A THEATER BUILT SOLID AS STONE
by Kirby Lindsay
The MainStage 2009-10 season for Stone Soup Theatre kicks off Friday, October 30, with Durang7. This collection of seven one-act plays written by Christopher Durang promises a fast-paced romp through pieces of social satire, absurdist comedy and lampoons of classic theater.
Stories to speak to the heart of a Fremont sensibility, yet the theater – which sits just east of the Center of the Universe at 4035 Stone Way North – has yet to fully engage within our community. “Our audiences are very wide,” Maureen Miko, the founder of the theater explained, yet “something tells me we haven’t tapped into the neighborhood.”
In Its Adolescence
The first ‘Stone’ Soup stage, located on ‘Stone’ Way, opened 14 years ago and is now called the “upstage,” which seats 45. “For my own business to grow, I had to invest more money,” Miko explained, so she has rented another space a few doors down called the Mainstage (or “downstage”) that seats 65. “We’re still talking intimate setting,” she acknowledged, and a small theater company, but one with a solid foundation in a generally unstable industry.
Miko “built up a business using art,” she said, and ‘business’ remains part of her ethic. “I used my own love of children, and art,” she explained, and began with summer theater camps for children. Using park space, she held weekly camps that ended with a Friday performance by the kids. Last summer she held 3 – 7 camps a week, hosted 450 kids and had 12 – 20 participants in each camp.
The kids’ programs, “that is the foundation,” Miko said, “Families will support their kids, and they will spend money on their kids before themselves.” While the poor funding for arts in schools is deplorable, Miko also noted it is a blessing for Stone Soup. Parents will seek artistic outlets for the children outside of school, and Miko offers a solid option.
Stone Soup Conservatory offers classes for children and youth during the school year, along with the opportunity to perform in professional shows. In December, Stone Soup Theatre will stage A Child’s Christmas In Wales by Dylan Thomas (scheduled December 4 – 24), featuring a cast of children and a few adults. In addition, through 4Culture, Stone Soup also offers a Greek Myth touring program at area schools.
No Longer Just Kids’ Stuff
While she maintains the summer camp programs as a for-profit business, last year she converted the theater, and the conservatory, into non-profit entities. A non-profit that, in a year of recession, and downsizing, has been able to expand, although Miko holds some concerns about the non-profit model. “The board controls you,” she said, about requirements for a board of directors, “you hand everything over to them.”
Yet, this board may be wise enough not to mess with a good thing. This year the Stone Soup staff doubled – to three people in addition to Miko. Also, they’ve gone, slowly, from “occasionally” staging professional shows to a full season line-up, displaying a mixture of comedy and drama starting with Durang7 (which runs until November 22nd - tickets on sale now at Brown Paper Tickets) to Fool For Love by Sam Shepard and the Tenth Anniversary Edition of The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler.
As the theater continues to grow, outreach to the community will be a part of it but Miko won’t concede the rest to a board. “Now,” she said, “I have to envision it further.”
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.