The Coffeehouse that serves no coffee

Jan 14, 2010   //   by Alida   //   Career, Creative Discontent, School  //  No Comments

By the time December 18 hit, I was pretty ready to be finished with school. I’ve loved it, but it’s been a long few years, made even longer by the fact that Colin and I were doing long-distance through the entire thing. No matter how ready I am to move on, though, there are always those things that are hard to leave behind. Things I wish I had a bit more time with.

Besides the obvious — friends, In-n-Out, my Starbucks employee discount, and the weather — it was hardest to leave behind the Coffeehouse Theater. I’d spent three semesters as resident producer, along with my good friend Michael, and if there’s one thing I wish I’d had more time to work on and leave my mark on, that was it.

The Coffeehouse is one of CalArts’ performance spaces, unique in the fact that it’s the only student-driven, student-programmed space. We were really a presenting venue, and Michael and I had the responsibility (along with a committee of about 10 students) of programming the space according to our vision; working with presenting artists; and creating a cohesive brand for the Coffeehouse, encompassing a very diverse range of performance styles and disciplines.

At the risk of bragging, we’ve brought the Coffeehouse a long way in the past 2 years, and Kat and Laura, the producers coming in after us, will have a strong foundation to build on. We’ve streamlined the submission process, created a website, expanded the scope to include work from all 6 schools at CalArts, commissioned a logo, built a brand, and made the Coffeehouse a viable Place To Do Work, which it really wasn’t before. And it’s been fun. There have been moments of frustration, but overall, it was a great job — a chance to actually have a say in the aesthetic growth of a presenting organization.

And, to be honest, I’m a little jealous that they get such a great foundation to build on. I’d have liked to have spent another year developing the Coffeehouse, continuing to move forward with some of the ideas and dreams that Michael and I have had for the space. But that’s the nature of a student job, I guess. We’re there for a very finite amount of time, and we do what we can and then hand it over to someone else who will do what they can and then hand it off to someone else altogether.

It reminded me how much I love long-term, organizational planning, though. I love the process of planning and dreaming for an organization’s growth over 5 or 10 years, breaking that down into steps, and figuring out how best to make the process effective. Even though, as I said in my last entry, I’m looking forward to doing some freelance projects for a while, I also realize that my big-picture job needs to be somewhere with the opportunity to create — or recreate — an organization.

One-off productions are a lot of fun, but there’s something special about finishing a show and being the one to stick around and plan for the next time, rather than being the one to finish the show and move on to the next project.

But in the meantime, I suppose I need to get myself out there as a freelancer, don’t I?

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