West Michigan’s Own Shakespeare Company at the STA Conference
I am a member of Pigeon Creek’s repetory acting company and am currently playing the Duchess in The Duchess of Malfi, but I wear another hat with Pigeon Creek, too. I was a founder of the company when I was a college undergrad in 1998, and I currently serve as Pigeon Creek’s executive director, which I have done since 2009. Last week I the Shakespeare Theatre Association conference at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. STA is an association of theatres from across the US and abroad whose mission focuses on the production of Shakespeare’s plays. The theatres represented at the conference range from multi-million dollar operations like the Stratford Festival in Canada, to small regional companies that produce one play each summer. (Pigeon Creek’s information page on the STA website). Since I was been at the conference learning more about all of the other theatres that are STA members, I was inspired to write down a few notes to help our audiences learn more about Pigeon Creek!
Things You Might Not Have Known About the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company:
1. Pigeon Creek has achieved huge things in the past 8 years. The company began in 1998 as one of those tiny companies producing one show each summer. In 2008, we shifted to year-round production, and we now have 5 productions a year that tour to multiple venues throughout Michigan and beyond.
2. Our actors, directors, fight directors, stage managers, teaching artists, and music directors are all paid. The artists we work with are highly skilled and trained. The vast majority of our artists have degrees in theatre and related fields, including several with graduate degrees in Shakespearean theatre. Our teaching artists work as teachers from the pre-school through university levels. We have made paying them a priority out of respect for theatre as a profession, and we are excited for the day when we can pay them more!
3. Our administrative work is all done on a volunteer basis by members of the acting company who also bring expertise in other fields to their work with Pigeon Creek. In the next phase of our company development, we have the goal of creating several paid staff positions.
4. We are the only professional company that gets to perform in the beautiful Rose theatre, a reconstruction of an Elizabethan playhouse housed at the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. Your next chances to see shows there will be June 4 and August 27, 2016. For the first time, we are also offering an adult Shakespeare camp at the Rose, from July 24-26, open to adults with any level of experience with Shakespeare. (Registration Information)
5. Educational programming is a huge part of what Pigeon Creek does. We offer high school
matinees of our spring production in partnership with the Frauenthal Center for Performing
Arts (this year’s production is The Tempest). We provide teaching artists for the Will Power
Daycamp for elementary students, which happens at Grand Valley State University every
summer. We offer classroom workshops for students from elementary through university
6. We are currently the official Shakespeare company of the Michigan Humanities Council’s
Great Michigan Read program, which this year features Emily St. John Mandel’s Station
Eleven. The novel is about a touring Shakespeare company traveling around Michigan in
wake of a devastating flu epidemic. You know we had to be part of a program like that!
Great Michigan Read will take us to libraries, schools, and community centers all over the
7. Pigeon Creek is a founding member of the Lake Effect Fringe Festival. We will take our
production of John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi, a play by one of Shakespeare’s
contemporaries in early 1600s London, to this year’s fringe at the Dog Story
Theater February 5-7.
8. Artists from around the country come to work on our productions because of the particular
way that we work on Shakespeare and other early modern drama. Our dedication to
Shakespearean text and exploration of original early modern staging practices attracts
outstanding artists from all over. In the past year, we have had theatre professionals from
Milwaukee, Chicago, Cincinnati, and Virginia come to Michigan to work with our incredible
ensemble of West Michigan actors.
9. We are firmly dedicated to the idea that regional theatre artists produce work just as good as
those in larger markets, and that regional audiences deserve high quality arts and cultural
10. We don’t think you need a fancy education to “get” Shakespeare, and we don’t think his
plays are intimidating, “high culture” things. We believe Shakespeare is for everyone, and if
you have never seen a Shakespeare play, or if you think you don’t like Shakespeare, we
want you in our audience!