5 years in exile: A reflection by Bryan S. Clark

Mon, 05/23/2011

The first day I met Joe Canuso I was immediately struck by how easy he was to talk to. He asked hard questions, but I had good answers. When he offered me the position I was unbelievably excited. It was my first real break, an opportunity to prove myself and my place in the community. I told him that day that I felt comfortable enough to be able to get married. He told me (and this is definitely paraphrasing) if you can’t do the job after 6 months, we’re going to get someone else. Killer Joe I’d just begun and was quickly swept away by what was widely considered the modern starting point of theatre exile. The show that put us on the map. It’s still the most highly Barrymore-nominated show at seven. I was introducing myself to a lot of people in those days and it was when I met one of my best and long-time friends, Brenna Geffers. Red Light Winter My first full project that still remains closest to my heart. A great cast and a story full of sadness and about nothing. Our set designer (a good friend of mine) bailed on us. I worked until midnight many nights in those days. My first real interaction with Matt Pfeiffer whose work I admire greatly. Hearts & Soles Our first PTI project and my first foray into a World Premiere. Deborah Block’s directorial debut for exile and the first amount of real influence she had on my administration. The first time I met my good friend Chris Colucci as well. Glengarry Glen Ross Another breakout production that raised the bar for exile and a winner of 2 Barrymores. We were flooded with ticket orders and I lost a lot of extra help. Despite a successful production, I learned the hard way that one person is not enough to cover the growth of a company. The first dawn of forward-thinking. Mr. Marmalade New season, new vision. We continued to “ride the wave” with a box office and critical success. We hired Jenny Jacobs for the season who was quintessential in the development of exile. I’ve also never met a nicer person in my life. Roosters Our second PTI project that met with mixed success. It began the development of our outreach program “Paper Wings” that is still in place today helping the young adults of Norris Square. Bug Another great piece of work that met with critical acclaim. Our last show in Christ Church before their renovations began. With a system now firmly in place for a company our size, we planned on how to take it to an even greater level. dark play; or stories for boys A cute little show that helped us touch base with a younger generation. We’ve had a strong student following ever since. Before this show went up I married my wife, Katrina O’Toole. We planned our wedding and honeymoon so that we’d be able to return home before the Barrymores and dark play’s first rehearsal. It was also my longest stint away from exile: 8 days. Life waits for theatre. Blackbird My favorite work. It still stands for me as the greatest work we’ve ever done. It was completely overlooked by the Barrymores for which I will never forgive or forget. It again reset the bar as our greatest achievement. Just before this production we moved to our new offices and rehearsal space in South Philadelphia and the company grew again as a result. We hired Sarah Chandler as our production manager and it was around this time a little intern named Clara Elser started to work with us. Some months later, she’d become my #1 go-to person and the other half of my brain. American Buffalo A fascinating piece of work and the first time I disagreed with a critic’s review of an exile show (good or bad). Because of the amount of accumulated “junk” from the show, we ended up holding a flea market at our new space to sell it all off. The end of that summer marked the end of the time Jenny Jacobs could give to us, although she would return as a board member years later. Hunter Gatherers New changes brought Tenley Bank to exile, an entirely new Front of House staff and health insurance for all administrative staff. The playwright of the show visited with us and loved our production – was a nice box office to boot. Any Given Monday World premiere of Bruce Graham’s newest play and won the Barrymore for as much. Attendance was plagued by mountainous drifts of snow but still ended up doing very well for us. Our first co-production with another company, which introduced me intimately to how another company runs their business. I learned no Managing Director has it easy. Anywhere. Shining City A perfect play but a shorter run. Brought a lot of new faces to exile. Subscriptions for the next year were the highest they ever were. Iron Back to the birth of exile: The Fringe. Back to her baby, too, as Deborah Block directed our first production in our newly renovated studio x in south Philly. I was plagued with illness during the run making me reexamine how much time I spend working. That Pretty Pretty; or the Rape Play Not my favorite play but a critical success and a production that definitely served our mission. Our first return to Christ Church. Probably the most controversial work we have ever done. The Lieutenant of Inishmore Resetting the bar once again. The highest box office numbers ever and this time, we were ready. Newly integrated systems in our office saved our butts and simultaneously we launched this new website. Our first show under an SPT (Actors’ Equity) contract as well. People will be talking about this one for years. It was not without its hiccups, though,; we lost 3 employees during the run and are still recovering. Saturn Returns Brenna’s first direction for exile; a beautiful play and a dream come true. The playwright also personally came down to see this production. It was also the return of our long-time collaborator Harry Philibosian to the stage. 60 months. Still here. Guess I passed the test. Bryan S Clark