Bringing theatre to people's living rooms is the goal of StageDirect, a new company dedicated to preserving fringe and small-theatre productions on videotape. The fledgling business has already taped four theatrical productions in its first three months, and plans are afoot to record at least two more within the year.
StageDirect's CEO and founder is Gary Cole, a former corporate attorney and CIA employee who always had a love for the theatre. In fact, his years working for the intelligence agency provided fodder for his play, Bodyhold,, which was produced by CoHo Productions, a company Cole formed with Portland director-actor Robert Holden. Since 1995, the company has produced eight different shows, and StageDirect's office is connected to CoHo's new 90-seat theatre on the fringe of Portland, Oregon's Pearl District.
Cole, who left his prominent Portland law firm in 2001, recently spoke about his new company and the shows it aims to preserve. "Even the best fringe theatre companies can't afford to take their shows on the road," Cole said, "which means the best shows — the ones that generate the buzz and garner the awards — remain a secret beyond their birthplaces."
StageDirect's artistic director Jeff Meyers adds, "We're bringing small theatre to the masses without corrupting it. I'm the guy with the obnoxiously high standards who ensures each show is recorded professionally and unobtrusively to capture the uncommon energy of live performance."
The first four titles in the StageDirect catalog include Jeff Goode's series of bedtime stories for adults with the unique title Poona the Fuckdog; Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, a comedy by one of Chicago's most daring stage companies, The Neo-Futurists; Mass Murder, in which five serial killers try to make their case to the audience; and The Haint, a one-man Southern Gothic ghost story featuring 13 characters. Founder Cole, who has gone from a well versed corporate attorney to a fledgling theatre video CEO within one year, jokes, "Theatre has gone from being my hobby to my entire life. You could say I'm in the middle of a big, big midlife crisis."
For more information or to purchase videos from the company, go to its new website at StageDirect.com.
—By Andrew Gans