I always gets excited when I see performing arts groups that are gaining momentum and doing well for themselves. Minnesota Fringe darlings Transatlantic Love Affair are no exception. This physical theatre ensemble formed in 2010 to produce their first Fringe show, Ballad of the Pale Fisherman. It was a huge success. With their 2011 production Red Resurrected, audiences were anxious to see if they could follow up with another memorable show. They did, and then again this past summer for the 2012 Fringe. Then, to top it off, co-artistic director Isabel Nelson recently won the Emerging Artist Ivey Award. Yay!
As you might expect, they are an exceptionally talented group. They are also doing a few really smart things that I think we could all learn from.
Slow Growth- In addition to co-directing Transatlantic Love Affair, Isabel and her husband, Diogo Lopes, have busy lives (like us all). Rather than trying to put on a whole season at once, they built their repertoire a show at a time- but with consistency. Specifically, a show a year.
Make It Tour-able- Their shows don’t involve fancy sets, props, or other elements. The sound and scenic elements for the show (with the exception of their last show, which did have a solo musician), are all created by the cast during the show. So, now that they’ve developed and staged 3 shows, they can easily continue to tour them and make money off of the hard work they’ve already done.
A Core Group- While there have been a few minor variations, the core ensemble for all 3 productions has been mostly the same. As a director, this means that you can start to build a language with the people you are working with. Coming back to a common language and method for working saves time. And, when you continue to work with a consistent method, you just keep getting better at it.
But, the thing I notice the most in their work?
A signature Style– a brand, if you will: Transatlantic Love Affair has a signature style to all of their work. They tell a story (usually a take on a classic- a myth or a fairytale), but with their own theatrical style. When I walk in the door, I know what to expect: there will be some a capella singing to accompany the staging, there will be familiar characters (Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood), there will be some clown work performed with amazing precision to illustrate the activity on stage (doors opening, water running, wheat waving). And, there will be tons of heart. This isn’t to say that they are predictable– the company finds plenty of ways to surprise. But, I know what I’ve signed on for. This shows in the way that word spreads about their performances– people talk about the signature aspects of the company. So, finding your specific artistic voice is important– knowing what you are and what you aren’t.
When I interviewed Alan Berks, he said that ‘making art (or doing anything you care about) is f*cking hard work. But, you can find ways to achieve a certain stability.’ I’m excited by artists who are doing just that.
What do you notice about performing artists that are thriving right now?