The Doors Open in 10 - Reflections on The Collaborator Party

by Jay Duckworth
Collaborator Party Co-Hosts Lindsay Jones, Jay Duckworth, John Gromada and Barbara Cohig.
Collaborator Party Co-Hosts Lindsay Jones, Jay Duckworth, John Gromada and Barbara Cohig.

Sunday night’s Collaborator Party was a huge success drawing the largest gathering of backstage talent the industry has to offer. There were satellite parties all across the country. Chicago, LA, the Bay Area, Houston, and Indiana where people could gather together and celebrate the creative process. Then there were summer stock folk watching on their laptops at Berkshire Theater Group and even up in Brunswick Maine, where I know the tech folk flipped between the Tony Awards and Collaborators party. 

I was lucky to be asked to be one of the co-hosts, there were a number of new co-hosts from a range of allied arts fields. My fellow co-hosts were Rick Sordelet (fight director), Caite Hevner (projection designer), Amanda Spooner (stage manager), Rona Siddiqui (music director), Jeff Harris (production manager, The Public Theater), Carol Fishman (general manager, Playwrights Horizons), Nikiya Mathis (hair designer), Jared Mezzocchi (projection designer), Barbara Cohig (scenic artist), and Cheryl Mintz (stage manager). A talented bunch and good company to be included with as we celebrate collaboration.

I arrived just before 7 pm and, I’m not making this up, the first group of people that I see waiting outside before the 7pm opening is, come on guess. Yep Stage Managers! It has got to be in their DNA. I hugged all the familiar faces and asked how long before the doors were going to open, 9 voices in unison said 10 minutes. I smiled and said, ‘thank you 10’. It was a pretty cool sight getting in and seeing old friends and coworkers. The place filled up pretty quickly. A strange and very cool moment was when Jeff Lee stopped some of us and had us go to the Step and Repeat. Step and repeat is an Opening night tradition where Press departments takes pictures of directors and actors of the show that’s opening and the famous actors & directors who come to see those actors and director in the afore mentioned show. Rarely are even the Designers included in that group, but I know a couple theaters are bucking that trend. The Public has started promoting all the creative team and I salute them for this. 

Four years ago, Lindsay Jones and John Gromada had a really great idea. The idea was to get everyone together and celebrate all the people who make the art. Everyone in the theatrical arts, wardrobe people who can change you quicker than you can change your mind, deck carpenters who make sure the turntable is working, the A2‘s who make sure the text is clear, electricians who have to hold the house because they have to perform a small miracle on a moving light or the show stops in its tracks 3 pages in, they meant everybody! Lindsay said “somehow, the crazy secret of theatre actually is that EVERYONE matters when you're making a show. Sure, there are people who receive applause onstage every night, but that applause is actually for everyone who made it happen, onstage and offstage. And rather than awards that go out to a few, what if there was another way to recognize and appreciate the value of everyone who puts their heart and soul into making theatre great?” 

There were tons of people supporting the party in a very grass roots way working the door, running cable, setting up screens and sound systems folks like: Ken Goodwin, Ien DeNio, Alex Neumann, all speaking about why mentoring and diversity and passion are paramount in our field. Most importantly Laura Vogel from Winged Pup Productions, who was keeping all the social media humming. They also had artist on hand to document the eventful night: Jeffrey Lee who was vigilante at the Step and repeat, Kate Ducey, Evdoxia Ragkou, Anthony Wills Jr and Andy Leviss all worked the room with their cameras. There was also industry support from USITT, and their truly amazing team of educators and mentors helping out, I even shared a pretzel with board member Tammy Honesty who came out from Kent State. Plus there were also a bunch of new partners: Stage Managers' Association of the United States, TSDCA - Theatrical Sound Designers and Composers Association and the good folks at Stage Directions Magazine, all of whom were a welcome addition to the producing team. 

My friend Barret, a film writer was in town from LA, and last time he was here I took him to see Latin History for Moronsbefore it transferred to Broadway. He really hasn’t seen much theater, so after the show I walked him around the set and showed him some of the tricks and secrets that we hid in order to do the show as the stage management team reset and he was pretty blown away. Well Sunday night when John Leguizamo was talking about building his career, Barret looked at me and said, ‘Now I get it, now I understand.’ I said ‘understand what?’ ‘The only way for an actor to pull off a one man show is because of the hundreds of artists in this room.’ I smiled and said, ‘yes sir’, and that is the enclave of collaboration.