From the Executive Director
2011 Is for Action
By Teresa Eyring
Enter 2011! This new year is a special one for TCG: The stage is being set for our 50th birthday, and we plan to celebrate! Believe it or not, TCG was founded all the way back in 1961. That's the year John F. Kennedy became president, that the Beatles debuted at the Cavern Club, that the Peace Corps was created. The Civil Rights Movement was in high gear. The Vietnam War had begun. And Barbie got a boyfriend, Ken. Then as now, we live in a world of staggering contrasts—and these ultimately drive the telling of stories.
Beginning with our National Conference in Los Angeles June 16–18, we will mark this 50-year milestone while continuing to chart a future together. We will challenge ourselves by identifying what we have and have not accomplished. Looking ahead, we will seek to inspire the generations of theatre practitioners and audiences who have grown up with us by asking the simple question, What if? What if our world looked different? What if the next great wave of theatre-makers (many of them students enrolled in training programs described in the pages of this special issue) were welcomed to sit at the table with the field's founders, to share their knowledge and insights? The strength of our national theatre community derives to some extent from the willingness to be self-critical—but it is also propelled forward by a sense of optimism and hope and an unerring belief in possibilities.
So this is 2011: The world has changed, but as the saying goes, there's no shortage of familiar territory. The president is Obama, and the war is in Afghanistan. Cyberspace brings us together in ways we never imagined. Hamlet and Willy Loman are mentioned 24-7 in the Twitterverse, and the Beatles finally made it to iTunes. Our nation's population grows in diversity—though opportunities are still not entirely equal. Barbie is still beloved, but according to researchers like anthropologist Robbie Blinkoff—who spoke at TCG's Fall Forum on Governance—we have gone from the materialistic belief that happiness can be bought to a "new sense of social": We want the joy that comes from simple, spontaneous interaction and expression. (Blinkoff's prop was a ukulele, which, he rightly observes, cannot help but make you smile.)
Meanwhile, the hunkering down and recession-survival mode of the past three years have left a hint of sparkle at the end of the tunnel. In this spirit, I offer you some reflections and resolutions for the theatre field in the coming 12 months:
Let's talk more about art. From theatre workers, both in the U.S. and abroad, I hear frequently about a desire to put ideas about artistic excellence and aesthetics on the table for bold and intelligent examination. The Arts Council England's recent "A Strategic Framework for the Arts" tackles the question in interesting ways. The council's chair, Dame Liz Forgan, admits that conversations about excellence can be contentious. But she begins her definition of excellence this way: "Everyone will have their own sense of what excellence is, but for us it is simply the bravest, most original, most innovative, most perfectly realized work of which people are capable."
Let's make diversity a priority. There are still major gaps in realized opportunities for women, for independent artists and for leaders of color. Our theatre field should take the lead in transforming the national landscape. Boards should insist on interviewing candidates of color for leadership positions in institutions of all sizes. Artistic directors and producers should confront gender bias in their decision-making when considering who works on stages large and small. Some feel that we have exhausted this topic, that we should be done with it. But a reality check makes it clear that we have not, and I hope that in the coming year we can move the needle that measures diversity in some positive and visible directions.
Let's advocate! We live in complicated political times that may take our nation and our globe in any number of directions. This month, the new Congress is being seated and new committee chairs will be appointed. Resolve to know your new legislators and talk to them about the power of the work you are doing; let them know that it gives you both joy and a paycheck—and that you vote and pay taxes. There are great advocacy resources on the web, including the National Performing Arts Convention and the Performing Arts Alliance. Our advocacy efforts, which are bipartisan, are not just in support of funding for the National Endowment for the Arts but for a range of other issues we fight for every day in our nation's capital.
Let's appreciate our interdependence. Theatre is a local art. Its audiences, craftspeople, ticket-takers and real estate are often of a particular place. What connects them and creates the reality of a national theatre landscape—and beyond that, a global theatre community—are the artists: the performers and designers and playwrights who travel from theatre to theatre; the scripts that are produced in more than one house in more than one city, in more than one era. So make sure this year to celebrate the interdependence of all of us. It's important for audiences to know about their critical role in the national theatre landscape—even if they never leave home.
Above all, let's join in having a happy and a prosperous New Year! See you in Los Angeles in June, if not before.blog comments powered by Disqus
View our comments policy