slides: Rhode Island’s Performing Arts Leaders Form New Collaborative

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


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Rhode Island has always been the home of strong performing arts organizations, but now the leadership of these groups is combining forces in a new collaborative format.

The Rhode Island Performance Exchange (RIPE), will be a community-based organization that aims to create greater awareness about all activity in the Rhode Island performance community, while connecting people working in the sector to each other in hopes of encouraging new collaborations and resource-sharing, all with the ultimate goal of building better performance through a stronger community, and a stronger community through better performance.

Going from a perception of competition to the reality of collaboration

“Last summer I kept hearing these stories that rubbed me the wrong way,” said RIPE’s Chief Advocate, Rebecca Noon, who also runs local company Strange Attractor with her husband Jed Hancock-Brainerd. “People kept referring to competition between theatre companies; that artists shouldn’t go see each other’s shows; and that there wasn’t room for all the new companies cropping up. Having spent my first years out of college in a much bigger theatre community, I felt like this was crazy. I wanted to do something to dispel these myths and prove that, not only is there room for all of us, there is room for more.”

Noon contacted every theatre and performing artist she knew and asked them to contact everyone they knew to meet and face these questions head on.

“The first meeting was at the Wild Colonial last June,” Noon recalls. “About 20 people showed up and we just talked about everything people saw as a challenge to making work here while also brainstorming on the really simple steps we could take to make it better. We talked about what it would look like to form a coalition of sorts and it all just went from there.”

Since then the group has met once a month at venues ranging from AS220’s restaurant FOO[D] to Trinity Rep’s offices, The Mathewson St. Church recently hosted a meeting as a way to connect with potential artists who might rent the top floor black box.

At each meeting different people show up with new things to discuss. Every agenda item has led to a small but powerful change in the community. From having a centralized website where people can see all the companies in the state and a calendar listing all performances, to an audience-review podcast of local productions and a general audition for performers in Rhode Island, the grassroots organization is full of activity and ambition, and has garnered the support of many of Rhode Island’s arts leaders. See what they had to say, below. 


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