As regional theatres throughout America began to proliferate in the 1950s and 60s, W. McNeil Lowry, director of the arts and humanities program at the Ford Foundation in New York, noted a lack of communication and cooperation that seemed to impede the movement's growth. Lowry convened a group of theatre professionals and educators to discuss the possibility of a central office that could be run by representatives from the field.
In 1961, the Ford Foundation set aside $244,000 over a four-year period to meet this goal, and Theatre Communications Group was established "to improve communication among professional, community and university theatres in the United States. The group will facilitate the exchange of artists and other theatre personnel and enable members to study each others' methods, with the ultimate aim of making the theatre more professional in training, creation and production."
Headquartered in Pittsburgh at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, the original members of TCG included 15 theatres (both professional and community) and nine university drama departments. Miss Pat Brown, founding artistic director of Magnolia Theatre in Long Beach, Calif., served as director. Founding members still active in TCG today include Alley Theatre in Houston; Arena Stage in Washington, DC; Cleveland Play House; Milwaukee Repertory Theater and the Goodman Theatre in Chicago.
Over its first decade, TCG was led by Michael Mabry, Joseph Zeigler and Hartney Arthur. In 1972, Lowry asked Peter Zeisler, then TCG board president and a co-founder of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and founder of the League of Resident Theatres (LORT), to become executive director. Zeisler remained in that post for 23 years and under his leadership, along with that of deputy director Lindy Zesch, many of TCG's current programs and services were created including the National Conference, TCG Books, AMERICAN THEATRE magazine and the American Arts Alliance, now called the Performing Arts Alliance.
Zeisler retired in 1995, and John Sullivan served as executive director until 1997. Ben Cameron was executive director from 1998 to 2006, serving with managing director Joan Channick. In 1999, TCG became the U.S. Center of the International Theatre Institute, incorporating an increasingly global perspective into all of its activities. TCG was awarded the Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre in 2005, in recognition of our leadership in the field.
Today, TCG is led by executive director Teresa Eyring, who came to the organization in 2007. TCG continues to pursue its mission to strengthen, nurture and promote the professional not-for-profit American theatre by creating new ways of harnessing and delivering information to the field, investing in leadership and capacity development for artists, administrators and organizations and leveraging the stories of the field to build greater public awareness of and appreciation for live theatre in America.
As we look to our 50th Anniversary celebrations in 2011, TCG's vision is to be the leader and innovator in assembling, contextualizing and disseminating knowledge to strengthen and energize U.S. theatres and practitioners; to be the quintessential purveyor of facts and stories that capture public, funder and media interest in theatre; to be an electrical source for artists, providing funding, networking, visibility and publications opportunities; to foster conditions for the emergence of a new level of international and intercultural awareness and cooperation through theatre. We look forward to getting there with you.