(This page last updated 8-27-12.)
Email: amarylliswriter at gmail dot com
I have been interested in theatre ever since I was a member of my high school’s Thespian Troupe over 30 years ago. However, I became passionate about writing about theatre in June of 2007. I saw a Neil LaBute play called “Fat Pig” at the Phoenix Theatre here in Indianapolis. I found myself wanting to write about it more publicly than in my own paper journal or on my family blog.
I saw on the Phoenix’ website a quote from a post on IndianaAuditions.com by Joe Boling. I had never heard of IA, but when I went to that site and found the “You Review It” forum, my life changed. I chose “Amaryllis Jones” as my pseudonym, and suddenly I was exploring all kinds of theatre in Indianapolis and writing about them.
I posted in the forums for a while, but then IA’s owner, Joe Urban, asked if I would join the official IA review team and help them cover the 2007 Indy Fringe Festival. I was thrilled to receive my first media pass. I almost killed myself trying to see and review all of the Fringe shows that week while still working 50 hours at my day job but again, my life changed for the better.
After that, I initiated relationships with several theatre marketing directors around town, and I made an effort to see shows at a wide variety of theatres – community (all-volunteer), professional, and hybrid – whether they were able to offer me media passes or not. I fell into the pattern of seeing and writing about 3-5 shows on IA each week. I started learning as much as I could about theatre and about writing theatre reviews. I look forward to continuing to learn about this for the rest of my life.
In January of 2008, the IA review team manager stepped down. I volunteered for the job. At first Joe Urban agreed to let me try it for six months, but then he told me that he thought he might have someone else he liked better. I decided I was ready to try running my own theatre reviews blog instead. I am grateful to my brother, Ned, for helping me figure out how to get “Indy Theatre Habit” started, and for introducing me to blogging in the first place. I imagine I will be learning about blogging for the rest of my life, too.
But I still hang out on IA, and I encourage anyone who is interested in Indianapolis area theatre – especially community theatre – to check it out.
In 2008 I saw more than 140 shows. Here is a quick directory of what I saw that year, with links to my reviews. For part of 2008 I served as a judge for the Encore Association. I was not allowed to write publicly about the 30+ shows that I judged over the 2008-2009 season, but it was still an excellent learning experience for me.
My year as an Encore judge ended on August 31, 2009. Here is a directory of the 134 shows that I saw in 2009, with links to my reviews of the shows I was allowed to write about.
I used to spend 20-30 hours a week on this blog, including driving all around central Indiana to see 1-5 shows per weekend, writing about the shows, editing what I wrote, embedding useful links in what I wrote, monitoring and responding to comments, and fielding requests for reviews from 50+ theatres and other arts organizations. This was on top of another, full-time, job that I also valued (and still value) very much.
The pace and pressure eventually became too much and my health began to suffer. I took a summer sabbatical in 2010, returned to the crazy pace that fall, then took an even longer break from writing reviews in 2011. I think (I hope) I have finally made peace with the fact that I will always have to miss some shows that I would love to have seen. I also have done, and will continue to do, some soul-searching about what kind of theatre writing I most want to do.
When I started Indy Theatre Habit, I hoped that my blog would encourage everyone in the Indianapolis area to make a habit out of going to the theatre. I believed, and still believe, that “Life is just better with a shot of theatre in it.”
Now, after four years, I realize that I don’t really care about promoting theatre to people who don’t get it or who aren’t ready for it or who went to one show and decided they didn’t like the whole art form. I feel sorry for them, but really, what do I know? Maybe there is something else out there that is more important for them to engage with. In any case, I can’t spend the rest of my life trying to wake them up to the transformational power and pleasure of live theatre.
I also can’t keep anybody safe or let anyone off the hook for the choices they make. Should you go see such-and-such show? How should I know? Art is a very personal thing! Yes, go, if you feel drawn to the show. Go see it and form your own opinion!
At the risk of sounding harsh, I don’t care about promoting any individual show, nor about giving feedback to actors and other theatre artists, nor even about providing consumer information.
What I want to do is participate in an on-going, passionate yet courteous conversation with other people that already enjoy the risk. People that already enjoy going to the theatre and letting it work on them. People that understand that even if you’re “just sitting there,” being the audience for a live theatre piece is a very active, potentially transformative, thing.
When you’re open to it, you as the audience at a live theatre piece help to create the art by your presence. When the audience is open and mindful, and the artists are skilled and fully present, and all of the elements come together in the hour or two that the show is on….there is nothing else like it.
So…that’s where I am philosophically in 2012.
‘See you at the theatres!
Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com
PS – I thank Michael Ries for helping me feel more comfortable getting my picture taken. I thank Julie Curry for taking my most recent headshot, above, which I added to my blog on August 29, 2008. I also thank my brother, Ned Baugh, for showing me how to re-size and upload photos to my blog in the first place!
PPS – I thank Zach Rosing for helping me keep my WordPress updated and for installing the automatic spam monitor for my comments box!
©2012 Hope Baugh