By Laura Hull
“It is idle having planted an acorn in the morning to expect that afternoon to sit by the shade of the oak.” That has remained one of my favorite quotes from Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the author of the children’s story, The Little Prince. I’ve remembered it often over the last 13 years since launching Creative Cauldron. It has helped me weather the many twists and turns and tribulations of leading a small non-profit arts organization struggling for a place to take root, grow and flourish.
That growth finally began to happen when the Little City of Falls Church took a leap of faith and invested in the development of a modest little venue for the arts on Maple Avenue (ArtSpace Falls Church) It provided an artistic home for Creative Cauldron and another blossoming non-profit, Falls Church Arts. It wasn’t a complete hand out, but it was a hand up, giving us the opportunity to have a roof over our heads (with a somewhat modest rent) as we grew and developed our programs and performances.
And grow we did. Despite the fact that we opened in 2009, during the worst recession since the great depression (that rent didn’t seem so modest), we managed to expand educational programs, including our now exploding Learning Theater program that gives budding young actors an opportunity to learn the craft of acting. We presented concerts by talented guest musical groups and we produced theatrical productions of an increasingly high caliber. Over the previous five seasons we have had five of those productions achieve Helen Hayes Awards recommended status. This year, we received our first Helen Hayes nominations: Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical for our production of Jaques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris which opened the 2014-15 season.
And now we are experiencing the most thrilling part of our journey so far with our world premiere musical, The Turn of The Screw. Adapted from the gothic novella by Henry James, it’s the first installment in our “Bold New Works for Intimate Stages,” five year commissioning initiative. With haunting music written by Matt Conner and a skillful book by Stephen Gregory Smith, it has critics and audiences raving. Nelson Pressley of the Washington Post praised: “Conner creates lovely melodies and bends them into suspenseful, mysterious shapes.” Andy White of Broadway World began his review “move over Eric Schaeffer there’s a new musical venue in town!” He goes on to say: “for fans of Broadway musicals, this version of The Turn of the Screw is not to be missed.”
While I would never dream of telling the artistic director of Signature Theatre to” move over,” I do share the reviewer’s sentiment. This is a must see work of art with an amazing professional cast that can hold it own against any production on any stage in the world. Our space is small, but the talent is big, and the story and music are riveting. If you haven’t seen The Turn of the Screw already I urge you to get your tickets now. We just extended the run through March 1!
“The absence of limitations is the absence of creativity.” That’s a quote from Orson Welles when he was directing and performing in the height of Hollywood excess. At Creative Cauldron, in the confines of our intimate 85 seat venue, with no wing space and an almost non-existent backstage, we have learned to embrace our limitations and to focus on what’s essential—a good story.
Because of the creativity of our amazing artists and the support of a wonderful board of directors, donors and patrons, we have been able to deliver an exceptional theater experience at an affordable price. We’ve introduced thousands of young people to the joy of performing and learning in the arts, breaking down barriers for many who might not have had the opportunity.
While that little acorn has not quite grown into a sturdy oak, we now have solid roots and support in our Falls Church community and beyond. For that I am extremely grateful.
During our annual fundraising campaigns I often receive little notes along with generous donations. They mean so much. I keep them in a file for those dark days when the business of making art seems especially challenging. This year I saved a special one:
“I’m a neighbor –and have been attending at least one event at the Cauldron every year since the beginning. I want to thank you for this wonderful creative theatre and congratulate you on your constant improvement in quality and quantity of the shows you have produced! Please accept this small token of my esteem for productions at the Cauldron. I’m looking forward to season after season of marvelous shows.”
Laura Connors Hull is the founder and producing director of Creative Cauldron.