Article Contributed by
Rotary Club of Jamestown
The Rotary Club of Jamestown recently welcomed Andrew Borba, Artistic Director of the Chautauqua Theater Company, to their noon meeting at the Doubletree Hotel. This marks Borba’s fifth time as a guest speaker of the Club and his 16th summer at the Chautauqua Theatre Company (CTC). Besides directing, he is a gifted actor on stage and television.
Borba spoke about returning from last year. The theme this year has been “pivoting”. Planning for the many possibilities began last September. It was decided to partner with the Opera. It was thought they would be performing in Norton Hall, and the CTC planned for a season of one- person shows. However, due to union issues, that was not going to work. So, it was decided to go outdoors, and the Pratt Performance Pavilion was created. It is similar to a Repertory Company.
The final performance of Blood at the Root is July 18. Then the opera Scalia/Ginsburg is on stage. Then a one-person show, “Thurgood”. Tickets are $25. All performances are at 4 pm.
Andrew feels fortunate to be active. Theaters are still at 94% unemployment across the country. In planning for the season, the CTC wanted to have stories for right now. “Now” and “Community” were the dominant threads. Staffing was reduced from 100 to 24 with just 6 Conservatory actors and 3 Conservatory designers. However, the Academy reached more actors than in the past due to zoom, connecting it to the greater theater community. From 19 the Academy expanded to 40 people all around the world.
Andrew noted that what is happening currently in theater, as in all our lives, is a bridge. It will be interesting what changes remain permanent. One emphasis is “self-taping” and self-creation. Now an actor does not have to go to LA, NY, Atlanta, or Chicago to be discovered, but can send in a tape.
The Young Playwrights program has also continued with tweaks. Third and fourth-graders made plays and filmed them. TCT couldn’t perform them, but instead interviewed the kids.
The pandemic has made CTC more thoughtful about what to do, how, with whom and for whom, noted Mr. Borba. For now, it is just wonderful to be back in the same room together.
For those who cannot go to Chautauqua, the Young Playwrights, and also the two one-person shows have been shown on NPR stations: one in Buffalo “One Child”. Another in Detroit. They will be rebroadcast over time.
As far as writing, Borba has not seen a uniform response of creativity from writers. Some are feeling a surge of creativity, others feel isolated. However, he notices, there are a whole slew of young actors who have access.
As Professor of Drama at UC Irvine he feels students have not fared well during the pandemic. Because his class was a “lab”, the students were allowed to continue classes. However, since it is an interactive art form, they suffered because they did not have direct contact with professors or other students.