If you work in the world of improv comedy, you need space to stretch and spread your wings, as you never know in which position you may find yourself – literally. Working as part of a comedy troupe, camaraderie and collaboration is essential to the creative element, and so is having a place in which to work.
Perhaps nobody knows this better than Halfhandsome, a St. John’s-based sketch comedy/theatre troupe. This past winter, 10 writers with the troupe gathered in a large downtown boardroom over two weeks to brainstorm material for a new production. The result was “Almost Baymous,” a two-hour theatrical revue-style comedy show that ran for several nights at the Arts & Culture Centre’s Barbara Barrett Theatre.
The boardroom, provided by Martek, in partnership with Business & Arts NL, helped the writing team to flex their creative muscles and up their productivity says Andrew Tremblett, one of the producers of Halfhandsome.
“By the end of the first weekend, we had about 80 sketches pitched and placed against the boardroom wall. We then broke it down into 30 sketches, and between all of us, we’d write a couple each. The next weekend, we shared our first drafts through table reads and notes. Then came the editing. By the time we finished up with Martek’s facility, we had 20 sketches that were ready to be rehearsed,” he says.
“As an artist, a space to figure out what exactly you want to say is almost as important as the speech itself. It’s in here that we used critical thinking to explore our world. We talked about our city and our age, and in that room we created a pretty good piece of satire.”
To his surprise, Tremblett says, “Almost Baymous” sold out every night. The production, he adds, gave a few hundred young Newfoundlanders the chance to experience something that spoke to their thoughts and feelings.
“As artists, this partnership helped us put off a production but in the bigger picture, it did more than that. Martek and Business & Arts NL, with giving us this room, allowed us to reach out to people ages 18-35 and show them something that they related to.”
Duncan Whitcomb, Manager of Commercial Leasing and Sales with Martek Morgan Finch Inc., says the company tries to accommodate, as best they can, the many requests for space they receive. Supporting artists, he adds, benefits not just the arts community, but the city as a whole.
“We really think that it’s important for the city of St. John’s to have good arts and culture. And we’re fortunate enough to be able to provide space to people, and for a good cause,” he says.
“I just think it’s important to be a good steward. And if you’re fortunate enough to have a space, a place that you can donate, that would add to the vibrancy of St. John’s, and particularly downtown St. John’s, I don’t see any reason why somebody shouldn’t take that on.”
If you are a member of the business community and are interested in volunteering in-kind space to artists/arts groups on a temporary, short-term basis, please contact Program Director Bryhanna Greenough at email@example.com.