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Producing a Show at the Cornelia Street Café: Insight into one woman's process

[ NEW YORK, NY - NYC - 7/11/2010 - www.Littleviews.com ]

Iris N. Schwartz, Producer and Host of COLLABORATE

By Iris N. Schwartz

>>  New York isn't only about plays and Broadway! I've produced literary and musical shows, including benefits, at many venues, and have hosted other people's programs, but I consider Cornelia Street Café, in New York City's West Village, my artistic home!

I have been attending literary and musical events at Cornelia Street Café for years, know its literary booker, have been a featured performer at this very special venue, and had my book party there for Awakened, with poems by Madeline Artenberg, as described in my Littleviews article, New York City in Verse. So when I approached Angelo Verga, the literary booker, with ideas for a semi-regular program, I felt I had a more-than-decent chance of getting a shot at hosting my own program.

Working With a Literary Booker

People like Angelo have very specific needs. In my case, I met with him and talked from my notes about my idea. The discussion included what type of artists would be involved (such as writers, musicians, dancers, etc.), whether or not we'd have an open mike, the type of music needed, and, most important, the show's theme. He was encouraging, and told me to come back with more specifics. I did, and after he added his own distinctive ideas, my semi-annual show was conceived.

Ultimately, the show I proposed (and now do) was christened "COLLABORATE." It may include various forms of writing (we have thus far included fiction, poetry, drama, and comedic monologue) in one evening and often includes music (electric violin, didgeridoo, guitar, cello, sitar, and more have been heard), or one writer with one or more writers. Sometimes professional actors are involved. Ultimately, the artists are responsible for forming collaborations around a specific theme.

Example of a production marketing postcardThis past January, COLLABORATE's theme was "Righteous Indignation." My most recent show (July 18, 2010) revolves around "Family." All artists are encouraged to interpret each theme as they see fit.

Identifying Talent

I regularly attend poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and music events at the Cornelia Street Café and elsewhere throughout New York. At these events, I introduce myself to artists I didn't know, meet with others I do, and ask those whom I thought would work well within my theme to participate in my show.

I also select artists from among those whose work I have admired on the written page, but whom I have not yet met. Just as important, I tell them the time involved and that they are free to pick a collaborator or collaborators.

I try to mix it up to keep things lively---different types of writers, musicians, actors, and more, and artists from different backgrounds. I want my shows to be refreshing. Not only do I want the audience to enjoy what they see and hear, but to come back for more.

A personal bonus is that I perform my own work!

The Marketing Material

The artists who participate in the show provide their bios, which I include in the show's program. Besides providing the artists' background information to the audience, the program makes it easy to approach individual artists with other opportunities.

A friend of mine, Debbie Nadolney, a fine artist (painter) and graphic designer, creates promotional cards for each show. Everyone connected with the show hands these cards out to friends and followers. We also place them at pertinent venues throughout New York City, including Cornelia Street Café, itself.

Co-writer of Jameson's Irish, David B. McConegheyIn addition to the cards, I contact newspapers, magazines, and relevant websites, providing them with promotional details. Of course, I send e-mail and Facebook invitations and reminders.

The Rehearsal

The collaborating artists rehearse with their collaborators at various locations prior to the show; often many times. On the day of the show, we all meet at the venue. There, we rehearse two hours before show time, work with the stage size, do sound checks, block, etc.

The Show

When the show starts, there is nothing left for me to do but host, greet, perform, listen, and be proud of the evening's stars, and very happy that I get the chance to do this twice a year. I am very thankful to Angelo Verga, Cornelia Street Café management, and, of course, all who performed. Putting on a show of this type is a lot of work, and it's well worth it.

About Iris N. Schwartz

    Iris N. Schwartz is a Pushcart-Prize-nominated poet. Her book of poetry with poems by Madeline Artenberg, Awakened, was published by Rogue Scholars Press. Other poetry has appeared in anthologies, journals, or literary websites such as An Eye For an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind: Poets on 9/11, FutureCycle Poetry, Pikeville Review, and Vernacular.

    Her fiction has been anthologized most recently in Stirring Up a Storm (Thunder's Mouth Press). Iris's work has been published in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, India, and Thailand. She also writes nonfiction, one piece of which will be anthologized in the upcoming Dirty Girls Come Clean.

    A staged reading of her play (co-written with David B. McConeghey), Jameson's Irish, based on the eponymous story published in Ducts magazine, was performed at Cornelia Street Café in New York City in 2009, as part of her ongoing performance series, COLLABORATE.

The Cornelia Street Café

For more information about the Cornelia Street Café, read Littleviews' article, Visit the Cornelia Street Cafe for Entertainment and Food as well as www.CorneliaStreetCafe.com.

    Cornelia Street Café
    29 Cornelia Street
    Between Bleecker and West 4th Streets
    New York, NY 10014

Questions? Ask Iris N. Schwartz at ins3@verizon.net.

Article by Iris N. Schwartz. Photo of Iris N. Schwartz by David B. McConeghey. Photo of David B. McConeghey by Iris N. Schwartz. First published on 7/11/2010. All rights reserved by Iris N. Schwartz and www.Littleviews.com.

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