One of the reasons we started Umbrella Theater was to provide mentorship for aspiring directors and designers and to provide them with a "portfolio project." These projects are designed to not only give the artists an opportunity to be mentored while creating work, but also as a way for them to introduce themselves to the established theater community. Our Founding Technical Director, Cara Pomeroy, had the opportunity to become the set designer for Utah Rep's production of Carrie in 2015, when the original set designer recommended her based on her work as a student in his class. She has gone on to design for Plan-B Theatre, SLAC, The University of Utah, The Grand, Sackerson, and numerous other local theater companies. And when Utah Rep's Managing Director at that time, Lee Hollaar, was starting Umbrella, he saw how helpful that had been in her early career and wanted to give others a similar opportunity.
Umbrella's mentoring has seen us working with other theater companies on productions including Sackerson's A Brief Waltz in a Little Room, 23 Short Plays About Walter Eyer and OPPA's production of RENT. We even started on a production of our own, Mary's Little Monster, but had cancel because of the the Covid-19 emergency.
In December 2021, Umbrella tried an alternative approach to mentoring. Based on the experience of our Founding Artistic Director, Jamie Rocha Allan, with similar projects, Umbrella produced an evening of short original pieces. This event was in cooperation with Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts. Six writers and six directors were chosen from current students and recent alumni from the University of Utah and Westminster. The writers were each tasked with creating a 10 to 15 minute segment that will be cast primarily from twelve student actors from SPA. The project happened over two weeks culminating in a performance of each work at SPA on December 17th.
The first week saw the writers and directors being mentored by Jamie, as they talked through the unique relationship of director and writer. The second week of the project was rehearsals of the pieces. New writing nights such as these offer writers and directors an opportunity to develop and practice these collaborative skills without the pressure and time and financial constraints of mounting fully realized productions.
We received extremely positive feedback from the writers, directors, and student actors.
Umbrella hopes to continue using this project as a way of engaging with various artists around the city. We believe that events like this would also be of benefit to the numerous freelance writers and directors working in the city.
This project is supported in part by the Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts & Parks (ZAP) program