Where it all began…a look back one year later

If we consider our inaugural summer season the physical birth of our company, April 7, 2009 is our date of conception (wrap your mind around that image).

First, a little back story: Ben Wilson wrote a play called GOD BRIDGE and presented it with a staged reading in December of ’08. It stuck with me. I love it. Several months later I sat down with Ben at the Alterra on Prospect and talk about the idea of producing the play sometime in the summer.

Now, somewhere around this time I had spoken with both Andrew Voss and Tess Cinpinski and learned that both of them were thinking about plays they would like to produce. So when I sat down with Ben, we not only discussed the idea of launching his play, but building a larger summer festival in town consisting of the plays Andrew and Tess were looking at. This is the email I sent them that night, with commentary by yours truly:

From: “Michael Cotey”
To: “Benjamin Wilson”, “Andrew Voss”, “Tess Cinpinski”
Sent: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 8:27:32 PM GMT -06:00 US/Canada Central
Subject: Whatcha doin this summer? How about some theatre?

Hey everybody,

So, I just had coffee with Ben like 20min ago and we had a long discussion about doing a summer theatre festival-ish thing this summer.

Here’s the concept: 3-4 productions, loosely connected by the people involved, all going on at approximately the same time frame this summer.  Ideally, these productions would be performed environmentally or in found spaces (to curb theatre costs and to bring some unique theatre).

Well, only one of our three productions ended up being performed in a found space. SAVAGE IN LIMBO was performed in the side bar at Landmark Lanes. After trying to find an appropriate bridge to perform under or around, we decided it would be best if we gave Ben’s new play GOD BRIDGE a proper debut in a theatre. We chose the Kenilworth Studio Theatre for it. With DAVID’S REDHAIRED DEATH, we realized that tech was going to be crucial to the storytelling and ended up performing it in the Studio Theatre on the UWM campus proper.

The reason why I emailed only you three is that each of you specifically has a project in mind that you’d like to see produced.  For Ben, it’s his own play that he’s written.  And forgive me for this, but I’ve forgot exactly what you had in mind Voss and the exact play you mentioned Tess.

Yes, I had completely forgotten what the other two plays were. Voss’ project was John Patrick Shanley’s SAVAGE IN LIMBO. Tess’ project was Sherry Kramer’s DAVID’S REDHAIRED DEATH.

The point is, the three of you are really sold on three different shows and, pending my availability, I might be able to round out a 4th production.

This was very important. If Tess, Voss, or Ben not been so committed to their project individually, I doubt we would have come together in the end. It’s one of those situations where you either take action or might as well meet same time next year to talk about the good idea you have that you’d like to do “sometime.”

“Pending my availability.” I had the opportunity to audition for a company that would have taken me our of Milwaukee for the summer. In the end, I decided that we had a pretty solid thing cooking here and stuck around to see it through. We never did do a 4th production, because I ended up playing a much larger part in GOD BRIDGE than I had expected. The play I would have brought to the table is still on the back-burner and one I’d love to do sometime. “What is it?” you ask. Well, I can’t share all our secrets, can I?

If you guys are interested in continuing this conversation further, I suggest we meet at the Alterra prospect @ 6:30-7:00ish on Friday to talk about this idea more.

And they were interested in continuing the conversation further. Like all great ideas, our company was born over some freshly brewed Alterra coffee (hey, free advertising!).

Between now and then, each of you should email all here and tell us more specifically about the PROJECT you have in mind and whatever ideas or specifics you have.

Let me know if Friday works (I picked that day because of my rehearsal schedule and next available day).

Thanks.  Look forward to hearing from you soon.


…And that was that. Add Rich Gillard into the mix and we found ourselves a founding company. Though we didn’t originally consider this a company, but a onetime summer theatrefest. In fact, our original proposals to UWM for use of their space had something lame at the top like “Summer Theatrefest.” Might as well have put “insert title here” at the top. So, yes, in our search for a groovy name we formed a company. It really is pretty absurd when you write it all down.

We ended up scribbling out a list of 30 names, one of which someone had already called dibs on for a future project. I turned to my main source of inspiration in my life: comic books. One Wikipedia search later I’ve decided that, while the Justice League, X-Men, and Fantastic Four would all make for terrible theatre names (and probably bring about a whirlwind of litigation), Youngblood would not only A) sound pretty awesome but B) say something about who we are and our mission.

And…that’s pretty much it. Really, this is all pretty random when you spell it out. 5 (basically) acquaintances, 3 random plays, 1 name from a comic book, a partridge in a pair tree, and we’ve created a theatre company.

Now a year later, we’ve produced 4 full-blown productions (with one on the way…stay tuned), participated in an international theatrical event (THE LARAMIRE PROJECT: TEN YEARS LATER), and survived the near death of one of our co-founder (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, Google “Youngblood” + “WTF”).

I’d say it’s been a pretty good year, all things considered! You know what’s the best part about it? It’s only the beginning.

Thanks for amusing me by reading these ramblings. To Ben, Tess, Voss, and Rich: Happy Anniversary!



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