Stillpointe Theatre: Love and Magic
Ryan Haase, Artistic Director
Katie O. Solomon, Assistant Artistic Director
Danielle Robinette, Managing Director
Charlie Long, Production Manager
Amanda Rife, Head of Marketing and Media
Stillpointe Theatre Initiative is a group of artists committed to the birth and rebirth of all art forms. By conceiving fresh ideas with new composers, film makers, choreographers, and visual artist, as well as reinterpreting old ideas in new mediums, Stillpointe Theatre Initiative drives to create completely unique, groundbreaking, and inspiring pieces of theatre performance.
They went to Towson University together. They adhere to an older school 20th Century American theater aesthetic. They love, trust and care for each other. They believe in and strive to magic. Some of them live together, which means that talking about a show doesn’t end with rehearsal. They talk about the meaning of the story and opportunities to make production magic endlessly.
Their first year together they didn’t have media in the house to distract them, so they wrote a play, Shovel in the Dirt to entertain themselves, and it was a hit. They’re not going anywhere but up, so get used to hearing their name.
Enjoy their story.
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Peter: If creating Stillpointe was a solution, what was the problem?
Charlie: Working for other people. Having something that’s your own and being able to create what you want with a great group of people that think alike and share the same aesthetic.
Katie: There wasn’t enough magic in the work we were doing for others. All of us believe in magic, daily, and in every thing that we do, and we were ready to bring it in anyway that we could for people who like theater.
Danielle: I got advice in college that if the work isn’t there then you have to create it. We’ve done work (together, but for others) and we’d find ourselves after a rehearsal being like, wouldn’t it be great if we could take this show and make it the way we see it. We’re so kindred in what we love and hate and are tasked with. The problem was that we weren’t getting to do what we knew we were capable of. The problem was Stillpointe didn’t exist! We didn’t create the solution. The solution found us.
Peter: It was waiting for y’all to arrive.
Danielle: Yeah. It fills a gap. Not necessarily a gap that was missing in the city, but a gap that was missing in our own lives. We were working so hard, working with other companies to put out work that we physically just weren’t excited by. If you’re not going to be making money off of it you have to at least enjoy it.
Ryan: I also think the audience needs a fun escape. With every show, we’re providing them with an escape, as much as possible. They need that, to live in a dream for an hour or two. We create the dream world they can escape to.
Peter: Is there a StillPointe concept?
Ryan: We have a very old aesthetic.
Peter: What do you mean by that?
Ryan: We gravitate towards the charm of what theater was. And making it a little bit more modern in how we present it to an audience. We like seeing the strings. The idea of what theater was when it was this glamorous thing, and the life that people were living then. I wish I was living that life. We want to live back then. I want to live when Sondheim was first writing. That’s our aesthetic. There are some people we look up to, as a group, and the best way of living up to them is presenting their work. We’re not trying to show something new, or try to prove anything. We just want everyone to see shows they haven’t seen yet…but may have heard of, likeOklahoma. I think every hipster should seeOklahomaat least once. It was done with panache and I want to provide that for people.
Peter: How did you come by the name, StillPointe?
Danielle: The definition of it is the end of a breath and the beginning of a new one–the space in between breaths. It was my favorite word. It just stuck in my head. When we were sitting around coming up with what we were going to call this, I threw out still point. We thought about it and how it is this kind of moment. So, it’s this place where there’s so much possibility…raw kinetic stuff happening. We strive, now, to create these still point moments in our shows where you are suspended between breaths.
Peter: What do you think makes your theater unique inBaltimore’s emerging theater space?
Katie: We work with a lot of different artists; musicians, different types of musicians, different types of visual artists…there’s a reason why we’re not a company. We’re the Stillpointe Theatre Initiative because we didn’t want to be just the 5 of us. People come in and out of your lives in amazing ways. You meet someone and they like film and you’re interested in doing film and all of a sudden we’re using film in this new theater piece. The same thing with music. What makes us different is that we’re always changing out the colors of why we’re using what, and who and how. That’s different with every show.
Ryan: Also our attention to detail really sets us apart from a lot of other companies in the city. I know it’s hard to have the money to go there with set designs. Luckily what I do for a living, I have a lot of connections that I work for, and I get to pull from a lot of amazing places and bring in all these amazing people. I think our attention to detail really separates us from a lot of other companies. You can go and see an amazing show on a black stage but we would never do that. We would do Twelve Angry Men in psychedelic colors! Our thing is making sure that even if no one even walked out on stage the audience would say, at least, “Well that looked awesome!”
Danielle: Part of our mission states that we are committed to the birth and rebirth of all art forms. Doing a show like Arsenic and Old Lace, any play, you can throw a concept on it and it can be something, if it’s done in a respectful way–and change people’s perspective of what they thought they knew something was. We’re not afraid to do the old things. We knew before Arsenic and Old Lace that people would either love it or hate it. You know the show, and love the sweet innocence of it, or you don’t know it. You don’t know it and you see ours and talk about it for days. You do know it and maybe you think we raped it. This is a great city to have that freedom in. It’s a cradle for artists. We’ve been embraced.
Peter: As a group, how do you make decisions?
Amanda: Ryan is the Artistic Director and he keeps the ball rolling. We call a company meeting and throw out ideas and run with the strong ones. It’s a collaborative process. We all come from really different walks of life. We each get to bring our selves to each show. All those nuances make up a community.
Peter: Whose idea was Arsenic and Old Lace?
Danielle: Franzia box wine I think, maybe Jim Beam.
Ryan: I said we should start our season with something everyone knows, so we can make a lot of money, so we can do the next show that no one knows. I was like, I had a blast with this in high school, and Danielle was like, me too, wouldn’t it be cool if we got to do it again! And we were like—We’re doing it now!
Danielle: What were some others we kicked around?
Ryan: You Can’t Take It With You
Katie: I love You Can’t Take It With You!
Ryan: Harvey. The decisions are usually based on the space. We saw Eduardo’s space (Gallery 788) in Sowebo, then moved to this other space and we did Country Wife there. The decisions also come from what our audiences like. They like us being silly. I think our company is a bunch of hams. And the people we work with are hams. Every time we do a show it’s very hammy, and it goes over very well.
Peter: You’re very consistent about that. No one is way up here leaving the rest behind. That’s part of the charm.
Katie: Thank you. We don’t allow each other to be anything less than our best. Everything comes from a place of love and to make the whole thing better. Love for the work. Love for each other, and love forBaltimore.
Theresa Keil: It’s obvious.
Peter: When people ask what Stillpointe is about, what do you say?
Amanda: For us it’s about indulgences, ourselves and the audiences. You want to walk into a place and see something beautiful.
Katie: We get the question a lot. I say, we’re a theater company of very close friends who create magic in found spaces.
Peter: An elegant statement.
Katie: It’s taken me 2 years to create it!
Danielle: Mine uses the phrase that we’re living cartoons, which I really enjoy. I hesitate to say, this, but, we make theater for non theater people. We utilize these non theatrical spaces. And our ability to throw a hell of a party. Oh, here’s this beautiful space, and I’m enjoying myself, oh a glass of wine—don’t mind if I do. Look! A play’s happening! Versus sit down shut up theater.
Peter: Is there a core belief that holds it all together?
Charlie: The magic we create that happens between all of us. For me, one of our core beliefs, something that keeps me going, for example, was when the door when down in Shovel In The Dirt. When it fell everyone was like, “Oh My God, I didn’t know that was going to happen!” Whatever the show is there’s always this magic we get from our love for older theater.
Ryan: I think we make theater for the everyman, but we do it with sophistication that usually only people who go a show at Center Stage get. Who knew I’d pay so small a ticket price and see something so spectacular? You want people to walk away and feel like that was for them. That’s our thing.
Peter: Why the current play, Return of the 5th Sister (by Kimberly Lynne)? It’s new, not older, and it’s local, not the canon.
Katie: We really love Kimberly Lynne. It’s a beautiful piece. The play is about people who love each other, desperately. There are five people at this table who desperately love each other. We don’t get to indulge that often. We’re always working. The idea of a family, people who will be there for years—we’ve know each other for years—it’s important. 5th Sister touches on that. To be present in each others lives. I think that may have resonated with all of us when we read the script.
Danielle: It’s a feminist play that speaks to more than just “the struggle,” but freedom of self. To do something like this around the holiday is weird but I think it kind of fits perfectly, this family that bands together.
Ryan: The other thing is that when we write our own shows we can say, “Oh, the ceiling will fall down.” And when you get into tech we can say, “Oh, that’s not going to happen.” With this show it pushed us technically. We didn’t write it, and the playwright is in the room to make sure it happens. In this show the corn moves and hair hangs in front of windows, and the stress of figuring that out was also exhilarating when we figured out how to do it. This show was a challenge that came at our 2 year mark. We transformed the space in 8 days! It’s one of the most beautiful shows we’ve put together and it was because we were challenged.
Peter: The pictures (on Facebook) are compelling and the set is gorgeous. I can’t wait to see it tonight.
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I saw the show later that evening. I loved the script, enjoyed the performances and admired the production. It was smart, funny, sweet, touching, and, yes…magical. The back of the EMP space was ideal for it. I couldn’t tell where the space ended and the set began. One actor was so good I couldn’t tell she was acting. Go see high quality theater delivered by local talent. They deserve it and so do you.
Stillpointe Theatre Initiatives production of The Return of the 5th Sister is in its final weekend. Click here to purchase tickets.