Thank you for considering an innovative new theater company based in Buffalo, NY called The Lightbulb Project. I hope you find this initiative inspiring, bold, thought-provoking . . . something truly to be a part of. We believe it could have a significant, positive impact on the theater community of Western New York -- and beyond. Your giving at this time could have a significant impact on our success.
The Lightbulb Project is about the pursuit of something three-fold:
1) A profound theatrical experience
- performances that are alive, present, surprising, connected, fresh at every performance
- actors that are intimately connected to each other on the stage, responding moment-to-moment to each other and the world they're in
- production elements carefully crafted, with a minimalist's eye and a professional's commitment to excellence, focusing the audience on the performers
- performers that are uniquely connected to their audience and to the stories they tell
2) An artist-centered process
- a process of rehearsal and development that is intentionally organic, collaborative, focused on listening, honesty, purpose, and discovery
- designers, performers, and staff that are absolutely safe, nurtured, heard, compensated, and inspired
3) A profoundly inclusive and engaged audience/patron community
- theater from which no one is excluded because of ticket price
- an audience base that is invested, generous, and connected
- an audience that is ever-expanding, not just in size but in demographics, until it looks absolutely like Western New York in all of its glorious diversity.
This initiative has been a long time coming. An avid stage performer since I was nine years old, I've known for more than 20 years that directing live theater is more than just a joy: it's a calling. Studying at Lee University (Cleveland, TN), I was trained in the acting methods of Stanislavski while learning a profoundly organic style of stage direction. While in Boston, training for two years under Lyralen Kaye of Another Country Productions, my heart thrilled at the acting philosophies and methods of Sandy Meisner, as I discovered a pathway to being more honest, open, alive, and present on the stage.
As an actor, director, and stage manager, I've been a part of over 100 productions at more than 30 different theaters in East Tennessee, Greater Boston, and Western New York. Many of these productions have been deeply soul-fulfilling. The Buffalo theater scene especially has been an incredible place to work since 2013: full of talent, experience, high standards of professionalism, and infused with a culture of mutual support and celebration. To get to work here is truly an honor . . . and to celebrate what we have is a privilege.
What my heart has yearned for more and more as the years have gone by -- what I would most like to add to this great theatrical milieu -- is a different type of performance: that pulse-quickening, heart-skipping experience of actors connecting on the stage in a live, fresh way, as if the event unfolding in front of me is something that may have never happened before, and may never happen the same way again. To sense that I'm one of the lucky ones -- a witness to something intimate, something meaningful: a story being told to us, for us, tonight. This experience does happen in the theater world, all around me, and in every place I've worked, I've witnessed it: maybe once every dozen productions or so . . . glimpses at times, moments . . . occasionally entire performances. And I want it more.
I have been granted the training, experience, and inspiration to seek it out. But to find a space and the freedom to experiment . . . to discover what works and what doesn't, for each actor and each cast of artists . . . That's what The Lightbulb Project is for.
Yet, that's not all the Project is for. More and more over these last several years, I've felt the exclusionary force of the price of play tickets. Seeing live theater is expensive because producing live theater is expensive! To be one of 400 or 500 people to see a show that cost $40,000 or $50,000 to produce . . . $40 or $50 per ticket is a bargain! But for a lot of people, that's why theater has become an "elitist" form of entertainment: only those with the means to pay can participate. While some theaters do offer pay-what-you-can performances on off-days (Thursday nights or Saturday afternoons), I want it to be a model for everything we do.
In short, I want to create a fresh, new culture, based on a different sort of economy: an economy of grace, inclusion, and spontaneous generosity. I believe in a model in which, instead of the few paying a high price for art, the many are paying according to what they value and what they are able. I believe that there are a lot of people who have never felt welcomed into the experience of theater, but who would love it if they were. As local enterprises recognize the value of scale, they will realize that to partner and promote with us brings them value. And if anyone feels deeply enough about what we're doing to give us anything . . . I want them to become part of a family: a community that's connected, invested, and welcoming.
Production #1: The Siegel by Michael Mitnick
In the spring of 2021, I contacted The Alleyway Theater -- a historic theater in the heart of the Theater District in downtown Buffalo, now under new ownership and seeking to redefine itself for a new generation -- and secured a favorable deal to rent their mainstage for a six-week period in January-February, 2022. In September, my wife and I paid the Alleyway out of our own pocket the non-refundable, 50% deposit on our rental contract. We are fully invested.
From January 28 to February 20, The Lightbulb Project will present, on The Alleyway Mainstage, The Siegel by Michael Mitnick, a modern romantic comedy for six actors. First produced in 2017 in Orange County, CA, I echo the thoughts of the OC Weekly, who called it "as sharp as the pop of a whip, entertaining and endearing." The LA Times accurately said, "The dialogue is spirited and wacky, with a distinctively millennial edge." The play is a perfect fit for the kind of organic, connected performances I'm looking for. And perhaps most importantly of all, there are gut-deep reasons to tell this story. The play asks questions that anyone can relate to: important questions about what it means to really love someone, to commit to someone, to let go of the past, and to hold on to what is in front of you.
What We Need
My design philosophy right now is one of "excellence with little." Even with that in mind, I have discovered that The Siegel will cost us about $32,000 to produce.
Our Production Costs for the show will total about $20,000, roughly broken down as follows:
Local Talent: $8,500
Theater Rental (The Alleyway): $8,125
Royalties & Scripts: $1,800
Stage Materials: $1,575
Administrative Costs will total about $12,000, including box office, program printing, marketing, promotion, website, payroll, insurance, legal fees, accounting, and financing.
How much will ticket sales cover? We will perform the show 15 times (weather permitting) to a house that fits 96. If we're lucky enough to average $30/ticket and 40 tickets/performance (a terrific turn out for a new company), we would earn $18,000 in ticket sales. And my goal is to raise $6,000 through the sale of advertisements in our printed programs. So . . . where will the other $8,000 come from to cover costs?
That's where you can help us.
We believe that once the people of Western New York have experienced what we're doing, the support of our community and our local businesses will allow us not only to continue but to grow more and more. Here at the beginning, though, we just need to get Show #1 on the stage.
The Rewards (ie., the "Perks")
What we offer you, and all our giving patrons, in return for your investment is more than just your name in our programs (although that is included). What we offer is entrance into an active community.
The Lightbulb Family
Minimum Donation: what you can
If you give to The Lightbulb Project -- you are invited into the Lightbulb Family. Family members are not only listed by name in our programs: they are invited to become part of the Lightbulb community in ways no one else is: they alone are invited to receive our monthly newsletter, to attend special Family events, and to participate in conversations open only to Family members. Throughout the year, I will be reaching out to Family members who are local (even if they're local for just the weekend!) to invite them to casual gatherings with myself and other company members, to get to know each other, and to talk about what's on our minds. And for those who are not local, you will be just as welcomed -- with special online Family forums and Family-only dialogue on all things Lightbulb. . . . Every single donation matters, no matter the size.
The Lightbulb Founders Club
Minimum Donation: $100
Whereas the Family is designed to be constantly growing and changing, the Founders Club is for life. And it will be far more difficult, by design, to get into after year one.
The purpose of the Founders Club is to give an extra space to gather for those who have truly invested themselves in our beginning -- perhaps in a more sacrificial way. The Founders Club is for individuals, not organizations. Each quarter, Lucas will invite the Founders to get together somewhere casual to talk amongst ourselves about things that matter to us. Founders will also be invited into online conversations about the Project that are for them only. And when a Founder goes to order a ticket or group of tickets, the question is always: "How much would you like to give for your ticket(s)?" Posted ticket prices are irrelevant. You say the price, even if it's zero dollars. You're a Founder. You see the show. For life.
Families: If a family gives at least $250, all of them -- parents and any children currently under 18 -- can choose to be part of the Founders Club for life.
Under 25: Those under 25 can give as a group (up to 5)! If the group gives $100, all of them can be part of the Founders Club for life.
The Lightbulb Firmament
Minimum Donation: $500
Oxford says that a firmament is "a sphere or world viewed as a collection of people." The Lightbulb Firmament is that collection of individuals and organizations whose gifts and contributions to the Project have done the most to provide our foundation, to make us who we are. For our first year, the giving threshold for this honor is $500 . . . in future years, that threshold may double. The names of these individuals and organizations will be given special honor in our programs and on our website throughout 2021 and 2022, as well as in our inaugural Lightbulb Project publication. And of course, individuals in this first year of the Firmament will also be among our Founders.
Sponsorship of The Siegel
Minimum Donation: $1,000
Organizations who donate at this level or higher will have their logos displayed as Sponsors of The Siegel on all our show promotions, including:
- press releases
- print ads
- promotional emails
- the home page of The Lightbulb Project website
- all web pages promoting The Siegel or selling tickets to it
- the cover of our professionally printed programs for The Siegel.
And of course, those organizations will forever be among the inaugural members of The Lightbulb Firmament.
If you want your gift to be Tax Deductible . . .
The Lightbulb Project was organized in the summer of 2021 as a single-member LLC. Thus, donations through this GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign are not tax-deductible. It is our goal to achieve non-profit designation sometime before 2023. In the meantime . . .
If you would like your donation to be tax-deductible, please click here
to contribute to The Lightbulb Project through a non‐profit arts service organization called Fractured Atlas. The Lightbulb Project has been accepted as a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas. Contributions made by check payable to “Fractured Atlas,” or by credit card directly through our crowdfunding campaign on their website, are tax‐deductible to the extent permitted by law.
This is about more than just The Siegel
The Siegel is simply the inaugural production of a company that we hope will last many years to come, and produce many shows. Our business plan aims to be producing at least 4 shows a year within the first five years, including dramas, comedies, and musicals, with a diversity of directors, designers, and performers that reflect the diversity we seek with our audience. As our team of artists grow, as well as our staff, so will expand the creativity and diversity of our offerings.
Yet this is the critical juncture. My wife and I cannot put the financial load of our dreams on the back of our day jobs alone. If this company is to become what's in our hearts for it to become, it will take the buy-in of many people . . . like yourself. Any contributions we receive will help us remain a viable, powerful, creative force for good for years to come.
One Last Note (in case you're interested) . . .
Why the Lightbulb?
The conceptual inspiration comes from Thomas Edison's 10,000 "failed" attempts to find a filament that would burn just right -- a light that was sustainable, faithful, and available to everyone. When asked about it, he said, "I have not failed, not once. I’ve successfully discovered 10,000 ways that will not work." My hope is that we will not have to endure 10,000 ways that don't work . . . but the lightbulb has always symbolized the worth of experimentation, of patience and perseverance, of the willingness to risk failure time and time again for the sake of finding something truly valuable.
The image of the lightbulb speaks to several things that are important to us as a company:
- the intentionally bare-bones nature of our early productions
- the distilled light of inspiration that we're looking for: the spark of life at the heart of each play
- the connection of that spark to the hearts of the artists, and to the hearts of the audience
Like Thomas Edison, we are searching for a way to turn a power source (for us, a written play) into a light that is unsullied, sustainable, and available to all -- a light that chases shadows, helps us see our own world and our own selves more clearly and more generously, makes hiding more difficult but living more possible. We search for a way to share that light effectively with everyone in the room . . . and to make sure that everyone's in the room.
Come join the Project
Come join us in Buffalo for our run of The Siegel, if you can! Performances are on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights from January 28th to February 20th, 2022. Bring a friend or two.
If you think you may have talents, labor, or materials that could help us, please do reach out to me! And if you think you might like to collaborate with us, or advertise your organization on our website and in our professionally printed programs (beyond Sponsorship) . . . again, reach out to me.
Finally, please spread the word. If you know others who have a heart for creative, passionate, compassionate theater . . . please, let them know we exist.
Thank you for believing in us. Thank you for giving to us . . . and in so doing, becoming a part of us.