June 2010 Field Letter
Written on May 26, 2010
If you are a TCG member theatre and read my weekly briefings, you
know that it’s been a busy couple of months in the field.
For those who have not seen these briefs, I offer a quick summary.
In March, TCG was invited by the Festival
Internacional de Teatro de Bogotá to bring over 20 delegates
from member theatres, plus TCG staff, to attend productions and
meet with our Latin American and global counterparts (see my American
Theatre column). About a third of the delegates came back
with very specific new relationships and project ideas. I also took
two journeys to Florida, where I visited Florida Stage for their
Stage New Works Festival and Florida Studio Theatre for their
Playwrights Festival , as well as two productions and some talks.
On each of those visits, I found an absolutely magical combination
of vision and community connection at play. I also went to Kansas—Independence,
Kansas, that is—for the William
Inge Theatre Festival, where playwright Paula Vogel was honored
this year. In attendance were a number of the regulars such as actors
Elizabeth Wilson and Barbara Dana, as well as Tom Jones, one of
the creators of I Do! I Do! and The Fantasticka,
and playwright Katori Hall, who received the New Voices in the American
Theatre Award. In early May, I was able to attend the LORT meeting,
where there were some excellent discussions about the state of the
field and the professionals working in our field—particularly
during tough times. We also had a tremendous Arts Advocacy Day in
Washington DC, which was reported on by TCG board member Mark Cuddy
in the last Field
I left all of these experiences so energized by the excellence, focus and community impact of our theatres, theatre leaders and artists. And, of course, they are able to do their work because of their audiences and community supporters. One of the original intents of the American resident theatre movement was to provide excellent theatre experiences for citizens across the land and I am continually made proud.
The story of the resident theatre proliferation is well known and oft-retold, especially by me. I consider it to be a wild success story. A field that has, by and large, maintained its ability to generate new work, new concepts and risky ideas—to be entrepreneurial, to transform itself and to monetize itself in order to create jobs—all the while surviving so many potential substitutes (radio, film, television, video games and the internet). I also don’t know of another performing arts discipline that has created such a robust not-for-profit sector, distinct from its commercial counterpart, but that has found a way to be mutually reinforcing. Can you imagine a Broadway for orchestras?
There is also a strong and growing relationship among the performing arts. In 2008, thousands of engaged members of the performing arts community came together in Denver at the National Performing Arts Convention (NPAC), the consortium of national performing arts service organizations, and through a participatory town hall process, identified five priorities—Advocacy, Artists, Education, Diversity and Technology—as the key areas to work on together to build a better future for the performing arts. Five task forces were formed to identify key actions to move the priorities forward.
It quickly became clear that a centralized resource for the performing arts was long overdue. NPAC recently announced this new resource, a website that hosts a continually updated compendium of useful information, links, articles, research, how-to guides and other tools. Performing artists, arts administrators and arts advocates of all kinds will find the website an invaluable tool. The site is a work in progress—as it should always be. The content is regularly updated, and how the site is used, along with feedback—welcomed through the home page and through each posting—will help shape the direction of the site over time. Each NPAC action area is curated by a leader in the field. The inaugural curators are: Denise Montgomery (Advocacy), Chi-wang Yang (Artists), Diana Hossack (Diversity), Richard Kessler (Education) and Brian McCormick (Technology).
The site will also provide a platform for new ways of connecting
as a performing arts field. Virtual NPAC, a lively, interactive
web-based gathering begins on the website on June 7. Our first virtual
convening, Virtual NPAC, will include highlights from our respective
annual conferences and bring together constituencies of the NPAC
partner organizations to share and learn from each other like never
If you don’t know who the NPAC partners are, here’s the list: American Composers Forum, American Music Center, Association of Performing Arts Presenters, Chamber Music America, Chorus America, Conductors Guild, Dance/USA, League of American Orchestras, Meet The Composer, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, National Guild for Community Arts Education, National Performance Network, OPERA America and Theatre Communications Group.
Until next month, all the best,
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