Category Archives: Behind-the-scenes

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Intern Where The Popcorn Is: What It Is Like To Spend A Summer At The Ren!

By Audra DeLaney

Staff meetings. Social media scheduling. Blog writing. Brain storming sessions.

There are a number of things that happen during a day at the Renaissance Theatre for the Marketing and Development Intern. My name is Audra DeLaney and I am a third year public relations major and political science minor at Bowling Green State University. I have had the pleasure of interning under Colleen Cook this summer. I have an interest in working in arts advocacy after I graduate from college, so my summer at the Renaissance was a wonderful learning experience.

I found out about this internship back in the spring of 2016 after I got home from a spring break trip to New York City. I quickly fixed up my resume and decided to apply. I did not get the internship that summer but I stayed in contact with those at the Renaissance. I applied again this spring hoping to become the intern and the rest is history!

My responsibilities varied day-to-day during my internship. As my title states, I was a part of two departments at the Renaissance. In the Marketing Department I was responsible for scheduling social media, writing blogs/a blog series on the Renaissance Education Department, filling out event calendars, creating an Instagram strategy document, and doing a few other small projects. In the Development Department, I entered donor and member information into our system, filed donor and member paperwork, went to development committee meetings, attended board meetings, and created a document that holds ideas for the Annual Fund Campaign.

My favorite part of interning this summer was working with the Renaissance staff. Each staff member brings a new perspective to discussions and decision making. As well, they each have hidden talents! The Marketing Director is a singer, the Graphic Designer can play the violin, the Director of Operations got her undergraduate degree in horn performance, the list goes on and on. From impromptu pizza parties to coffee runs the Renaissance has felt like home since the day my internship began.

My advice to anyone wanting to intern in marketing or development for an arts organization/a nonprofit is to be willing and ready to soak up as much information as possible during your internship. The people mentoring you have stories and pieces of the advice they will share with you that will serve you well throughout your career, so listen!

I was not the only intern at the Renaissance this summer. Production Intern/Assistant Director Andy Blubaugh worked with President & CEO Mike Miller, Guest Director Kris Kyer, the Renaissance tech crew, and the whole cast of our most recent musical, The Little Mermaid. Andy is a second year theatre management and visual arts double major at Kent State University. She heard about the internship from Mike Miller after she talked with him about her interest in directing theatre.

“He mentioned the internship and it sounded like a great opportunity,” Andy said. “So I knew immediately it was something I wanted to apply for.”

Andy said her responsibilities changed daily.

“If I was not working on constructing and painting props, I was sending out backing tracks to the cast so they could rehearse at home, or I was talking to Kris about what we needed to accomplish for the day,” Andy said. “I would take notes and cue tracks and sound effects during rehearsals, take t-shirt orders, and help with the odds and ends that needed to be taken care of.”

She also said that her hours varied based on what was going on at the theatre each week and that she thoroughly enjoyed her time interning at the Renaissance.

“My favorite part was getting to learn so much about production that I never had the chance to be involved in before. Especially in making giant fish puppets, working with Cue Lab, and figuring out how to be best organized among a cast of 35,” Andy said. “Watching Kris work was awesome as well. I got to sit in on a few of his coaching sessions with some of our actors, and it showed me a lot about the communication of the director to the actor, and then translating that into their character. Being a part of this show really opened some doors for me to be involved with more parts of theatre than has ever been available to me before.”

Andy felt supported by other members of the staff of the Renaissance and the cast of The Little Mermaid. One of Andy’s biggest projects this summer was working on props for The Little Mermaid. When they were unveiled to the cast, they thought they were wonderful.

“As an artist and as the assistant director, it felt like my work was really appreciated, which made the whole experience so much more fulfilling,” Andy said.

Andy has a piece of advice for those wanting to intern in the production area of performing arts.

“Try lighting, sound, costumes and makeup, audition to be onstage, and offer your assistance to a production in whatever way you can. Every opportunity gives you the chance to learn something more, which can only better prepare you.”


Andy and I would like to say thank you to those who mentored us during our time at the Renaissance. We wish everyone a fun and successful 2017-2018 season!

Family Four Pack

All About the Family Four Pack!

by Colleen Cook

It’s a part of our organization’s mission to ensure that everyone has access to live arts and entertainment, and we’re committed to finding new ways to expand our reach each season. At the same time, we have a responsibility to our donors and sponsors to steward their gifts well and to be a financially sustainable organization – that means, we have to be affordable and accessible, but we usually can’t make our tickets free.

Finding an affordable price point for each of our shows that fulfills our artist agreements, ensures that our expenses are covered, and maintains affordability to our patrons can be more than a little bit tricky. We subsidize every ticket price with approximately 50% donated/sponsored funds (that is to say, without the support of our donors and sponsors, we’d be forced to charge twice as much for every ticket to simply break even).

All of those factors played into our decision to create a Family Four Pack ticket option this season. The Family Four Pack is essentially 4 seats and two popcorns for $50. These seats are available in our Section C for most of our family-friendly shows beginning in the 17-18 Season. Family Four Pack tickets are not available for sale online, and can only be purchased through visiting or calling the Box Office at (419) 522-2726 during open hours, Tuesday through Friday, 12-5 PM.

When you purchase a Family Four Pack, your family can easily afford to bring the whole crew to a show without draining the college savings account. If you need more than four tickets, you can add additional tickets to your package for just $15 each. When you pick up your tickets either at the Box Office when you purchase or at the will call window the day of the event, you will have two vouchers for popcorn that you can redeem at the concession stand anytime that evening.

We hope that this new price point will make attending our shows more affordable for families and increase your opportunities to enjoy great performances here in Mansfield! We’d love to hear your thoughts – reach out in the comment section, or give our Box Office a call any time!

Colleen Cook Renaissance Theatre

Journey to a Career in Arts Marketing

By Audra DeLaney

You have to wonder to yourself sometimes, “who is the person who runs the Renaissance social media?”  Well, this person is the same person who’s name you see in the top left corner of most of our blogs and who is asks all the questions to interviewees during podcasts. Marketing and Communications Director Colleen Cook is an innovative digital marketer,  invested wife and mother, and someone who is constantly thinking about how to improve herself and the world around her.

Colleen’s path to a career in arts marketing was a little different than most. She received her undergraduate degree in Music Education from Ashland University. After graduation, she took up a job as a music teacher in an Ohio school district. Following that, she chose to pursue a master’s degree in Voice Pedagogy from Shenandoah Conservatory near Washington D.C. in Winchester, VA. She always had a nack for arts management, but didn’t know one could obtain a degree in it.

“A friend said to me why aren’t you doing a masters in Arts Management?” Colleen said. “I responded that I hadn’t even heard of the field!”

After speaking with the advisor to those pursuing degrees in arts management, Colleen chose to add a Master of Science in Arts Management to her course load and was able to get an on campus internship that helped her hone her skills. She then interned for Americans for The Arts, a nonprofit based in Washington D.C. who’s mission is to serve, advance, and lead the network of organizations and individuals who cultivate, promote, sustain, and support the arts in America. Colleen was placed in the Leadership Alliances department where she assisted the organization with their artist committee, administration for the National Arts Awards, the Nancy Hanks lecture and dinner for Arts Advocacy Day, and several development-related tasks.

“When successful artists and celebrities come to D.C. to testify on behalf of the NEA, or to do anything pro-arts, this is the department they go through,” Colleen said. “I was fortunate to meet a number of well known arts leaders through this internship, and I learned a lot about how a successful national-level nonprofit does business.”

Colleen said her internship with Americans for The Arts helped her learn how to do things the right way in the field of development because Americans for The Arts has to works with some of the biggest philanthropists in the United States. The experience taught her the ins and outs of the fundraising process she may not otherwise have learned.

After concluding her internship, a friend who was performing at the Renaissance at the time reached out to her about an open Assistant Development Director position. She and her husband had talked about wanting to move back to this area, and Colleen knew the Renaissance Theatre would be a good fit for her. She still had classes left to finish, but interviewed for the job anyway. She got it, and moved back two weeks later. The next year, Colleen became the Development Director and helped to reorganize the development practices at the Renaissance. After three years in that role, she made a lateral move to work as the Director of Marketing and Communications, having thoroughly enjoyed being able to tell the story of the Renaissance through her role in Development.

Meetings with various individuals are also a part of Colleen’s schedule, as is working closely with Assistant Director of Marketing and Graphic Designer Steven Au on the numerous print and digital ads the Renaissance runs for each show. Colleen develops the marketing plan for each show, partners with numerous media outlets, creates the majority of the written content the Renaissance produces, which includes web management, news releases, social media management, and numerous print pieces.

 

“I love that my job allows me to be creative and productive each day. We work with some of the most incredible people in our region at the Renaissance and I feel so grateful to have built relationships with so many brilliant and hardworking leaders here. It’s my pleasure to tell the Renaissance’s story each day,” she shares.

Larry Griffin, Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

Why I Sing: An Interview with Larry Griffin

by Colleen Cook

Forty years ago, locally-renown choral conductor Richard Wink had an idea: the Mansfield Symphony should have a chorus. So many great symphonic works require a chorus, and Mansfield is chock-full of great singers. And so, the Mansfield Symphony Chorus was born.

Members of the chorus have had the opportunity to benefit from the leadership of many great choral conductors through the years, and our current conductor Larry Griffin is no exception. Larry’s exuberance and expertise are truly one-of-a-kind, and his leadership this season has injected a new life into our chorus.

Under his leadership, the Mansfield Symphony Chorus will perform a spring choral concert on April 30th fully loaded with incredible choral repertoire (such as Haydn’s mass in B flat and some absolutely gorgeous short choral works including my all-time favorite, Joseph Martin’s “The Awakening.”) So, we wanted to take a little time to get to know Larry Griffin a little better:

Colleen Cook: When did you start singing? 

Larry Griffin: I don’t remember when wasn’t singing.  In church and school I use to get into trouble because of being high strung.  But once my teachers found out that I could sing it got me out of many situations.

CC: What was your journey to becoming director of the Mansfield Symphony Chorus?

LG: My journey to Mansfield started with Robert Franz inviting my Columbus group, Capriccio, to sing the Beethoven’s 9th in 2007 with the Symphony Chorus. They performed again with the Theresienmesse, and another time with Candide. This was my introduction to this fine orchestra and chorus.  I knew then that it was my desire to have the opportunity to direct the chorus.

CC: What do you love about choral singing?

LG: I love directing choirs more than anything!  Having the ability to mold individual voices and making beautiful music together is such a joy!

CC: What is your favorite choral piece, and why?

LG:  One of my favorite choral works is the Puccini Mass. It’s my favorite because it introduced me to my first major choral work, it gave me my first solo, and introduced me to my late wife, Jane.

CC: What can our audience look forward to on the Sing into Spring concert?

LG: The audience can expect a diverse program featuring the music from Haydn, Mozart, Negro Spirituals and other memorable choral pieces.  The choir will be accompanied by a small orchestral ensemble from members of the MSO and they will get to hear four wonderful soloist: soprano, alto, tenor and bass from the Columbus area. I’m very excited to have Director Emeritus Richard Wink directing and singing as a member of the chorus, as well.  

Writing Original Productions Photos by Jeff Sprang Photography

Writing Original Productions: An Interview with Michael Thomas

by Colleen Cook with Michael Thomas

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have favorite shows that we do here at the Renaissance, and the upcoming production of Hot Mess: A Lethal New Musical is easily my most favorite thing that’s ever been on our stage. It’s poignant and hilarious, crude and bold, and absolutely endearing. One of my favorite elements of Hot Mess is the fact that it’s “stage on stage,” meaning that the audience is seated on the stage with the performance happening right in front of them; when a show pushes the boundaries the way Hot Mess does, the audience is just as much a player as any of the eccentric characters on stage. (Maddie Beer, Colton Penwell, and I take a deep dive into this particular aspect in our recent podcast about Hot Mess, which you can listen to here)

Truth is, I feel this enthusiastic about everything our brilliant Artistic Director Michael Thomas writes: in my opinion his creative genius has raised the bar for the performing arts in Mansfield and I’m thrilled that we get to see his creations on our stage. Michael has a remarkable background in the performing arts (which he talks about on an early episode of our podcast and in this recent blog post) and as a writer for stage, TV, and film. Since his background looks so different from my own, I wanted to learn more about what it takes to write a musical from scratch:

Colleen Cook: When and how did you start writing musicals? Do you have a favorite one that you’ve written?

Michael Thomas: When I was in the 7th or 8th grade, I started to write these silly parodies – probably inspired by the sketches I saw on the Carol Burnett Show. Her writers would spoof classic films, such as Gone With the Wind and Sunset Boulevard, and I couldn’t get enough of them. I started to write parodies of Broadway musicals – complete with songs. The only one I can remember off the top of my head, I called The Sound of Her Music – which told the story of Marla Von Tramp and her crusade to corrupt the children she was meant to govern. Classy stuff. But remember, I was 12.

As far as a favorite piece I’ve written? I think, like all writers, I have a love/hate relationship with my original works. I don’t know that I have a favorite, but I definitely have favorite moments from the original shows that have premiered at the Renaissance. The despairing high school boy from Remember Me Always who pens a heart-rendering letter to his television hero because he’s thinks it’s the only friend he’s got. Or the frustrated teacher, from that same piece, who is so addled by the idea of teaching sex ed, that she advises all the girls to get hysterectomies. I love the couple in Hot Mess who adopt more and more children – not to better their lives, but to add to their celebrity standing. Or Sally from Twilight Gardens, who, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, proudly hands a caregiver a picture she’s tried to color from a child’s coloring book. I’m incredibly lucky because I’ve not only gotten to write and stage new musicals for the Ren, but also productions for Lori Turner’s RYOT shows, Neos Dance Theatre’s original ballets, collaborations with the Mansfield Symphony as well as the scripts for our Teddy Bear concerts.

CC: How did you come up with the idea for Hot Mess?

MT: All year long, we get emails from agents pitching shows they would like us to book – and nine times out of ten, they are an incredibly weak, hastily-written, hodgepodge of ideas performed by a thrown-together cast but given a clever, topical title. Spoofs based on 50 Shades of Gray, The Real Housewives or one-joke-shows snickering at menopause or mid-life crises. I don’t watch reality television – in fact the best decision I ever made was to have my satellite dish yanked out a few years ago – so I had no idea who or what a Kardashian was – or why anyone would have an interest in plumbing the depths of a Duck Dynasty. But still, I was fascinated by why the public was so obsessed with watching unfortunate souls paraded out to air their dirty laundry on cable TV. I knew I didn’t want to just plop a bunch of silly characters up on stage and try to fill a two hour show, so I turned to classic literature to find a story to use as a basis. I searched through all of Shakespeare and even golden oldies like The Iliad and Beowulf. Nothing worked. Then I started to think about the classic Greek drama, Medea, written by Euripedes in 431 BC. Here was a woman who came from nothing, fought her way to the top, got kicked to the curb by her husband, then did something terrible to get her name back in the headlines again. It seemed like the perfect fit – and despite the fact that it was written 24 centuries ago, improbably modern and topical.

CC: When you’re writing a musical, what are some of the considerations you make?

MT: Well, first and foremost, you have to come up with a good story. And then you have to think about whether your story is song-worthy. Is there a reason for the song to be there? Even in the silliest of shows there has to be a reason your characters open their mouths and start to sing.

CC: You have a gift for writing things that are really hilarious. How can you tell if a joke will work?

MT: Even after all these years I still wonder if a joke will work or not. Years ago, I wrote what I thought was a hilarious line for our musical version of Hamlet that ran in Chicago for years and years. Claudius and Polonius are trying to think of a way to trap Hamlet. Claudius excitedly proclaims “I have an idea!” – and Polonius shouts “Is it Velcro? Have you invented Velcro?” To this day that still makes me laugh – but when played in front of an audience, we got crickets. Not a single titter. So you really just have to wait and see how and if the audience responds before you know if the joke works.

CC: Is it different writing for a live setting than when you’re writing for screen?

MT: Yes. When writing for the screen you use a real economy of words because you usually rely more on the action. I’ll use The Wizard of Oz for an example. On stage, Dorothy might land in Munchkinland and say:

Dorothy: Oh my goodness, this is a strange land indeed. I’ve never seen anything like this in Kansas. Look at the tiny houses and the tiny streets. The strange plants and beautiful waterfalls. It’s so beautiful! Do you think this is all a dream?

The screenplay, however, focuses more on action – so that the scene reads like this:

Dorothy opens the door and the world is suddenly vibrant and colorful, filled with oversized flora and crystal blue waterfalls. Here and there tiny houses, complete with tiny doors and tiny windows, dot the landscape. She rubs her eyes, wondering if it’s all a dream.

Dorothy: I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

When working with first time writers on their screenplay, (and believe me, EVERYONE has a screenplay idea!), I point out the fact that most of us have spent our entire lives watching movies and television – so screenwriting and story structure is probably a lot more familiar to us than we realize.


At the time of publication, we still have a few seats left for the upcoming production of Hot Mess, but they’ll likely sell out soon so don’t delay. More info and tickets here. By the way, it’s chock-full of “mature content,” and for adults only.

Meet Octavio Más-Arocas

by Colleen Cook and DRM Productions

Octavio Más-Arocas is the second of three finalists for the position of Music Director of the Mansfield Symphony Orchestra. Maestro Más-Arocas tells us about his musical background, the family of conductors he comes from, and what he does when he’s not conducting.

This is just a fraction of our full conversation, which you can watch here: https://youtu.be/sdClDMrQc1s

See Maestro Más-Acrocas conduct the Mansfield Symphony on March 25, 2017 at the Masterworks: Strife and Victory! concert.

Spinning Sisters: The Revolving Stage

By Colleen Cook

When you look at our staff list, the reality is that our titles are a little misleading. While we are each responsible for our primary job functions, each of our staff members possess unique and specialized skills and talents that overlap into many other areas of our organization, and are frequently showcased.

Mike Miller, for example, in addition to being President & CEO, is a talented sound engineer as well as a performer. Dauphne Maloney, in addition to being our Education Assistant and director of MY Theatre, is a skilled costumer. Her creations are seen in nearly every theatrical production on our stage.  Steven Au is our very gifted graphic designer and also happens to be an outstanding violinist who frequently plays with our Mansfield Symphony. And Jason Kaufman isn’t just our Facilities Manager, he also happens to imagine and build incredible sets for our productions as a set designer and carpenter.

Jason’s designs have created beautiful sets like we saw this season in Beauty and the Beast and A Christmas Carol. You might know Jason from Main Street Books, or perhaps you’ve seen some of his sculptural work around town – one of our favorites is the heart sculpture at Relax, It’s Just Coffee. Or maybe you’ve just admired his work from our audience – who will ever forget the haunting beauty and intricacy of the willowy branches in Beauty and the Beast in Summer 2016?

Beauty and the Beast 2016 - Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

Beauty and the Beast 2016 – Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

Colleen Cook: When and how did you get into set building here at the Ren?

Jason Kaufman: The first set I worked on was Mary Poppins, I think. I wasn’t really lead on that, but I did pitch in quite a bit. I ended up as lead set builder when we had a staff member leave and we had a void where no one was really taking the lead and I just sort of ended up in that place. I really enjoy that position and I wanted to step into that. We had a really great intern for Mary Poppins, Abe Swanger, and he did such good work that we ended up hiring him and he became my assistant set builder. Abe is very skilled and our personalities meld very well, and we also have an unspoken understanding of what our strengths and weaknesses are, and we just know what needs done with very few words. It’s been a very seamless partnership.

CC: Can you tell us about your background in visual art?

JK: I’ve always been interested in art. I went to college at Kent State and I knew I wanted to do something in the arts. I thought maybe art education, but after a few classes I realized that wasn’t for me. I started taking all kinds of arts classes and landed in glassworking program at Kent. Their program is very sculptural-based, where you use glass with other materials, so less focused on craft-based vessels and blowing and more fine art based. I ended up getting a degree in studio crafts with a focus in glass-casting, and then I have a minor in fine arts.

CC: What’s one of the most challenging set pieces you’ve gotten to build to date?

JK: Definitely the revolve for the Sister Act set. It is built in a modular way, with a 12-foot wide disc that can be disassembled into 10 segments, made by creating our own tongue-and-groove pattern so they all slide within one another and are bolted together. But, that required a significant amount of engineering. Everything needed to fit precisely and has to be put back together exactly the same way each time. And then, once that was put together, we had to figure out how to motorize it, which took a lot of trial and error to get the gearing right on the motor and the drive wheel.

View from above: The Revolving Stage

View from above: The Revolving Stage (Photo by Jason Kaufman)

I had a lot of help from my dad Rick Turske, because I’m not as mechanically-inclined as he is. It was a lot of trial and error, and we actually found an old treadmill that we were able to remove the motor from and since the variable speed adjustment was already attached to that, we could use that. Once we got the gearing right with the wheel driving the turntable, it spins easily and smoothly. We’ve had five or six people on it spinning.

Here’s a sneak peek of the incredible revolving stage in action!

Sister Act runs March 4-5, 11-12 and will be incredible – learn more and get tickets to this awesome show here.

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Lessons From The Second City

By Michael Thomas, Artistic Director

I have to admit, when our Marketing Director, Colleen Cook, asked me to write a blog about my time at the Second City I was a little stumped. “Write about something funny that happened. When something went wrong.” Of course, something going wrong was what we’d always hoped would happen. Someone forgetting to make an entrance, a missed sound cue, a server dropping a tray of glasses, a cell phone ringing… Those sort of things were like little gifts to the improv-trained actor because they knew that the unexpected is funny – and they can riff on it. Even in the worst of times – as when a drunken high schooler, celebrating her post prom at our show, vomited all over herself, the server and the unfortunate couple in front of her – I watched the actors on stage spin upchuck into comedy gold. For the rest of the evening, the actors would somehow find a way to work a barf joke into the scene – and it would send the audience into hysterics. We were taught not to resort to potty/childish humor, (see below), but when forced into it, we could keep pace with the best/worst of them.

Looking back, some of the funniest, (albeit frustrating) moments came when I first started improv classes. There was always someone in your class who ignored the basic rules of improv and would completely change the scene so that they could, presumably, insert what they considered to a funnier situation or even just a corny pun or one liner. For instance, I recall that our suggestion for a scene was “a man whose wife is cheating on him.” . My scene partner and I got up on stage and I began with “I’m so distraught. I know something is going on and it’s driving me crazy.” My partner responded with “What are you talking about? I’m George Washington and it’s my birthday!” The guy had clearly been sitting on his hands waiting to unveil a hilarious George Washington birthday party scene he’d concocted – and he was going to do it whether we liked it or not. Fans of the television program The Office may recall Michael Scott’s failed attempt at improv. When he doesn’t know how to end a scene, he simply pulls out an imaginary pistol and shoots all of his teammates dead. The star of that show, Steve Carrell, is a Second City alum – and I’m certain that scene must have been based on his real life experiences.

Of course, there were also many memorable moments dealing with certain members of the audience. I don’t think we ever did a single show when there wasn’t someone in the crowd who thought they were funnier than the folks on stage. It usually went down like this:
Actor: We need a suggestion for a place. Any place. A train station. A taxi cab. Your mother’s kitchen.
Man in audience: Poop!!!
Actor: (ignoring him) An amusement park. A doctor’s office. An operating room.
Man in audience: A urinal!!
Actor: (still ignoring him) Betsy Ross’ sewing room. The deck of the Titanic. A hamster cage.
Man in crowd: Someone farting!
Actor: (ignoring him again while cocking a hand to his ear) I think I heard someone call out “A basketball court!”
The unfortunate man in the audience really felt as though he was the first person in the history of comedy to think of toilet humor. I’m sure he envisioned the audience hoisting him upon their shoulders and celebrating him as the great wit of his generation. The Noel Coward of gastrointestinal-based comedy.

But what I remember most about my time at Second City is that I witnessed some of the best acting and storytelling I’d ever seen. When I was in acting school, we wrote off our comedy improv class as a silly, albeit entertaining, diversion from the much meatier works of Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. But what I discovered at Second City was that the best improvisers are also the most profoundly adept actors. And why? Because they are always listening and reacting. They stay “in the moment” – so their reactions are always honest and believable. Some of our most renowned actors, including Bill Murray, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Alan Alda, Ed Asner, Alan Arkin, John Candy, Catherine O’Hara, Andrea Martin, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Mike Myers and Martin Short – as well as my friends Rachel Dratch and Tina Fey – were trained at the Second City. I spent four years there in the 1990s – and met some of the most incredibly funny, kind, giving and generous folks I’ve ever known. Unlike so many, I didn’t seek out a job there, but came onboard thanks to my friend Jeff Richmond, who directed many of their main stage and ETC productions. At first it just seemed like any other gig – and I honestly just did it for the paycheck. But I quickly discovered that what they do is truly an art form – and I had fallen, bass ackwards, into one of the most profoundly life-changing experiences I would ever know.

Year In Review

Highlights of 2016, Looking into 2017… and a BIG announcement!

by Mike Miller, President & CEO

This has been one of the most exciting and expansive years in my history with the Renaissance, and it’s all thanks to our incredible staff, board, volunteers, donors, and patrons! We have truly got the best team of people working together to bring outstanding arts and culture to Mansfield, and I am proud to be a part of it.

This year, the Renaissance has reduced its total debt down to $150,000, down from $1.2 million when I took the helm in 2010. We’ve done this through streamlining our operations and programming, fundraising for debt reduction, and improving our business practices. We want the Renaissance to exist in Mansfield forever, and adopting a sustainable business model and operating within our means was critical, and we couldn’t have done it without our incredible team.

Another highlight for the Renaissance was Michael Thomas’ original production of Hot Mess: The Musical. Never before have we sold out a production before it even opened, but that was the case with this hysterical new musical that showcases Michael’s adept skill for musical comedy. Even more exciting, renowned Broadway producer Cameron Mackintosh has taken interest in the production and we will be taking our cast to workshop it in New York City in April 2017, following our spring revival of the production on our stage in Mansfield. We couldn’t be more excited for our artists at the Renaissance!

Our Mansfield Symphony conductor search has been a remarkable process, with over 100 outstanding applicants from all over the world for the position of music director! This speaks to the quality and reputation of our orchestra to have such a wealth of individuals vying for the position. Having the opportunity to showcase three of those conductors on our stage this season has already been a treat for our community.

And now for the big announcement…!!!

For me, one of the most exciting things of 2016 is only first being publicly announced right now, and that is our acquisition of a 15,000 square foot building at 166 Park Avenue West. Despite our large building, we have so many educational programs, performance groups, ensembles, and productions rehearsing in our space that we are constantly running out of usable rehearsal and performance spaces in our building. When we approached our board about a building that was for sale by the Richland County Land Bank for $89.00, but required $150,000 in work just to make it usable, rather than back away our board ran in and raised and supplied the funds in 10 days, fully funded through cash and in-kind donations. In particular, massive thanks go to Bill Hope of Alumni Roofing for providing a new roof for the building, and Ary Van Harlingen of Shaw Ott Medical and his team for remediating the extensive mold in the building and gutting it, as well as one anonymous funder.

Over the coming months we’ll talk a lot more about this space with you. We’ll be conducting a feasibility study, thanks to support from the Richland County Foundation, in order to determine what the community needs from this space. We know we’d like to see more rehearsal space, a more intimate performance space, and education classrooms. Keep your eyes open for a lot more conversation about this space soon. If you’d like to hear just a little more, you can listen to the Renaissance Podcast episode the Chairman of our Board, Rand Smith, and I released this week.

The Renaissance is committed to being the cultural hub for our community. We are energized by the partnerships we’ve formed with our region’s non-profits and we are delighted by the support we continually receive to keep our program vibrant and expanding. Thank you for making this the greatest job on earth.

Mansfield Symphony Cellist photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

What to Expect When You Come to the Symphony

by Colleen Cook and Chelsie Thompson

Something we hear from our patrons a lot is that one of the reasons they hesitate to come to a symphony concert is because, well, they just don’t know what to expect. Doing new things can be intimidating, especially if your perception of the experience is outside of your comfort zone.

So, here are some answers to some of the frequently asked questions about attending a symphony concert:

What should I expect?

Expect that you’re in for a treat! If this is your very first symphony concert, you might be a little nervous because this is all new to you, but that’s okay – you’ll soon realize that your role as an audience member is one of the best: to sit back, relax, and enjoy the experience. After all, the orchestra is playing this concert for you.

What should I be paying attention to?

Notice the beat of the music, and the way the tunes make you feel.Let your thoughts go, and instead, allow yourself to simply focus on what you hear. For just a couple of hours, you can pretend that there is nothing else in the world except the musical moment that you are experiencing at the time.
Here are a few things to look for:

    • The bows that the string sections use to play will always be moving in the same direction within their section.
    • Woodwinds will be adjusting their instruments and reeds, perhaps changing out their instrument to a smaller or larger model to play higher or lower notes.
    • The percussionists will be moving from instrument to instrument and changing the mallets that they use to play each one, with the timpanist occasionally tapping the drums lightly while holding his ear to them to make sure they are in tune.
    • The brass will be emptying their spit valves – yes, this happens, although any brass player will confirm to you that the “spit” is actually condensation that builds up in the instrument as they blow air through it. The French horns will be the most noticeable in this, as they are notorious for annoying their fellow brass players by purposely emptying up to ten slides in a row.
    • After solos, you might see the string players tap their bows lightly on their stand or the wind players tap their foot on the ground, or hand on their knee, to show their appreciation to the soloist during the music.

What do I wear?

Well, what do you like to wear? There’s no dress code for the symphony, so you’ll see everything from jeans and tees to cocktail dresses and suits. Going to the symphony is all about experiencing the magic of a live orchestra, so you might even notice that the orchestra dresses in all black so as not to draw your attention away from the music. Wear something that’s comfortable to you, and feel free to dress up as you see fit.

Where do I park?

You’re in luck – the Renaissance Theatre, which is the Mansfield Symphony’s home, has its own large parking lot, which connects directly to the back main entrance of the theatre (you can’t miss it – you’ll see four glass doors marked “Theatre Entrance” on your right as you walk towards the building). On busy nights, you may end up in one of our secondary lots: the two adjacent lots just West of the Ren on Park Avenue, and the gravel lot behind the main parking lot, next to the Sons of Italy building. You might also find parking on the streets in front of and behind the theatre.

Will it be interesting to watch?

There’s quite a bit going on during a symphony concert, which can have anywhere from 60 to 100 musicians onstage, so there’s plenty to see – in fact, when we add the chorus, the number of musicians onstage at one time can reach 170! The conductor is in command of all of these musicians at once, so his arms, hands, and the rest of his body are perpetually in motion to make sure that everyone is always on the same page.The musicians themselves are enjoying the music, too, so you’ll see some who are smiling, some with looks of intense concentration, and some moving to the beat.

Will I know any of the songs?

You might! You’ll probably know some of the music, and some of it will likely be new to you. Even if you don’t think that you are familiar with orchestral or classical music, chances are good that you hear it on a daily basis – it’s in commercials, movies, and in the background of radio ads. Since music speaks for itself, it’s used quite frequently to convey a mood or elicit an emotion in these formats. In fact, even current pop and hip-hop music often uses familiar melodies from classical pieces. Don’t believe us? Check out this list of just 25 of them on ClassicFM. (In case it isn’t obvious, our personal favorite is Nas + Beethoven).

Who are the musicians?

The Mansfield Symphony is an exceptional group of professional musicians from right here in Mansfield, as well as Cleveland, Columbus, and everywhere in between. They are professional musicians, music teachers, graphic designers, college professors, managerial professionals, and even music students who are currently completing their Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees. They are all different in many ways, but one thing they have in common is that they love to play music for you, the audience.

Will anyone be singing?

We have a fantastic chorus, and they do accompany the orchestra on a few different occasions each year – the Holiday Pops is a perennial favorite, and we often perform at least one additional large-scale work each year that features our talented vocalists. In addition, the Mansfield Symphony Chorus is active in the community, performing an annual “Sing Out! Choral Extravaganza” with several area schools each fall – and this year, the chorus will perform their inaugural “Sing into Spring” concert in April. Shameless plug: if you love to sing, then this is the group for you!

Can I bring my children? Will they like it?

Children are always welcome at the symphony, but you’ll find that some concerts are better than others. Many regular season symphony concerts are almost two hours long, which can be hard for the little ones to sit through without getting antsy and distracting your fellow audience members and musicians. Concerts with lots of extra action onstage (like the Holiday Pops concerts)are a great first symphony experience for the family, as the multimedia and interactive aspects offer more to catch kids’ eyes and keep them engaged.

You can also give us a call to ask whether a specific concert might be okay for kids – we can give you some insight on the music and length of the concert that may help you make your decision. And if you’re still not sure, why not try out our interactive Teddy Bear Concerts with members of the Mansfield Symphony? These concerts are slated for afternoons three times each season, and offer a small group or soloist from the MSO accompanying an original story or children’s activity.

When should I clap?

Okay, this is a very common question, with good reason! After all, no one wants to be “that guy” that clapped at the wrong time. There are a few easy spots to remember:

  • At the beginning of the concert, the Concertmaster (a.k.a. the first chair violin) will enter the stage to tune the orchestra. As he or she enters, clap to welcome him or her.
  • When the orchestra is done tuning and the Concertmaster sits down, the Conductor will enter the stage, so you’ll clap to welcome him or her as well.
  • If there is a soloist, they will enter the stage when the orchestra is ready to play their piece, and the audience claps at that time.

It is also appropriate to applaud at the end of each piece – and this can be a little tricky, since some of the songs you’ll hear have multiple parts, which are called “movements.” The movements are listed in the program, and the orchestra and conductor prefer that the audience does not clap between movements, as they need that time to concentrate on the next part of their music.

A good rule of thumb is to watch the conductor: the conductor will turn around when it’s time to applaud. If the conductor’s hands are still in the air, or is still facing the orchestra, then most likely they’re still concentrating and need quiet. When the conductor’s hands drop, and he or she turns to face the audience, the orchestra is ready to hear your appreciation and applause. If ever in doubt, just hang back a bit – regular symphony-goers will help you know what to do by starting the applause at the right time.

How do I buy tickets?

Easy-peasy: you can purchase tickets through the Renaissance Box Office by calling (419) 522-2726, or visiting in person. The Box Office is open 12-5 Tuesday through Friday, and 2 hours before every show, but you can purchase online anytime.

We hope this is a helpful guide for any symphony-goer. Did we miss your question? Comment below and we’ll happily answer you! If you’d like to see what performances are upcoming in our Mansfield Symphony’s season, you can find that out right here.