THOUGH THE BLOATED NASDAQ may yet slide further from farce to tragedy, not every Internet startup is doomed to death. Jeff Redman's theatrehead.com seems unlikely to inspire a $300 million stock swap with Yahoo, but it has set a practical course for the future. Through this new Web page, introduced just a few weeks ago, Redman hopes to offer something that no other media in Minnesota provides: information about the local theater community, by the local theater community, and for the local theater community.
"The Twin Cities Theater scene needs some sort of unifying force," the 28-year-old Redman explains. "For example, there is a great need for cheap classifieds." Smaller theaters tend to do most of their job-hunting by word-of-mouth, according to Redman, because they cannot afford to list available positions in the mainstream press. This means that qualified applicants often never hear about opportunities in acting and backstage work.
Redman, who moved to Minneapolis from Milwaukee five years ago, has worked freelance in the local theater scene as an actor and stage manager with companies such as the Great American History Theater, Illusion Theatre, Park Square Theatre, and Allied Theater Group. Following this dual allegiance, Redman seems determined to see theatrehead.com address technical aspects of theater world, as well as performance and direction. At the time of this writing, for example, the Web page included an interview with freelance stage manager Glenn Klapperich--not a name that springs to mind as one of the movers and shakers of the Twin Cities theater community. If it weren't for theatrehead.com, Klapperich, who's worked with the now-defunct Refreshment Committee Theatre Company, as wells as Bald Alice, Outward Spiral, and others, could quite possibly have toiled his entire career without a single mention in the media, which tend not to notice the backstage crew of a play, scurrying about with walkie-talkies and clipboards. And this is the way it should be; as when the technical side of theater is done properly, such work is usually invisible. It is only when props turn up missing and scrims plummet from the ceiling that the act of stage managing becomes apparent.
Beyond expanding such behind-the-scenes coverage, Redman's grandest scheme for the site is to review every play that opens in the Twin Cities. At this point, such an ambitious plan remains in the speculative realm; there may well be 100 local theater companies that are at least semi-active, and an unknown number of productions. "That's a goal," Redman says, laughing. "It might be a long-term goal!"
Though the cost of creating theatrehead.com has been minimal--Redman and cofounder Jeff Nelson, who designed and maintains the site, have paid for it out of pocket--it has proven a serious investment of time. On top of the carpal-tunnel-syndrome-inducing hours spent in front of a computer, cobbling together the guts of the site, Redman and Nelson must do the time-devouring work of being theatrehead.com's editors. This task includes hunting down press releases and photographs from current productions, as well as finding writers who are willing to review plays without pay.
Whatever the labor, Redman is passionate about his mission to create what he calls an online "community center" for Minnesota theater, and his passion seems to be attracting attention. With minimal publicity, the Web page is already attracting upward of 300 hits per day--not too shabby when you consider that most of the theaters in the Twin Cities boast fewer than 100 seats.
"Well," Redman says, "this is a town where people are just in love with theater"--a description befitting Redman himself. One imagines that 100 years ago, in some squalid backstage of some British music hall, Redman would have been doubled over a small hand press, carefully inserting movable type in order to print a newsletter for the theater's cast and crew--despite having meager farthings set aside for the task.
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