Help Bogart and LHS Drama Friends Doc the Process

Last fall, Steven Bogart, former LHS drama teacher, lead some talented actors from American Repertory Theater, Neil Gaiman and Stephin Merritt through his Workshop Theater. The filmed it, and the documentary project is on Kickstarter seeking funding.

Here is a story of the process of making a documentary about “the process.”

The cast is filled with familiar faces from the theater arts program, like Steven Bogart and Jessica Fox, and Neil Gaiman and Stephin Merritt from the Magnetic Fields.

In the “Grand Guignol Documentary,” Bogart, the former LHS drama teacher, leads actors from the American Repertory Theater, along with Gaiman and Merritt, his experimental process of collaboratively creating something out of nothing.

And, as the title suggests, they play around with genres in an entertaining look at Bogart’s workshop theater, the process he uses to develop new plays through improvisation.

It’s a process that has imprinted on LHS alumni like Fox and others who have moved on to improv troupes in New York and Chicago but still trace their artistry back to what they experienced Bogart at LHS.

“Many LHSers, on graduating, will say that outside high school - even for those who have gone into the performing arts fields - they have never found a more satisfying or challenge theater experience than the one Steven Bogart provided,” Fox, the director on the project, wrote in an email from Scotland.  

“His knowledge of theater and the process, his talent and his belief in the students makes for a type of training that resembles a professional theater experience, one that links all LHS drama kids for the past two decades together.”

Bogart, who left LHS last spring, said the documentary is something he’s wanted to do for a while, and will incorporate footage from the workshop with Gaiman and Merritt, as well as past LHS productions and interviews with alumni.

On his blog, Bogart writes extensively about the process, this documentary, life and the way the death of a dear friend inspired him to stop saying someday.

“Iain and I fantasized about creating an ensemble of drama teachers who wanted to learn the process by creating a piece together the way we would lead students,” Bogart writes. “Some day, we used to say. No more somedays.”

Bogart’s process, explained in the most simplistic sense, involves creating an original play through the expansion of a single starting point through days of group improv, editing and nurturing.

“It requires a respect for each other and not saying ‘No’ to any ideas in the beginning,” Bogart said from his workshop at ArtSpace in Maynard. “There’s a lot of ownership with the material, but it does require people to listen to each other and work to find it together.”

Though eager to make this documentary, Bogart said the Kickstarter experience comes with a bit of uneasiness, even if it is, in some respects, a fitting way to invite the audience into his Workshop Theater process.

The way Kickstarter works is like a virtual telethon, where there’s a tease of the project on a webpage seeking “backers” for a project while tracking progress toward the pledge goal. There are some cool products offered for pledges, as well.

“One of the goals of the workshop is to let people into the process to see how it works,” he said. “The nerve-racking part of it is if you don’t get the full amount you’re going for, you don’t get any of it.”

As of 7 p.m. last night, 44 backers had pledged $2,696 toward the $67,300 goal. If this doesn’t work out, Bogart said it’s on to Plan B, but he’s sure hoping that it doesn’t get to that point.

To help get the “Grand Guignol Documentary” produced, visit the project's Kickstarter page.


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