Field Letter Archives
The monthly Field Letter was written by TCG's executive director and gave a personal and direct summary of current ideas, trends, and resources shaping the field. The monthly Field Letter has been replaced by Teresa Eyring's weekly updates on the TCG Circle. Field Letters are archived from January 2006-October 2010.
In the January Field Letter, Cameron reflects on the Fall Forum, provides an update on the planning process for the National Conference in June 2006 and dispels a recent rumor. He also calls TCG members to provide celebratory stories to share with the field. He writes, "At various points in the past, we've asked questions in the Field Letter, tried to elicit information, etc., with wonderful—but relatively few—responses. Never being one to give up on this, I'm wondering whether we can't think of the Field Letter in a slightly different way. Especially when times can be as hard as they often are, might we use this letter as a forum to celebrate? Has anyone out there taken a risk, tried a new strategy, bucked a trend in a way that might inspire and teach others? If you feel that your theatre has experienced a particular triumph that might prove instructive for others, email me. I'll run at least one cause for celebration a month and, in fact, have already embedded one in the next section—let's see how we can do together."
Cameron shares his excitement over a new "must read" monograph by Jim Collins, examines strategies for connecting audiences with artists and reflects on some of the less-controversial (and therefore less-reported) elements of Harold Pinter's Nobel acceptance lecture. The Field Letter also includes a transcript of Cameron's closing remarks from November's Fall Forum and first responses to his call in the January Field Letter for celebratory stories from the field: "Several of you wrote in to tell of recent successes that might be of inspiration to others. The theme of these was largely turnaround-a theatre facing dire straits that has bounced back. Adam Thurman, executive director of Congo Square Theatre in Chicago, writes of a dire moment when the theatre faced the inability to meet payroll, upheavals in board structure, the possibility of cancellation of a production and more. The staff, in meeting to confront the situation, threw themselves into making sure that the production went forward, even while acknowledging that it might be the last show in the theatre's history. Some emergency funding appeals later, Seven Guitars went forward-and made Joseph Jefferson Award history by being the first African-American theatre to win Best Production, Best Ensemble and Best Director for a single show."
Cameron addresses developments on the national advocacy front, commenting on the federal government's lack of emphasis on arts education in our schools and the proposed 2007 national budget, which fails to increase NEA funding. He shares views and developments from the field on state funding issues, organization turnaround and the reinventing and refocusing of core values. He also ponders the technological advances that are threatening business-as-usual in Hollywood and what this means for the American theatre: "What we and Hollywood are both dealing with is a tendency to isolate/cocoon/nest-you name it-which we in the theatre at least must find new ways to confront." More success stories from the field are shared, and Cameron ends with a reflection on the sadly growing number of playwrights who have recently passed away: "I'm sure you all join with me in remembering each with affection, with gratitude for the work they left us and with an awareness of the new holes that have opened in our landscape with their departure."
Ben shares thoughts and experiences taken from his latest travels and reading materials (with topics ranging from presidential essays to Danish hotel design), and he reflects on the many insights provided from TCG's latest round of field conversations: "Having attended all of the meetings in 1999 and all of the meetings this year, I was struck by a number of subtle shifts-the depiction and impact of the audience polarization many of us have witnessed in our communities; the increased desire to understand audiences more fully, especially the shifts in audience behavior…and a general sense of more intense pressure-the imperative for every production to hit its marks, as it were-even while ongoing issues around artistic compensation, training, criticism, the viability of old models and more continued to resound strongly."
Cameron contemplates questions he is being asked with increasing frequency, including whether or not the 501(c)(3) model is broken. "I for one refuse to believe that we will be strengthened as a nation by allowing the market to be the ultimate arbiter of value or that we really collectively believe the central premises underlying the not-for-profit model are flawed. The 501(c)(3), for me, may be ailing in some ways-we may be collectively cutting off its air supply, metaphorically speaking-but that is not tantamount to saying it is broken-yet. And some of the means for improving it may still lie within our grasp."
In the June Field Letter, Cameron ruminates on his upcoming departure from TCG, and specifically how the search for and implementation of his successor is carried out: "I offer these observations less because it is the way every search should be run than because I hope it will provoke important questions and self-reflection in any organization. I absolutely believe in the ongoing work necessary to keep an organization ready for this moment-whenever it may strike. I believe that every group should carefully assess time frames and roles and participants in the search. And I believe every successor should be afforded the latitude and room to find her/his own way in the least restrictive, most supportive environment. I find myself asking less about what I need than what my successor needs to make her/his arrival every bit as rewarding and rich as mine was for me."
Ben Cameron's final Field Letter includes two of his speeches from last month's TCG National Conference in Atlanta.
In the first half of the two-part August Field Letter, TCG board president Abel Lopez provides an update on the search for TCG's next executive director and an introduction to the consulting firm the search committee has hired to lead the process in the coming months. In the second half, interim executive director Gigi Bolt introduces herself and shares her thoughts on TCG's past, present and future, and on the outgoing leadership team of Ben Cameron and Joan Channick.
In the September Field Letter, interim executive director Gigi Bolt reflects on her first month in her new position, including recaps and updates on TCG events and initiatives such as Expanding the Theatre Manager's Repertoire and the upcoming Free Night of Theater 2006. She also chronicles recent theatre events from across the country, with a special emphasis on her home in recent years, Washington, DC. "There's so much to celebrate and the season hasn't even begun! What a remarkable and fortunate thing it is to know that invigorating debate, delight and spiritual balm are as close as a theatre down the road."
In the October Field Letter, Gigi Bolt shares her thoughts on recent field gatherings, events and discussions she has participated in—several of which portend exciting possibilities for the future. She also discusses upcoming TCG Events like Free Night of Theater and the 2006 Fall Forum, and comments on two recent publications of interest, The Long Tail and Applebee's America. Finally, Gigi closes the letter with a reflection on the recent passing of two individuals who will be sorely missed by the field: Nancy Roche and Patrick Quinn.
In the November Field Letter, Gigi celebrates, among other things, the successful execution of TCG's second annual Free Night of Theater and the long-sought availability of disaster relief from FEMA for performing arts organizations. She also highlights new and upcoming TCG events and publications (including Susan-Lori Parks' 365 Days/365 Plays), and addresses other happenings and developments from the field: "Recent discussions involve the possibility of lobbying the government to change legislation to allow phone blockers to be used in theatres. The Communications Act of 1934 makes it illegal to interfere with radio communications, which includes cell phone signals, though the technical issues may be more complex—involving a distinction between active and passive blocking. Could this be a movement in the making?"
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In the December Field Letter, Gigi reflects on several recent events, including the TCG Fall Forum and a new call for the theatre community to participate in raising awareness of the country's rising autism rates. She also comments on the recent mid-term elections and their likely impact on the arts: "One of the arts fields' greatest accomplishments in recent years has been the forging of bipartisan support. We've cultivated steadfast supporters from both sides of the aisle. Of course, the positions and views of the leadership are always critical, and happily, the presumptive post-election party and committee leadership appears to be strongly pro-arts.... It's never too early to introduce yourself to newly elected members."