40 CITIES, 25 THEATRES, 2 RVS, 6 PEOPLE, 1 DOG, AND A BIG DREAM
The Transcendence vision didn’t come to life overnight. It demanded planning, research, fundraising, and a two- and-a-half-month RV trip around the country and back again. In March of 2010, I climbed into an RV with Amy Miller, Brad Surosky, Robert Petrarca, Leah Sprecher, Randi Kaye, and Amy and Brad’s dog, Junior. We had this great, big dream in our heads and wanted to learn how to make it a reality. And for that, we needed to meet with the brightest minds in the arts while also scouting for the perfect location to settle down and build Transcendence Theatre Company’s future.
We sent out letters to top contacts around the country and set up interviews that included over 450 people, from artistic directors of major theatres across the country, to writers, educators, and Broadway artists. Our travels took us through LA, Dallas, New Orleans, New York City, Boston, Detroit,Colorado, Montana, and many stops in between. During our trip, we had the opportunity to speak with some of the most influential people in theatre today, like Bill Rauch, Artistic Director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Molly Smith, Director of Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., and Curt Columbus, Artistic Director of Trinity Rep in Rhode Island to mention a few. It was so amazing to sit down and talk with passionate, experienced artists that had been through the ups and downs of the business and could share so much knowledge! We planned all of this during the economic recession of 2010, when theatre companies across the country were shutting down due to lack of funding. In fact, some people said theatre as a whole was dying. They insisted the arts were suffering at the hand of a bad economy, movies, the internet, and countless entertainment options people could stream right on their phones and into their homes. The funny thing is, when you look deeper into the history of theatre, you realize people have talked about theatre dying for over 100 years. We learned many things on our trip, and one of the most surprising was that theatre was actually thriving in many wonderful ways. You just need to understand what makes theatre so valuable to a community.
In Atlanta, Georgia, (one of our stops) there is a vibrant local theatre scene. You’d assume these theatres would view each other as a threat or competition, but that wasn’t the case. “Theatres grow best like grapes,” one of our interviewees from The Alliance Theatre said. We
saw this sentiment echoed across the country. Theatres are more successful when there are other theatres alongside them serving their communities. A good experience at a live show inspires people to pursue more theatre, and everyone benefits. Theatres don’t have to compete — we should support one another! We brought this attitude with us when we ultimately came to Sonoma.A rising tide lifts all ships, and we want to support all the local theatres and artists we share the community with. Everyone in the arts works hard to celebrate their passions, and we know firsthand what it takes to bring a dream to life. When we started out on the trip, we needed $40,000 to make it all the way around the country and back home. We’d only raised $14,000 when we stepped into the RVs. We could have spent years planning and getting the contacts and funds together, but we’d be no closer to our dream until we struck out to make it happen. Along the way, we shot fundraising videos in RV parks, wrote original songs, and performed benefits in yoga studios, movies theatres, and in people’s homes. We raised the money we needed to complete our trip while on the road, and I think that entrepreneurial spirit really captures the heart of how we’ve built Transcendence. We were founded on an idealistic vision, and to bring that vision to life, we put our heart and soul into every dollar we raised. I’m not saying it was an easy trip, but it was a one-of-a-kind experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Our journey gave us the tools we needed to bring Transcendence into the world and ultimately led us to our favorite place on earth, our home here in Sonoma. Learn more about this great, big RV trip by reading our full blog we wrote during our trip.
– Stephan Stubbins