Jean Thompson is communications director for Chesapeake Shakespeare Company (CSC). The group, one of Mixolo’s first partners, has hosted several events for Mixolo members. According to Jean, Mixolo has helped the CSC better define the way it interacts with solo ticket holders. We caught up with her recently, as plans are underway for a Mixolo viewing of the play Red Velvet, about American-born Ira Aldridge, the first black actor to play Othello, at London’s Covent Garden in 1833.
Mixolo Events with the CSC:
A performance of Taming of the Shrew at the CSC’s Baltimore theater, which is modeled after Shakespeare’s Globe. The event included a meet-and-greet and lively discussion with cast members and director.
A wine tasting and stroll along Main Street in Ellicott City, followed by an open-air performance of The Tempest at the CSC’s outdoor stage, set in the ruins of Ellicott City’s Patapsco Female Institute.
A Mixolo mixer with special holiday mulled wine followed by a performance of A [Baltimore] Christmas Carol.
Mixolo members taking in The Tempest in the plein air "Summer Theater in the Ruins" in Ellicott City, MD, the birthplace of Chesapeake Shakespeare Company now located in a historic bank building in Baltimore renovated in the likeness of London's Globe Theater.
Jean Thompson greeting Mixolo theater-goers in the "family" room where we gathered for pre-performance wassail (mulled wine/apple cider) in the spirit of A Christmas Carol character Bob Cratchit.
Why is Chesapeake Shakespeare Company a good match for Mixolo?
Studies have shown that people who love theater sometimes don’t attend it because they don’t want to go alone. Maybe their partner doesn’t like theater or their best friend is busy that night. Theater is about storytelling, and people come to join in the fun and be part of a group. They want to share their awe and excitement. They want to talk about the show.
How does Mixolo encourage that kind of shared experience?
Mixolo ensures that its members are actively engaged with the play. Maybe they’ll invite an actor or director to chat with the group, or schedule the visit on the day we have a Q&A. They schedule the event so the guests have time to meet each other before the curtain goes up, ensuring everyone can enjoy the shared experience. Half the fun of being at a show is turning to someone and saying, ‘Whoa, did you see that?’
Over the summer Mixolo members visited CSC for a production of The Tempest, coordinated with other activities in Ellicott City. How did that go?
As summer residents of Ellicott City, we perform among the dramatic ruins of what was once a school for girls. The space was a perfect fit as part of Mixolo’s full Ellicott City experience. It was the first anniversary of the flood that devastated the small town, and we were advocates of getting people back to Main Street. A Mixolo event is like a party inside a party. The guests are at the performance, and they’re also having their own experience, by meeting and talking with each other. We saw a lot of new faces with the Mixolo group, and we’ve seen many of them return.
Aside from new audience members, what has Mixolo brought to your organization?
This is not just about ticket sales. Mixolo inspires us to think about how we can make theater more welcoming to people who arrive alone. We’ve talked to the ushers about how they greet people when they walk through the door. If someone is on their own, we want to meet them where they are. It makes a huge difference when it comes to making someone feel welcome. You hear that question, ‘Are you waiting for someone?’ in restaurants all the time. Our motto is “Shakespeare for Everyone.” The challenge is to prove it.
How does Mixolo help with the CSC mission?
Classical theater can be challenging to market. Some people are afraid of Shakespeare; they worry that they won’t understand or relate to it. We try to do everything we can to make you feel like an insider. That’s why our theater is designed like an Elizabethan stage, where people are facing each other. We want our audience members to feel like part of a larger whole, and any group that can assist with that is a great fit with our goals. In a larger context, making connections helps us all to become a stronger society. This is what Mixolo is all about.
Update 2/24/18: Photos from our Mixolo experience at CSC for the "Red Velvet" performance.
Mixolo members enjoyed a meet-the-director moment with the plays's director, Shirley Dunlap, moderated by Jean Thompson ,a light brunch and a last minute pre-performance rehearsal featuring actors Christian Gibbs and Yurk Lomakin as Ira Aldridge and Theatre Royal director, Pierre Laporte, respectively, before we settled in for the play. 5 stars! Must-see.