Happy Birthday Lark! A Look Back After 22 Years
The late spring/early summer is often a time of reflection. Seasons and school years end, people graduate and move on to a new chapter of their lives. An organization and its people are no exception to this contemplative look back, and, for The Lark, it just so happens that its birthday is directly in the middle of this season (June 8th! No presents please, just new plays). Let's take a look back on The Lark's past 22 years by hearing from those who were there from the beginning.
I asked actress and frequent Larkee Jennifer Dorr White about The Lark's beginnings. She first reminisced about location, saying, "It’s hard to believe that a theater that started on our dining room table has ended up on two floors at 311 West 43rd. The first office space the co-founders had was one room at the corner of 23rd Street and 7th Avenue - you had to climb up several rickety flights of stairs and my joke was it looked like a boys’ club in a treehouse." Jennifer also shared The Lark started as a company that worked on new plays and Shakespeare, working with schools such as Regis High School on productions like Romeo and Juliet. She recounts the decision to work exclusively on new play development after the critical success of producing Pera Palas in 1998 as The Lark having a choice to make. "John [Eisner, Artistic Director of The Lark] realized the new plays needed more time for actual script development...once he made the choice to focus on development, other programs started, like the Playwrights' Workshop with [playwright and Lark Board Member] Arthur Kopit , and it all started expanding exponentially as playwrights realized how valuable it was to be able to focus on process," a decision that has most assuredly benefited The Lark and its artists. It's been a long road for The Lark, but a necessary one that allowed it to find its voice.
Part of what makes The Lark so inspiring and necessary for theater voices is its commitment to Global Exchange as part of its core programming. Playwright Saviana Stanescu and told me about the history of the Romania/United States Exchange. Her work with The Lark began in 2005, when she started her TCG New Generations International Leaders fellowship, but her work as a writer and journalist started much earlier in Romania. After beginning her fellowship, Saviana took John and Jennifer to Bucharest and Targu Mures, Transylvania where she introduced them to many potential partners, including Odeon Theatre, National University of Theatre & Film (UNATC), and National University of Arts Targu-Mures. Reflecting on her journeys in Romania with The Lark, Saviana says, "Although I can't be there on all the trips at this point, I am happy and proud to have contributed to the creation of such a meaningful collaborative exchange. We now live in an interconnected global culture that thrives and relies on the uncensored opportunities to exchange ideas, projects, and collaborate on cross-cultural endeavors. We are all global citizens, love it or not." Truly, programs like the Romania/United States Exchange and others like it have set the course for The Lark's 22 year long journey as a champion for making theater as globally accessible as possible.
Another great Lark resource is one of the earliest Board Members, Clinton O. Mayer III. He had this to add on The Lark's beginnings, "John used to be a wonderful actor and now he runs the place and does wonderful work in finding contributors." Collaboration is the key behind smoothly run theater organizations, and from the administration to the art, The Lark has welcomed hardworking, talented, and kind individuals from the very beginning. In addition to his thoughts on The Lark's original days, Clinton, ever the businessman, expressed, "Even though it’s a creative organization, you need to find the funds to run it so [fundraising is] a very important part of the organization." Clinton says the sustainability of the operation has grown just as much as the artistic side and has high hopes for more expansion in the future.
So there you have it! The Lark, still a young adult, has undergone so much change and has a long future ahead. Happy Birthday, Lark! Here's to 22 more years and beyond of new plays and visionary leaders!
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