By Perry Tannenbaum
With the closing of Citizens of the Universe, there’s a lot more to unpack besides the daring of its founder, James Cartee, the history of his company, and the multiple finales he has planned between now and December. COTU’s end isn’t the same as the flameouts of Charlotte Repertory Theatre and Carolina Actors Studio Theatre (CAST), but it’s symptomatic of the Charlotte theatre scene.
So here’s the full, edited Cartee interview – with more of the drive, the difficulties, and the vision that made COTU go, more lessons and highlights, and the lowdown on why Cartee is leaving.
Perry T: How, when, and where did Citizens of the Universe begin?
James Cartee: COTU got its start back in 2001 in Greenville, SC. I had washed up there after a few years of gallivanting about the planet and discovered some of my fellow university droogs had come ashore there as well. I hadn’t actually been on stage or doing “true theatre work” at the time. I had taken a 3-year break from theatre after a disastrous performance of Complete Works of William Shakespeare (a show where I also worked props) at Centre Stage South Carolina.
Some of my fellow compatriots thought it’d be a gas to lace a snack they gave me with acid before a show. All I care to say about that is: I didn’t care for the joke and I didn’t want to have anything to do with theatre for 3 years. But after three years – you get that itch.
The only problem was that in Greenville at the time there were no parts for a 20-year-old. I teamed up with a college friend of mine, Andrew Bryant, who was also feeling the need for theatre and having the same issues I was – too old for the kid stuff, too young for everything else.
We had run into each other randomly and it always ended the same way – with us bitching about there being a need for diversity in our local theatre. One night – over a bit too much rum – we agreed (more like dared each other) that we would put on a show. I’d been working in sports entertainment and due to an accident at the time, I decided that going back on stage was not in the cards.
Not being really available for the stage – I wanted to direct. I mean, come on! I did that one weird show in a college showcase, why not go for it again! I knew all we really needed was a space. I started looking.
A popular spot had been forced to move to a new location, so I went and pestered them. They had a stage, lights, and some sound so that part of my job would be done. Eventually, I conned this spot – owned and run by Kathy Laughlin, John and Stephen Jeter – into letting us use their new music hall, The Handlebar, for a weekend of one-acts. (http://www.handlebar-online.com)
Was there really a group of founding Citizens, or was it pretty much your one-man universe (with assorted stars and satellites) from the start? Where did the name come from?
Andrew and I buckled down and directed some David Ives one-acts. We decided we would each direct our shows under competing company names for some reason that I have now forgotten. His was Lightbringer Industries, and mine – ‘cause I had actually forgot about this until the day we had to print programs – was from a line in a play I was directing.
In that show, “Sure Thing,” a guy tries to pick up a girl, and each time he fails, there is a bell and the scene restarts. At one point, he stands and declares himself – A CITIZEN OF THE UNIVERSE. A girl I fancied at the time liked it and I needed a name on the fly so we went with that.
We opened September 13th… 2001. That show was what I would call a success – for what it was. We as a group decided to do another weekend. After that, Andrew and I decided to do another show – Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead – where I would direct and he would star.
Somehow I conned the Handlebar into letting us use their space again. Since I was directing, we did it under the moniker of COTU. We pulled about 250 people per show for three days, mainly due to our connections with the local high schools who were smack dab in the middle of Hamlet studies.
Andrew and I started this, but after R&G, Dan A. R. Kelly, Traysie Amick (both fellow alumni chums) and another theatre local by the name of Jason Bryant (no relation to Andrew) concluded there was a market for our fledging idea. We formed up and became – the Citizens of the Universe. Mainly ‘cause we already had two shows with that name attached to it.
I’ve used the moniker wherever I plop down and do some shows, including with friends down in Orlando. They still run a theatre to this day, not COTU but affiliated.
Did you even start out with an implicit or explicit mission – if so, what?
At first, what we wanted was to provide a place for thespians between the ages of 20 and 40 to have a chance to explore theatre in Greenville, SC. It was to be an outlet for our original work and a test lab to help us learn/relearn/unlearn/hone what we had kinda been taught in college or a chance to have a go at something we didn’t know at all.
Now here, there was no plan. No mission – just go out and do shows. I took on a mission after a time because I’m weird like that, but here in Charlotte we started off doing shows just to do them.
Was there a special niche that your company was intended to fill?
We wanted an alternative to the Harvey, Brigadoons, and 1776’s that played on repeat in Greenville. You had the Warehouse Theatre, which was playing it safe at the time to secure dollars as they transitioned into a more professional theatre.
We wanted to be a dirty, gritty theatre who could perform anywhere at any time. We wanted to be fringe but we were too stupid at the time to consider ourselves that. Greenville didn’t know what to do with us – we actually got a show banned because of Bob Jones – Creation of the World and Other Business by Arthur Miller. The reason they objected to that show was that Jesus was being played by a black man. Meanwhile, across downtown… because we were running two shows at the same time, I was having a guy jack off on another guy dressed as a horse – in a horse stable – while doing Equus. No one said one damn word about it.
My favorite moment from that time was when Doug McCoy of Center Stage waltzed over to our table at the Stax Omega Restaurant – this man trained me in high school, so we were old friends – and told us our little theatre was cute. That he enjoyed our show, but if we really wanted to do theatre to come work for him.
I love that old queen – god rest his soul – but he was one of the reasons why we were doing what we were doing. His theatre was the most “out there theatre” in town, and they were doing Li’l Abner and Company. To be fair, they also did Wit and As Bees in Honey Drown that year.
Here in Charlotte, I wanted to fill the gap of fringe theatre. There wasn’t any here. Some would say there still isn’t. I didn’t set out to mainly do films on stage but that is what brought people – brand new audience members – in. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone walk up to me and say, “This was my first time for going to the theater. This was fantastic! Is all theatre like this?”
I’m not sure how many theatres will squish a toy bird filled with jello on your sir, but sure. All theatre is like this – go see some!
This is something we sorely need more of here. So, I guess you can say I fell into it.
You’ve presented theatre in other places before you came to Charlotte, and you surely have presented theatre in a lot of different places in Charlotte. So what’s with the Gypsy wandering?
The best education in life is travel. If you have the opportunity, go everywhere. I love seeing life and the world… which stands in contrast to the other side of my mask that wants to turn this planet into a new asteroid belt.
I’ve never felt at home anywhere, personally, except behind the wheel of whatever I’m driving across country. That being said, I’ve always been drawn to Charlotte for some damn reason I can’t quite identify. I love the South… I was born here. It’s in my blood. I also love old New York… pre-Giuliani and Buzzard’s Bay in Massachusetts and Amsterdam and Sidney and Denpasar and Biscayne Beach.
I’ve been a part of many circuses as a clown/fool/jester/mascot. Meeting people, drinking, and having fun knowing that you’re gonna move on to a whole new crop of folk is exhilarating to me. I do have to say – this last go round as a Tortuga Twin did throw me for a twist.
I had just really come into my own here in Charlotte and what the fuck did I do? I went on the road for four years with a Ren fest group. It was a crossroads of ideas and I’m still not sure if my personal GPS gave me the best directions on that one.
As far as being a theatre without a home here in Charlotte. I find it makes me and my crews quick on our feet, able to adapt to problems quicker and – quite frankly – better than almost any other artistic group in the city practicing the craft of theatre. I can put on a show anywhere at any time.
That was something I wanted to do way back in 2001 and probably is born out of my commedia roots. Having a space is great, but I’m a poor honkey and poor honkeys don’t tend to keep theatre spaces. The good side of that is I don’t ever have to worry about going through what ATC [Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte] is going through. Or UpStage and those members of the LIT [League of Independent Theatres] who found themselves without a place to put up their works cheaply. Or Off Tryon or Barebones or any other of those many, many theatres out in the graveyard of Charlotte arts.
Not having a space to put up your spectacle is nonsense. You can put on a show in a parking lot. I fear many people here have a very narrow mind when it comes to how you do theatre.
That being said, it has become increasingly hard to do work here as we allow more and more things to be bulldozed to make way for people who may be coming or maybe not. Overall, it makes for a more resilient company in my opinion – one that doesn’t fold ‘cause you don’t know where you are going to hang your lights.
How and why did COTU resurface in Charlotte?
The Rocky Horror Show, drugs, Jim Yost, John Hartness, Chris O’Neill, Barbizon, the Milestone, two women, and you. It’s a complicated formula. The Rocky show I was lucky enough to play Riff Raff in for the Spartanburg Shoestring Players fully awoke the theatre diva in me.
Charlotte was rife with new theatres and great opportunities! I WANTED to be part of theatre, and this community beckoned. Where there was an inter-theatre softball game, tons of small theatres, Artbomb… the MTA and 24 theatre shows. It was a big city without the cost.
For a beleaguered soul like mine at the time, it was something that felt like “home,” so here I plopped. Especially since my girl at time needed some space. So why not move two hours away! It was then where I actually put in some time to begin being part of this community.
Jim Yost and John Hartness gave me my first opportunities. Over and above that, I worked with anyone who needed a hand and doing whatever needed to be done. It allowed me to do something on nearly every stage in town. Then – a lovesick fool – I left Charlotte to follow my heart’s desire to Yellowstone. (I put up a show there ‘cause I was bored.)
When that relationship – predictably – didn’t work out I ended up back in Greenville. Very shortly thereafter, I met a gal at a GWAR show here in Charlotte and it was love at first fake bloodbath. However, when her dealer was decapitated, I said, “I’m moving to Charlotte, wanna join me?”
Once back, I worked with every place I could find – again – while waving as Uncle Sam on the side of the road and giving numbskulls directions for OnStar. By then, the South End Performing Arts center was gone and with it so many of the small theatres that had been one of the main reasons for me being here in the first place. Then O’Neill restarted Shakespeare Carolina and John Hartness directed Hamlet.
During this time, Hartness gave me a tech job at Barbizon – which kept me here. THEN – your review of Hamlet enabled the director in me. When I left for Yellowstone, I had my pick of places to do work. By the time I got back less than a year later… there was virtually nothing. Queen City had not come into its own yet… Collaborative Arts was just starting out. There was OnQ starting to make its first push… Vickie Evans was on the outskirts of my radar…. But. There was no fringe.
Nothing was picking up the vacuum left by Barebones and Epic Arts and Innovative and … I can keep going. I mean, there was CAST… and that meant long rehearsal periods, and while the risk was there, there wasn’ t the excitement of being out in the element. They had no true grit!
Yeah, I just called CAST out for playing it safe. I mean – the worst show I have ever seen was produced at CAST – White Man Dancing. This bothered me – greatly (and not just that show!). The director in me said, “Fuck it – let’s get to work.” I still had all my old files and ideas.
Before Hamlet closed I had worked out a plan to do Trainspotting – the script I had been hunting for ten years – at the Milestone. A rather cold (it was winter at the Milestone), but monumental success.
Artistic creativity traditionally travels east to west where theatre is concerned, great Broadway comedies and dramas getting turned into movies. Traffic in the other direction usually involves adding musical scores to proven Hollywood hits. So where did you come up with the idea of adapting favorite films to the stage without layering on songs, music, and dance?
I chose Trainspotting because I fucking loved the film. I had read that it was play before it was a movie back in college but could never find a copy of the script. During Hamlet, I made a mission to find this play – not to put it on, just to find it. I did find it – in New Zealand. A limited press of four plays by Harry Gibson. It was an expensive book that I wish I still owned. (I drunkenly gave it away to… Matt Cosper?).
The play was fantastic and by Hamlet’s close, I already moved on putting it on stage. I had an idea to print color programs – and my gal at the time had come across a large set of expanded CD sets, which we stuffed with local band CD’s and songs that played throughout the show. In the aftermath, I “realized” people didn’t come to see the new kids on the block but to see Trainspotting.
So I decided to press the point. My thought was, if I can get people who have never been to see a theatrical show – or haven’t in years – I could trick them into seeing something they know. Hook ‘em! Then pull an Uncle Vanya on them. Open up the viewer pools, right? What I missed was, some of the people seeing Trainspotting were looking for the folks like the ones running Three Bone and Appalachian Creative.
They had no idea what to do with me. So I was alone in the theatre community again, but I was pulling people who didn’t attend Uncle Vanyas. Somehow, I stumbled into a niche. There IS a hungry audience who LOVE live performance, but they want stories they are familiar with.
Now on the song and dance bit. I hate musicals. For every Little Shop, you have 40 The Last Star Fighters. This whole trend of just putting shit out there that had some sort of film source material with a slapdash music behind it ‘cause that’s what people say the masses want – is shite. Utter shite. And it is reflected in what is on stage. Crap music… crappier adapted story. Maybe some good dancing and definitely great lighting, effects, and costumes.
You need those to hide the fact that the work sucks. Not the performances – in most cases – but the way the story is being retold. Take away all those bells and whistles – are you still telling a story or just bouncing from one song to the next? Personally, I feel you get more from the story without the song and dance.
There’s more nuisance to a play and it relates more to your audience. But just in case it doesn’t, sit in their laps while throwing vomit and shit at them. All I know is that I don’t want Mr. Blonde in Reservoir Dogs to do a whole musical number about cutting off a fucking ear. Fuck that. Cut the ear off and let the blood drip.
What I hope have been able to offer is for the viewer to move past what we can expect from a script we already know in one format and bring to light new aspects of those familiar moments. Eternal Sunshine, for example – I had quite a number of people tell me they hated the film but loved the stage show. It made them want to go back and watch the movie – making them rethink why they remembered the film in the first place.
If you added music to those, I feel it would lose resonance. I mean – I play up the comedy ‘cause I’m a hack, but even then, what I was hearing from a lot of our audiences was that what was on the page leaped out into life and grabbed you by the balls. Much more so than any song and dance or even on the screen.
How do you decide on which movies you want to stage, and what sort of difficulties do you encounter? Have there been instances of false starts, frustrating failures, forbidden rights, or just plain fuck-it’s-I’ve-changed-my-mind?
Trainspotting was a show I wanted to do ‘cause I loved the movie back in college. And the book I read after seeing the movie. After that, I thought to myself, what else is out there? That didn’t go very far because most translations just end up being fucking musicals.
It was like that until I focused on what I thought would be good to translate to stage, coupled with movies I liked or directors I was fond of and crosschecked that with books that had been turned into movies. I found that Fight Club had been done in Seattle and tracked it down. Tarantino [Reservoir Dogs] was another – but there is no book for him, just the movie script. That took a while to get any answers on, but several theatres have mounted that as a play, and I did research through them.
For a while, that was my method – finding out that another theatre had done a show somewhere in the world and pestering the crap out of them to find out how. Sometimes I made decisions by asking the social media world what it wanted to see. Adapting a script meant getting someone from a distribution company, the writer, and production teams to sign off on it.
That always means a mixture of editing and adapting. Some were easy – such as Night of the Living Dead (which is public domain), and others were…complex. Like Eternal. That script still needs another 20 pages chopped off.
There are those you can’t do – I desperately want to bring Nightmare Before Christmas and Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas to stage (both Disney. Anything Disney is off the table.) – and others that are way too much of a burden to bring to life. Like Clue. You have to ask Hasbro for the rights – but they say you need to get the rights from Paramount, who will tell you to talk to Universal… who tells you to talk to Hasbro.
Thing is, once you get Hasbro to sign off, Samuel French comes in and complains about the Cluedo script they have and demand that you pay royalties there as well – making the whole thing rather expensive or another protracted timeline between companies talking to one another.
But it has been done before. In fact- there is such a demand for the Clue script these days that I have been informed that they are attempting to make an official version that will be marketed out by HASBRO proper, removing Samuel French, Universal, and Paramount from the equation altogether.
I suspect as soon as that hits the market Theatre Charlotte will drop a pretty penny on it- unless ATC survives it’s current homelessness. There were some change-my-mind shows, like “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.” Desperately wanted to do that show but backed out of doing it for cost and space on the calendar.
You also encounter scams. I’ve been scammed by a company that didn’t have the proper rights and had to scuttle a show because of it right on the eve of opening. Frustrating as hell and puts a strain on the ole ticker.
Then there’s just bad scripts. Like Clockwork Orange. The official adaptation is terrible. Just plain terrible. That’s one where I was like “Fuck this script.” There are other versions but getting those have proven to be painstakingly hard.
There’s also the rare idea that doesn’t pan with available scripts- like M.A.S.H. and The Land of the People Who Do What They Want (better known as V for Vendetta). The MASH ideas would have involved using the local reserve for equipment, an uncle for a helicopter, and a local high school for a football field. You’d then follow the show in a living 4077 [hospital]. You could follow any character – a la Punchdrunk theatre style entertainment.
With V for Vendetta there was a translation issue – the play was in Norwegian… and my idea would have been a follow-the-show event much like Disturbance. The translating ended up being a bit too much to handle so I scuttled it.
There a few translations to stage out there I’ve heard of but never found except a new one – adapted by Sean Mason out of Manchester. I’ve already contacted him and he and I are talking about how I can bring it to the stage in the future for a US premiere.
Let me finish on one that is a movie but not why we were doing it: The Man in the Iron Mask. I wanted to do a big sword show since Princess Bride. Big swashbuckling scenes… I actually wrote a Pirate script that was awful. The concept was sound, but man – I couldn’t handle the story I was trying to write then.
I may go to work on it again soon – who knows? But when I approached Mandy Kendall with the big sword idea she jumped to her favorite writer – Dumas. I didn’t want a 3 Musketeers play and she suggested Iron Mask. We got to work, and I did most of the adapting of the script from the source material. A thoroughly fun adventure as I had never actually read any of the Musketeers stories.
What do you look back on as your best productions?
Trainspotting at Story Slam is perhaps the closest that came to the vision I had in my head to make it to the stage. The Milestone version had my widest scope of inclusion, like with local bands and such. Lion in Winter was a fantastic show and for me personally, I believe that is my best work.
As far as overall idea? Big Labowski, Princess Bride, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Which were the most fun to be involved in?
Disturbance in Whitechapel. It was a unique idea – for me at least. And running around setting up bodies, explaining what was going on to cops, getting spaces to let us do what we were doing, and actually researching/writing the damn thing was probably one of the most fun times I’ve ever had on a project. Second time through, I put up stage curtains on all the windows, bought a bunch of wine, and hunkered down in my Ripper cave for 48 hours.
Then again this list: Big Labowski, Princess Bride, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind all make the top as well.
Was Fight Club the ultimate nightmare, or was there worse?
Don’t get me wrong – Fight Club was a logistical nightmare. I kept losing spaces and Marlas… and there was that train and the rain…. but that was a cakewalk compared to having to deal with the Chop Shop during Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. Jay – the owner – is a wonderful guy, but he just doesn’t get what it takes to do theatre. Or be an audience member.
Often he would come in with someone and talk loudly during the show. He even did that one night at SEEDS during Lion in Winter. We all busted ass to get R&G together, and I broke down in the greenroom on our final night ‘cause he had been telling me about an hour before show that he was shutting us down at a certain time – mainly ‘cause the audiences weren’t that big for R&G.
He was being a dick about it, so I panicked. Tania Kelly, Megan Stegall, and I worked out a way to leapfrog through scenes to bring down the run time. Only problem is, and this is a good problem, the last night was standing room only. We packed the place. The look on his face when he walked in halfway through the first act – and during an entrance from that side – was priceless. We didn’t cut a single line and ran over about 5 minutes.
There have been other headaches. Most of those led to aborted shows, or debacles like the Queen City Fringe. Probably the most troublesome all around was a night when Colby Davis showed up drunk to a night of Eternal Sunshine during its second run. He continued to drink during the show and took some liberties on stage with the actresses that were never rehearsed. I’ve never had such a breakdown in cast trust and the resulting alienation before or since.
To this day, the decision not to replace him for the rest of the run has haunted me. It directly affected the show, the mindset of people working with me afterwards, and many of my personal relationships. It was a rookie directorial mistake and one I should have been more prepped for.
What are the best things that you’ve found about the Charlotte scene since your arrival in 2008 – and what has really pissed you off?
Well, here’s the thing. I’ve been popping in and out of Charlotte since 1995. When I moved here on this current run back in ‘05, I had a pretty rosy attitude about Charlotte and the theatre here. One of the best things about Charlotte is the ability to create and the amount that was being created. There was once a lot of places to put on shows. Not that there isn’t now – but once again, the days are gone when you could pick and choose from what was a healthy community.
Add to that the loss of so many buildings, plus the fact that everyone has become money-starved since around 2012, and that picture isn’t so great anymore. One of the cool things I’ve found out as of late is the hidden African American theatre here. There’s some great work going on there that doesn’t get a lot of press. I guess that’s true all around. Charlotte has an abundance of people who wish and want to create and want to play. That’s one of its best parts.
I don’t think we utilize that base well enough. The theatre community itself is very caring about the idea of theatre, but they have little want to present a united front to show the general public that we do indeed have a theatre community outside of touring shows.
As for what pisses me off? City Council. Toll lanes. Pat McCrory. The statement theatre is dead. The idea that in a city of 800,000 people, we don’t have a professional theatre. Even worse – that no one outside of the community seems to care. That that very same caring community dismisses people like myself when I’m warning of bullshit like what happened to ATC.
I started my own theatre column three years ago and have been bitching a lot on those pages about our inability to save our theatre groups. I’m pissed that our community is so dismissive of each other. That an organization like the LIT that claimed to be inclusive were immediately exclusive. I’m pissed that that mentality runs throughout the community. I dislike cliques even though I’m actually part of that problem myself.
I dislike that newcomers have a hard time getting a foot in the door. Theatre minds here rarely take a chance… and even when they do, it’s the safest option. I’m not saying be dangerous like those assholes at Chicago’s Profiles Theatre. There’s a difference between daring and dangerous.
When we had a chance to gather together to make a comprehensive plan for the theatres in town, we just let it die. I’m referring to the meeting that the A&S Council called at CAST. Had a great turnout. We separated into groups, met a few times and it became readily apparent that some people just didn’t want others to participate. To be a community, you have to be ready to accept everyone out there – mimes and all.
Nothing came of that whole shebang, and look where we are today. No CAST. ATC is not functioning. Most of the fringe groups have withered.
I have to say artistic morale is quite low, and it shouldn’t be. I have met so many wonderful and talented people here, and I want them all to be able to put up the work they want to make. That being said, there’s a lot more to be pissed about right now than happy, unless you’re doing theatre outside of Charlotte.
Do you think you’ve made an impact – and if so, how would you describe it?
Oh, yeah. I think I helped spur the last surge of storefront theatre. I remember going to work at the Children’s Theatre and talking with Matt Cosper about GONZO and Trainspotting. He said, “I want to do that. I wanna do what you do, Cartee.” Now if memory serves – he had been doing that a few years earlier. Actor’s Farm?
At any rate, as Fight Club was going up – Machine Theatre started its engines. Stephen Seay was starting his own group independently. I feel that between the three of us, we jumpstarted the small theatre scene. Seay was pulling in his demographic at Petra’s. Machine was getting a high five from the theatre community, and I was pumping the general public with shows like Reservoir Dogs.
2 or 3 years running, an actor who got their first Charlotte part by running into COTU auditions ended up becoming Newcomer of the Year. There are a multitude of folks who started at COTU who are now bigger parts of the theatre community. These people may never had joined up due to the mindset of a lot of theatres in the area. Michael Ford got the bug in letting me do GONZO at the Mill… that directly led to UpStage.
I could be vain here – but it seems that where I went, people seemed to follow. I started doing theatre in a space and – lo and behold – others wanted to come and play too. I felt confined in a space and moved to another – suddenly others were there as well. I think – while not the first by a long shot – I did lead the charge for others even if only in terms of space.
Ideas were like that as well – like the Fringe Fest. Not the first attempt at a fringe (despite BOOM saying so), but the idea on the scope is still something I believe Charlotte needs. The aforementioned BOOM it a direct result of that effort. I like to think I’ve grown talent pools and opened Charlottean masses to theatre that is more approachable for them (‘cause not everyone wants to see a Neil Labute, and let’s face it, Uncle Vanya).
I’ve also been up in everyone’s happy little spot telling them everything is not as kosher as it seems. We have major problems, and we have to deal with them – and some of those problems are very much our fault. People don’t like hearing that, but it does make them think. I was only too happy to help.
What made you decide to close up shop in Charlotte?
Charlotte did. One of the reasons I moved here was cost. It was cheap. In the past three years, everything has shot up beyond what I want to pay. That alone didn’t do it. I have great issues with this state politically and even more so locally. The great bulldozing that has gone on has greatly depressed me. Destroying the neighborhoods I enjoyed living in has only made me want to flee this place altogether. Artistically, I feel trapped. I find there is little support for theatre in Charlotte in general.
Living and working in this art is a mite hard anywhere, so to have extra obstacles thrown in your path becomes untenable after a time. Artistically, I need a new canvas. I want to be surrounded by people with some differing thoughts and more accepting. I want to live in an accepting community that seeks to be stronger rather than one who tears itself apart every few years.
I’ve also become a bit of a detriment to my own shows by simply speaking my mind. You piss off enough people and they, in turn, like to poison the well. To be fair – some of that piss and vinegar is warranted. I try not to be a bad guy, but sometimes I just am. Mainly due to lack of funds.
The short and sweet of it is, Charlotte has become untenable for artists like myself to live and work. So: I want to run away to another, more accepting community where I can get better pay and have the work I want to create be better received by my fellow artists and not just the public.
What are your plans after December 10?
I have a position in Austin I’m pursuing that will open up at the beginning of the year. I’m planning on taking a year off from theatre to write. I have several shows I want write, and I’m working on a book. I do plan on being back here in some form next summer with O’Neill’s Shakespeare Carolina. What, I can’t say out loud yet.
After that, I’m jumping hardcore into theatre there and helping out as much as this miserable flesh will let me. I also plan on starting a COTU branch there.
I’m not moving just to say fuck you Charlotte. There are long term plans – like starting up a COTU circuit. Creating a talent circuit and do short exchanges between cities. My friends are still in Orlando, I have a man in Baltimore, and more than a few Citizens here are threatening to take up the mantle and run shows.
See, here’s the thing about COTU I think people have not truly gotten. COTU – its core concept – is that anyone can do this. And everyone should. Once you do a show with us, you are a Citizen and are absolutely free to go and start your own thing or do your COTU show. You can request any and all resources that may be available or get direction on where to do a show or who may be available for tech, acting, and other such things.
I can be utilized from afar, as was the case when I was in Oklahoma and wrote, did the press, and set up a space for Nick Iammatteo’s production of Sid and Nancy here in Charlotte. There’s a team of ladies who are good candidates for a new core. I encourage it.
As for me – it’s getting close to about time to hit the old dusty trail. But I do have a few more shows first!