Early on in Single Carrot we decided to move the company to a collectively agreed on city. Most of the ensemble was from Colorado, and most of the company wanted to live somewhere new. There are few times in your life when you can pick up and go someplace new without any consequences, and right after graduating from college with a degree in theatre is one of those times, and we intended to make the most of it.
We first established a list of 50 potential cities, which involved 22 people sitting in a room and throwing out names of cities they knew. The cities ranged from Miami, to Sante Fe, to Fargo, ND.
Secondly, we established our criteria. We wanted a big city with a small city feel; a city with strong arts funding; a city with a strong theatre scene, but not a city saturated with theatres; and a place with a welcoming arts community. Bonus criteria were low-cost of living, geographic location, climate, and the strength of the job market.
Our list quickly whittled down to four finalists: Austin, TX; Baltimore, MD; Columbus, OH; and Philadelphia, PA. In October 2005, I took a tour of the cities, although had to miss Austin, TX, due to a lack of personal finances. I was on my way to Boston to fly to London for six months of work, and then two months of travel around Europe. We determined that Columbus was slightly too small for our needs, and that Philadelphia and Austin already had a critical mass of small theatre companies.
Baltimore was incredibly welcoming to us. The arts and theatre communities were eager to talk with us, and the cost of living in Baltimore was attractive.
In August 2006, Giti (my then girlfriend and now wife) and I moved to Baltimore, and we initially lived with my sister’s boyfriend. My sister and her boyfriend were the only people we knew. Giti and I worked over the next eight months to decipher the cultural community, to find gainful employment, and to learn more about Baltimore. I quickly found a job at a bronze foundry, and then later became box office manager of Everyman Theatre. My experience at Everyman was a revelation, as I discovered that since I had to work a day job regardless, I should focus on working at the local nonprofit theatres in order to develop my skills, knowledge, and relationships in the arts community. Giti later found a job working in the Center Stage box office, and after a year at Everyman, I worked for two years in the development department at Center Stage before becoming director of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance.
In January 2007, Giti and I produced Single Carrot’s first production in Baltimore, which was a short play festival. In March 2007, Joey Bromfield, Single Carrot’s technical director moved to Baltimore, with four other “carrots” moving in June 2007. Directly after people arrived we began rehearsing for Red Light Winter. We announced our five show season even though we didn’t know when, how, or where the productions would happen. We knew that if we committed to it on paper, we’d make it succeed.
In July 2007, The Baltimore Sun published a feature on our company, and our move to Baltimore. Without that feature, it could have taken us years to attract any kind of audience to our work. Red Light Winter was successful (artistically and at the box office), and we were running. I think our story as a company really resonated with people. Many people who live in Baltimore take little pride in the city, often unable to look past the many, significant challenges it faces. Our decision to leave Colorado for Baltimore turned some heads, and won us a significant amount of positive PR.
In December 2006, several months before the rest of the company joined us in Baltimore, the seven committed members of the company had a retreat in Colorado around the Christmas holiday. At this retreat we changed our name to Single Carrot Theatre (it comes from the Paul Cezanne quote “the day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution”), and I assumed the roles of business manager and managing director in addition to being artistic director. Each of the other six were given new titles and responsibilities, and tasked with gaining an appreciation of their duties before moving to Baltimore. At that retreat, we read out loud the American Theatre article on Bill Rauch. In it, he talked about how the success of Cornerstone was because the entire ensemble committed to falling in love with the infrastructure. That quote really woke up everyone in the company. I credit our December 2006 retreat with the current success of Single Carrot. We were able to shed the skin of our first 18 months of growth, in order to be the company we needed to become. It also established a precedent for allowing us to shift duties, titles, and responsibilities fairly fluidly to account for new ensemble members and each individual’s strengths.