For the last couple of years, Laura Ekstrand thought it was time to change the name of Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre. The name had been inspired by Native American culture, but it was created in a different time and, in today’s climate, the name seemed out of place.
Over the past several months, the staff, board, and ensemble have held discussions and brainstorming sessions. An online audience survey was sent out, and the artistic director spoke to several consultants about identity branding. After all of these investigations, the name Vivid Stage was selected.
“It felt more like a reflection of some changes that we’re making,” explained Ekstrand, Artistic Director of Vivid Stage. “Dreamcatcher was our baby name. It’s what we came up with before there was a company. At the time, it didn’t seem like it was problematic to choose something that was Native American. We loved the symbol of the dream catcher, but there’s something different about that today. I was starting to be uncomfortable with it.”
Ekstrand says that no one ever complained about the name or even brought it up, but she wanted to make the change before that ever happened. In recent years, schools, corporations, bands, and sports teams are among those to change names that are no longer politically correct. Even some of the most legendary sports teams from the Washington Redskins to the Cleveland Indians have made or planned name changes.
“We wanted to communicate our energy, and the kind of storytelling you’ll see on our stage. We produce emotional, intimate, contemporary plays, and the rest of our programs are also very immediate and visceral, like improv, classes and new play readings,” said Ekstrand. “Everything we do is up close and personal. The acting ensemble is especially gifted at being emotionally transparent in a way that encourages the audience to have a similarly vivid experience.”
Another issue that would often come up with the Dreamcatcher name was people associating the name with “catch a dream” or “catch a rising star” — both conjure up images of the young for Ekstrand. In fact, Paper Mill Playhouse (located just a few miles away from Vivid Stage) presents the Rising Star Awards for achievement in high school musical theater. So that connotation alone was troublesome.
“We’re definitely past the dream stage and into the making stage, so I thought there was a better way to describe the work that we do,” added Ekstrand.
In addition, the pandemic forced theatre companies to experiment with audio and video productions - something Vivid Stage wants to continue moving forward. Having stage in their name still connects them with theatre, but the new name signifies that they are trying new things.
Vivid Stage will announce the schedule for its 2021-2022 season in the near future, but you can see them next with Songs In The Garden 2021 on Wednesday, August 4. This is a cabaret show that celebrates the season at the Reeves-Reed Arboretum in Summit. The show begins at 6:30pm and attendees are encouraged to bring blankets or lawn chairs. Tickets are $25 and available for purchase online in advance or in-person at the show.
“It’s great just to be with people and be able to catch up with friends and audience members,” said Ekstrand. “You get that feeling that you just don’t get online, which is ‘how is this going?’ You never get that feeling online and that’s the real pleasure of doing live performances… it’s that interchange between you and the audience that you just can’t get online. People will email you afterwards and say they enjoyed the show, but it’s not the same. You calibrate it live. You make choices based it and you just can’t do that online.”
Vivid Stage has moved five or six times over the years, so they are used to changing business cards, promo pieces, and website information. But Ekstrand expects it to take about a year to be fully caught up since that’s what it has taken in the past. One thing that won’t change is their address. They are remaining at Oakes Center in Summit where they are the professional theatre in residence.
“We have an opportunity, as we reopen in person, to rethink how we express who we are and who we have become over the past 27 years,” explained Ekstrand.
Graphic by Yolanda Fundora