"The boys don't come to the girls' plays and the girls don't come to the boys' plays," he says. "As much as we are supposedly a very together community, we're not all one. It's a totally different market, and it's hard to reach both."
It's not just that a good lesbian script is hard to find but also that the audience isn't as regular as Schrock would like.
FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Sunday September 18, 1994 Home Edition Calendar Page 91 Calendar Desk 1 inches; 18 words Type of Material: Correction
Misspelling--In some editions last Sunday, the name of Celebration Theatre Artistic Director Robert Schrock was misspelled.
"I've been told that the lesbians were the backbone of the theater, that they gave it the most support and that they're starving for anything to come see that represents them," he says. "But I haven't found that to be true. 'Girl Bar' did well. But on 'Lesbian Sea Gulls,' we're not doing well at all."
S till, sometimes you have to make an investment in the future via what Schrock calls a "noble failure" such as "Lesbian Sea Gulls."
"My original idea for 'Lesbian Sea Gulls' was to have well-known, established gay writers write a little 10-minute play," he says. "But it's hard for a theater at this level to attract major talent, because we can't pay them."
He turned instead to emerging talents.
"It's an uneven show and I'll be the first to admit it," Schrock says. "But I'm proud because I was able to commission six lesbian playwrights and a songwriter to write for the theater. That's my psychic income."
Nonetheless, Schrock realizes that he has to tread lightly when it comes to helping female artists and their work.
"Not being a lesbian, it makes it even harder for me to find what they want to see," he says. "For every 20 male scripts that I get, there's only one female script, and it probably isn't good. So that's why I'm trying to develop more lesbian writers."
Not everyone thinks he is succeeding.
"I don't think Bob has a real sensitivity toward women's issues," Borden says. "He's in the process of still learning that."
Yet Schrock maintains that he'd like to see all kinds of gay separatism go by the wayside.
"They just don't cross over," he says of the various factions within the Celebration audience. "The 'Little Mikey' crowd didn't come to see 'A Language of Their Own.' "
Schrock would even like to push the envelope of what is usually considered right for a gay theater.
"I want to get away from doing ghetto plays," he says. "A Tennessee Williams festival would be appropriate to do in a gay theater. But right now, I don't think my audience would be quite accepting of that. They really want to see their own issues."
Particularly with the increasing respect afforded such places as Highways and such groups as Artists Confronting AIDS--both of which present predominantly, although not exclusively, gay work--it will be even more imperative that Schrock keep working to hone Celebration's own artistic identity.
Borden, though, won't be around to see what Schrock accomplishes. He has resigned and will be officially leaving his post Sept. 19. "I couldn't see myself going into another year for $500 a month, plus having a regular job to keep myself alive," he says.
Then too there are the usual antagonisms and frustrations that plague the boards of many nonprofit arts organizations.
"It's tough working with an artistic director sometimes and it's tough working with a board sometimes," Borden says. "There are some things that I'm not thrilled about. I felt that when I left, they'd have to be responsible."
S hrock, for his part, is neither burnt-out nor sanguine.
"We've had a lot of growing pains," he says. "It's been a difficult year in many respects because we've created a child that needs to be fed and the organization is now realizing that. Now that it has that visibility, it takes a lot more maintenance. And maintenance equates with money."
But money isn't easy for any small theater to come by.
"We have a 63-seat theater with a post down the middle and you can't let that defeat you," Schrock says. "You have to think bigger than that. You have to have a much broader vision of what you want to bring to people."
And that is the kind of optimism mixed with realism that has helped Schrock and the Celebration so far.
"I feel great about it," he says of the success of his first full season. "It's a real roller-coaster ride. But as a kid, I didn't like the merry-go-round. It's a choice that I have made to ride the roller coaster."*