“Dear Dobama Artists, I’ve been wanting to write you all.”
So begins artistic director Nathan Motta’s mid-May letter to those who have and were about to make art in the Dobama Theatre performance space. His words are personal but so eloquently express the shared sentiments of a loving, caring Cleveland arts community. They are excerpted here, with permission.
“I wanted to direct these sentiments to you because so many of my thoughts these past few weeks have been about you and how uniquely difficult it must be for each of you, my colleagues and friends.
Clearly the most important thing at this moment is taking care of each other - putting our healthcare and essential workers in the best possible position to be safe and to help those directly affected by the virus. But it’s natural to also be thinking of what this moment means for the future of our industry and community. I hope one positive thing that has emerged through all of this is the importance of the work of artists like you in our world.
During the first Saturday night performance of Dance Nation a few weeks ago, a light that was rigged to fall from the grid in the opening scene did not fall. In a freak occurrence, the pull cord that releases the light had bounced upwards and gotten hung up in the grid. The instrument was now dangling precariously over upstage center, an area where actors would gather in the next scene. We had rehearsed this light falling moment over two dozen times and had never had a problem like this happen before - yet here we were.
Within moments everyone knew what had to be done. I stepped on stage and called “hold,” asking the actors to stop in place and listen for further instructions. I asked the cast to clear the playing space and explained the situation to the audience. While I was speaking, the assistant stage manager and crew, without hesitation, brought a ladder on stage to manually remove the light instrument. Our wonderful production stage manager then announced on the god-mic for the company to reset for the start of the scene. Within 60 seconds from hold being called, the performance had continued. The problem was unforeseen and unprecedented but we had put safety first.
Today we find ourselves in another such moment - unforeseen and unprecedented. If ‘All the world’s a stage’ then this is a moment in time when it has been of the utmost importance that we players hold in place and clear the stage for the safety of all.
When we take care of each other, we are living up to the ideas we explore in our storytelling onstage. By making artists feel safe, everyone is able to take artistic risks and do their best work. Now, at a moment when we are unable to do that work, we have an opportunity to demonstrate the empathy, compassion, and awareness we have learned and shared as theatre artists. This is an uncertain, challenging and frightening time for so many.
Dobama will also take this moment to step back and examine our core values, mission, business model, operations, and future vision. We will do all we can to emerge from this difficult situation a more focused and centered arts organization.
I wanted to let you all know that we are thinking about you and that we are here for you in all the ways we are able. Please stay home, be safe, and let’s take care of each other.”
About the Author