5 Questions with... Joey Nictoera

Why the North Shore needs a Black Box

There is currently an exciting crowdfunding campaign happening in Peabody and we sat down with our lighting guru, partner and a member of the soon to be announced Creative North Shore, Joey Nicotera, to chat about the planned Black Box Theatre in Downtown Peabody that he is collaborating and consulting on.Joey Nicotera is the owner of Retonica Lighting. You may know Joey/Retonica as the team behind the laser show at last year’s Drive-In, the lighting advisor for the annual Salem’s So Sweet Ice Sculpture Festival and the designer behind last years wonderful Pride Festival pop-up installation.

1.) As a frequent partner, we know all about the talent, artistry, and skill of Retonica… What people may not know is how immersed in supporting Peabody you are. Please introduce yourself and tell us a little more about Joey Nicotera, Peabody advocate, and resident.

What I think a lot of people don’t know about me is that Retonica is only a small fraction of what I do. By day I am an engagement manager for a company that is seeking to get patients matched to clinical trials more quickly. I work with hospitals and help them map their healthcare databases into a global standard to facilitate that. I’ve always worked with lighting though, and through a series of serendipitous events that occurred after I moved to Peabody, my lighting career took off. I decided that I needed to give back to the city that helped shape the future for Retonica.

2.) What is a Black Box and why does Peabody need one?
A Black Box is just that. It’s an empty space, usually painted black, that allows the artists using it to create whatever experience they choose. Unlike a traditional theater where there is a stage and fixed rows of seats, a black box can have a moveable stage and seating, or nothing at all. Peabody sits in the middle of a vibrant arts community and offers a location that’s convenient to patrons outside the North Shore as well. The problem is we just don’t have enough performance spaces in the area. I’d say it’s not just Peabody that needs it, it’s all of the surrounding communities as well.

3.) How will this Black Box be unique from a technical perspective… We have chatted with you about how innovative the A/V systems you have designed will be.. In laymen terms what can we expect?
I can assure you one thing, the lighting will be awesome. One of the things I’m striving for is to break free of the convention that you have to be a stage lighting veteran to understand how to get the look you want. Using new technology like an iPad, you’ll be able to design the lighting for a particular scene or song, take a photo of that scene, and then simply click that photo to recall the scene when it’s time, from anywhere in the theater. It’s a technology used by Cinema Salem as well, and allows for some amazing effects. In addition, pre-programmed looks will be provided that anyone can use for everything from cocktail parties to DJ sets.

4.) One of the most interesting elements of this new black box from our perspective as an organization that fosters creative growth is the unique revenue model the black box will have in place. Can you explain how that will work?
This is the part I’m most excited about. Unlike a traditional music venue where the house scouts and books acts, pays them a flat fee, and makes the money off the bar, food, etc. things will be a bit different here. With Think Inside the Box, anyone can book the venue for a fee, and also book bar service and food trucks that would offer a revenue share. It turns the tables and puts the benefit to the artists.

5.) Things in Peabody have started to really pop up on the radar and we were excited to have multiple members of the Creative Salem team work on the Coffee Experiment with you and we are looking forward to our expansion to Creative North Shore and have some awesome ideas for even more partnerships and initiatives in Peabody. Where do you see Peabody heading? What would you like to see it become? (The Coffee Experiment is now run by the same organization that will be running the black box Arcworks, a division of Northeast Arc and is called Breaking Grounds Cafe)3

I definitely see Peabody developing into a performance city, and maybe even more specifically a music city. Open mic nights at Breaking Grounds Cafe are drawing bigger and bigger crowds, our Pop-up Pubs are certainly doing the same, and even the Northshore Mall is building an outdoor music venue. A lot of people also don’t know that Peabody has a very well-attended concert series in the summer, and our annual Holiday concerts always sell out over two nights. We also have a record label operating downtown. I would like to see Peabody become an incubator of musical acts, and already have a few lined up that I want to bring to the “Box”.