Patch.com Lemon Grove
By PAT LAUNER
Dek : Lemon Grove native Adam Parker helms Triad Productions
It all started at Mt. Miguel High. The drama instructor retired in 2000, and Adam Parker, then a senior, became the student assistant to the new teacher, a role he continued after he graduated and began attending SDSU.
Fast-forward 11 years. Parker is now the founding artistic director of Triad Productions, and he’ll soon be directing his beloved drama teacher in “Othello.” But right now, he has “the starving class” on his mind (Triad’s production of Sam Shepard’s “Curse of the Starving Class” runs through the end of the month), and bringing young people — sometimes among that very class — to the theater.
That’s Triad’s mission, which reads, in part: “We are determined … to change our generation’s perception of theater and how it can impact the way we choose to live our lives.”
Parker’s co-founders and current board members are Ryan Ross and Scott Amiotte , who often act in Triad productions. The three first performed together as students at SDSU.
“That experience was the impetus of the beginning of Triad,” says Parker, 28, who grew up in Lemon Grove and now lives in South Park. Amiotte , 29, lives in Del Cerro; Ross, 27, is a resident of North Park, where he grew up ..
“We’d go to the theater and we were always the youngest people there,” Parker reports. “We decided to start Triad to attract the 18-40 year old that doesn’t really go to theater that much.”
They embarked on their dramatic adventure in 2007, and Triad has presented seven full-length productions since, mostly dark comedies, effectively mining the depth and humor in order to inspire and engage their target audience. And they’ve done it all on a shoestring.
“Our annual budget is less than $20 ,000 ,” Parker confesses. “Hopefully, now that we have our non-profit status, we’ll be able to pay our actors — with the help of grants, donors and sponsorships. We’ve been really fortunate that people believe in the quality of the work we do.”
The quality has been high, the play choices provocative. Now Triad just has to attract larger audiences.
“We market unconventionally,” Parker says. “We’ve been advertising our shows in beer and wine bars. We have a cross-promotion with Hodad’s . We market to high schools and colleges and through the local music scene. And it’s paying off; 50-80% of our audience is now in the 18-40 age group .
“But it’s a fight these days to get people of any age into the theater. This is a national problem. And we’ve got the small budget and the toughest audience to attract on top of that.”
Parker is trying to dispel the many misconceptions young people have about theater.
“Theater is made out to be a dress-up thing that requires a lot of money and advance planning. People think you have to be sophisticated to understand it. We want to make theater more of an everyday activity. You can show up in shorts, at the last minute. What’s most important is just being there. And once they are, they so often tell us, ‘I didn’t know there were plays like this out there.’
To ensure relevance, Triad has produced only contemporary work.
“Every play we’ve done is less than ten years old,” Parker explains. “We went back a little more in time for ‘Curse of the Starving Class’ [which premiered in 1978]. We wanted a real American classic, and we know Sam Shepard’s work is highly relatable.
“This play is about a really poor family trying to get their piece of the American Dream. Young people struggling not to become their parents. People losing their houses. It’s very easy to identify with.”
The next Triad offering, opening in January, goes even further back in time. It will be the company’s first Shakespeare play, and their largest production to date.
“We wanted to take on the challenge of making it different and interesting for a younger audience,” says Parker. “To me, ‘Othello’ stands out in the canon. Most other Shakespeare plays have more linear relationships, between mother and daughter or father and son. But this play is about a man, a woman and a friend, and the complexities of that relationship. It doesn’t matter if you’re 16 years old or 80 years old; you understand love , jealousy , anger and lust.”
The title role will be played by Tom Gomes, still a beloved drama teacher at Mt. Miguel HS (“one of the most warm, coolest, amazing people you’ll ever meet,” according to his one-time protege ).
Parker is already seeking actors from local high schools and planning for school matinees. He’d love the Lemon Grove community to come out and support the work of its native son.
“Lemon Grove is an area that needs more arts. It’s a great, family-oriented town. But I think the arts would be a great way to generate more identity and pride for the city. And if the city’s starved for culture, why not see ‘Curse of the Starving Class?’”
Triad Productions’ “Curse of the Starving Class” continues through May 28 at the 10th Avenue Theatre, 930 10th Ave., downtown San Diego.
Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 8pm and Sundays at 5pm.
Tickets range from $13-25, and are available at www.seemoreplays.com or www.triadprod.com