a short–sleeve button up blue shirt covered in big white stars. Putting meaning onto the stars on his shirt would be forward, but after a short meeting on the porch of Aroma Espresso, it’s hard not to believe in Marcone’s ambition.

Marcone graduated from University of Connecticut in 2014 with a double major in acting and English. The English for a literary perspective, the acting for his dreams, neither for high economic promise. 

He has kept busy since he graduated. He wrote a play about a group of boys stranded on an island called “The Island Boys” while working with a New Jersey Shakespeare company last summer, became a producer, registered his production company and cast the show. Marcone is vibrating with energy in way that made the iced coffee in front of him a questionable decision.

“I took the standpoint that if I want to be an actor in the city,” Marcone explained, “I’m going to have to write it myself.”

“And I’m about to get a theater company under my name,” he later continued. “That’s something I never thought I would be doing.”

The conservatory style of University of Connecticut focused on acting, so much of the process of producing a show is new to Marcone; including the business side. Marcone put up much of the initial money out of his own bank account and started a Kickstarter campaign for the rest.

In all, Marcone calculated it would cost $14,000 to rent a space, offer a bit of payment to the actors because he knows “non–union acting is basically like slave labor,” buy costumes, rehearsal space, playbills and advertising. He doesn’t expect to come out without a profit, but also not in the hole. After two weeks of an active Kickstarter, he had raised around $600.

He was offered a different venue that lowered the price point, and took the original Kickstarter down to reevaluate the costs. Then it was back to the Kickstarter drawing board.

“The Kickstarter funds are basically funding the whole project,” Marcone wrote in an email. “We’re looking to raise $6,500, which is ambitious, especially for a small cast and creative team like ours.” 

There are around 110 theater projects trying to raise funding through Kickstarter at any one time. Other crowdfunding sites, such as Indiegogo, specialize on creative projects, but Marcone found that Kickstarter gets more traffic. Like most of the steps Marcone has taken in the production of his play, he learned through doing. He likes to say that the right way to do something is “doing it as opposed to not doing it.” He took the lessons from the first Kickstarter experience and put them to use.

The stage is crowded when it comes to new plays, pardon the pun, but the field for creative expression is also more accessible now than ever. Even so, the artist life isn’t for everyone.

“It is difficult being a self–sustaining artist in New York City,” Marcone wrote in an email. “Even more difficult is creating and developing new work. Theater costs a lot to develop, and so people are sometime wary of supporting new work…For new work to be created, a whole community must believe in it, and that is what we are asking you, simply believe in something new!”

“The Island Boys” Kickstarter can be found at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2010770153/the-island-boys-a-new-play

OnStage will be following Marcone in a series of articles leading up to and including the premiere of “The Island Boys.” Follow along for first–hand insight into the play making process.

Becoming One of 5 Million at The Public Theater

Nickolaus Hines

Black and red text against a backdrop photograph of Delacorte theater detail the four possible ways to get free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park. It’s free, the tickets are accessible online for a millennial generation afraid of human-to-human contact and it is a chance to understand Shakespeare through the performances of award winning actors.

I dutifully entered my name into the ticket lottery the first day I moved to New York three weeks ago.  And then again the next day, and the next. I repeatedly pushed forward my name in an effort to join the cultural (yet cheap) elite who have seen the Bard’s words belted out in the most famous urban park in the world. 

Kate Burton, Lily Rabe, and Hamish Linklater in The Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park production of Cymbeline, directed by Daniel Sullivan, at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Photo credit: Carol Rosegg

Kate Burton, Lily Rabe, and Hamish Linklater in The Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park production of Cymbeline, directed by Daniel Sullivan, at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Photo credit: Carol Rosegg

Theater is “an essential cultural force,” the Public Theater website writes. Founder Joseph Papp looked to bring theater into discussion as a public good. I had spent the last four years in Auburn, Ala., attending Auburn University, where theater is less of a public good and more of an aside meant only for a few eyes and ears. I was overdue for my vaccine of cultural force, but my public insurance wasn’t getting me the care very quickly.

“Hello – Thank you for signing up for the Virtual Ticketing Lottery for Free Shakespeare in the Park,” the first line of each denial email read. “Unfortunately, you have not been selected to receive tickets to tonight’s performance.”

Until I did. 

I was given seven hours to claim my ticket in Central Park. I admittedly had entered my name on this fateful day as an afterthought, having long since graduated from the school of sugar plum fairies and dreams where such things come true. I knew the tickets were for Cymbeline, but I didn’t know even the basic plot structure of Cymbeline.  Yet when I received the email detailing where to pick up my tickets, I knew I was about to join more than 5 million people and 50 years of Free Shakespeare in the Park.

While I sat in the outdoor, half-coliseum arrangement of the Delacorte Theater I reveled in being persistent enough to enter my name day after day. I was aware that it was a small task to ask for a quality free performance, but I couldn’t help but feel as if I had been randomly picked because of my sheer willpower, not a random selection computer program.

It didn’t matter that I was unfamiliar with Cymbeline, either. Each actor and each actress spoke with anachronistic, modern day inflections that carried the audience through Old English rather than dropped them. The artistic liberties that were taken showed through in song and dance numbers as well as audience interactions. The play itself piggybacked me into enjoyment even more grand than the satisfaction of being chosen to receive a ticket. I walked back to the subway at the conclusion of the play in awe at the quality directing and acting.

I finally had my four-year-overdue visit with the cultural doctor, and I did it without needing to take out a loan.