Sarah Benson Reps Soho Rep

02/01/2012 6:00 AM |

So what is with all the Brits running this place?
It's weird, everyone thinks I knew Daniel, but I didn't. It's very strange. I mean, Marlene Schwarz and Jerry Englebach—they're Americans. And, they'd worked with Julian Webber [the Artistic Director before Daniel Aukin] who had just been based here. And I don't know, it's very weird. I truly don't understand it.

One thing that's interesting to me is that, if you look at the 35th anniversary book, Soho Rep started off with a glut model, producing fifteen or sixteen plays a year. But since then it has resisted the urge to either maintain that or grow. The theater actually went in the opposite direction and got smaller, in terms of the number of productions. There's a model that exists in a lot of other theaters that survived that era that pushed always for growth. They started off as a scrappy theater, not having a physical space, running around, not having a lot of money. Then they got a physical space, which meant that had to raise more money, and do more shows. And then they fell into that a theater season model where they have slots to fill for a base of subscribers. And then they kept growing, and nowadays you hear some artistic directors say things like, well, I don't really want to do this show, but we have to do it for our subscribers.
Yeah, we've made a choice to stay small. But we are growing, we're thriving, we're adding programming, we're paying people more, we're growing our infrastructure. But we don't want to continue to just grow and grow and grow.

What does growth mean to you at this point?
I think it means doing more shows.

Which ultimately means, what? More funding?
Yeah, it means more fundraising. That's it. It means growing our capacity on the fundraising level. It's like a loop—you do the work, that gets people excited, you market that, and that is what creates momentum for development and fundraising. That's the only thing. It's not for lack of artist's shows that we're all dying to do. It's a fundraising question.

Do you rent the theater out when you're not using it for your own shows?
Yeah, we rent. That's also something that's part of the plan that we're gradually over time reducing that, extending our runs, and we have done that. Daniel did two shows, now we're consistently doing three shows a season. We're doing longer runs. We're trying to do as much of our own programming during down time as possible—with our studio program, and our lab program. I think the goal is continuous programming. And we're installing a new air conditioning system this year to make the summer a truly programmable time. We'd like to be able to have ensembles and companies be in residence during the summer—like, give Nature Theatre of Oklahoma eight weeks in the space; hand over the space to companies that we're affiliated with and that we feel really strongly about. So that's definitely a goal.