The greater Boston area already has a plethora of independent and community theater groups. Some have been around for a decade or longer. Why should you support a relative newcomer on the scene like Chameleon’s Dish? Why do we need one more?
When I first became involved in Chameleon’s Dish, I didn’t know the answer to these questions. I started out as an enthusiastic audience member, and now I’m the producer for this October’s production of The Tragedy of Macbeth, directed by Lenny Somervell. The more I am involved, the more I understand why this small, young company makes sense for the theater-saturated Boston area. Since I’m encouraging friends and strangers to come see Macbeth and to support Chameleon’s Dish with donations or by spreading the word, I want to share why it matters to me.
When I stepped into the role of producer, my nonprofit-management brain turned on, and I remembered the axiom that small arts organizations with less rigid infrastructure (or less infrastructure period) are the most nimble. They can adapt to changing situations and audiences the way organizations with an established season schedule and hierarchy can’t. What does that mean for you, the theater-goer? More shows in more places! In January 2015, Chameleon’s Dish presented Mrs. Hawking by Phoebe Roberts at the geek convention Arisia. The actors and crew put up the show — which included a set made out of a jungle gym — in a conference hotel ballroom, gave a great performance, and struck the set in time for another group to use the space an hour after the final bows. We expect to work similar magic in October, when you find Macbeth behind a door on a residential side street in Somerville.
Chameleon’s Dish isn’t trying to replace any of the other theater groups in the area. Even if the group someday stops being so small and nimble, taking over just isn’t the goal. When it comes to creative expression, we believe more is better. As artists, dramaturges, and literary geeks, we draw inspiration from the work other people are doing around us, and we hope to be an inspiration as well. In particular, Chameleon’s Dish is made up largely of people with some background in Shakespeare or history, and people who are interested in bold and though-provoking new interpretations and original works. The more voices there are in the local theater scene, the richer it becomes!
Many theater groups in the Boston area care about having diverse casts. They recognize that it’s important and fulfilling for all audience members to be able to see people who look like them, and who look different from them, on the stage. For some groups, this priority arose out of a growing understanding of the need, and for others it’s a core part of the group’s identity. We are really excited that we’re not the only ones thinking about diverse casts, but theater as a whole has a long way to go in that regard, and Chameleon’s Dish is proud to be a part of the change. From our “about” page:
Chameleon’s Dish embraces casting that is contrary to traditional expectations of gender, race, age, and overall appearance; in particular, we strive to foster a welcoming and accommodating environment for all actors under the trans umbrella. We believe that open casting enriches both our performances and the experience of the actors, providing crucial opportunity to explore outside of physical type-casting.
—Macbeth Producer, Tegan Kehoe