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 The monthly Field Letter has been replaced by Teresa Eyring's weekly updates on the TCG Circle.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.

January 2008 Field Letter

In her first Field Letter of the year, Teresa reports on the $20.1 million increase for the NEA, which is the single largest dollar increase for the agency since 1979, shares TCG grant news and makes some observations on theatre and movie attendance. She writes, “It’s always interesting to listen in on conversations about what might be influencing the results….In theatre, when discussing an unpredictable audience picture, we talk about competition for leisure time, the trend toward collaborative online creation and the absence of arts education in the schools as influencers. With respect to the idea of new formats taking over from the old—and for theatre, that was supposed to be radio and then film and then TV—why did theatre keep on growing? Hmmm…clearly, we are not alone in wrestling with this issue.”

February 2008 Field Letter

In the February Field Letter, Teresa promotes various upcoming convenings, reports on the most recent TCG board and National Council for the American Theatre meetings and ponders the new economic realities that we are all facing. She writes, “Meanwhile, in real life, news reports are building about the possibility and/or reality of a recession—and what it means for many segments of our economy. For theatres, the consumer belt tightening that accompanies recessionary times can affect programming, ticket sales and contributions. But paradoxically, some theatres have experienced steady or increased attendance during past recessions. It behooves us to consider the impacts of various weak economy scenarios and possible impacts on the field, its organizations, artists and patrons—as well as recalling how we’ve handled such environments in the past.”

March 2008 Field Letter

Writing her March Field Letter from a site visit in Denver, Teresa recounts a meeting with Congressman Norm Dicks, at which arts service leaders thanked him for his support for this year’s major NEA increase and discussed the proposed cuts the President included in next year’s budget. She also reports on preparations for the National Performing Arts Convention in June, and she depicts Denver’s cultural community as a beacon of bold vision-setting and collaborative action. During her ride from the Denver airport, she and her cab driver, a Sudanese refugee who became a U.S. citizen last year and is voting in his first U.S. presidential election, discussed politics and the performing arts. After contemplating that conversation, Teresa writes, “It’s hard to imagine what it must be like to flee a country known for some of the worst human rights atrocities in the world, spend years in refugee camps and finally to arrive in a place of relative peace and civility, to be able to vote, to talk to a random taxi cab passenger about your views on elections, to participate in and discuss the rich and wide availability of art and creative expression in one’s own community. And these contrasting realities remind me of the things we sometimes take for granted and why our performing arts convening is so very important.”

April 2008 Field Letter

In the April Field Letter, Teresa promotes the upcoming TCG National Conference, Theatre at the Center, and announces two exciting new TCG teleconference series. She reports on her travels to the Bogota International Theatre Festival, and her participation in the Dual Leadership: Partnering from the Inside Out seminar in New Orleans. In other news, Teresa discusses the importance of reinstating NEA site visits for the theatre field, and she writes, “as I speak with colleagues, I am also hearing a strong desire to use this moment as an opportunity to make modifications to the site visit/reporting system to improve its effectiveness and efficiency. We plan on forming a focus group to discuss the current system, what’s working and not working, and what aspects we might propose for a redesign.”

May 2008 Field Letter

In the May Field Letter, Teresa updates the community on her participation in Arts Advocacy Day 2008, and a gathering of international theatre artists co-sponsored by TCG and the Martin E. Segal Center. She discusses an exciting new audience research program for Free Night of Theater which will survey focus groups of non-theatregoing high school students. Teresa also reports on the recent Leadership Teleconference with Robert Rubin. Responding to Robert Rubin’s observation that that the theatre community has yet to establish a strong voice on the national level, Teresa remarks, “it’s an important discussion for us and for the field—how we are even more at the center of discourse on the direction of our nation. The TCG National Conference and the Performing Arts Convention are an excellent place to engage in that conversation with colleagues from theatre and other disciplines.”

June 2008 Field Letter

In the June Field Letter, Teresa plugs the National Performing Arts Convention for the final time and announces the upcoming Leadership Teleconference, The Contributed Income Quest: New Strategies to Maximize Results with Dory Vanderhoof. She introduces the last round of Expanding the Theatre Manager’s Repertoire, TCG and Target Corporation’s popular human resources training program, and encourages member theatres to submit videos to TCG’s YouTube Channel. She tackles the recent controversy over charities’ tax-exempt status, observing that “while theatres are notoriously under-endowed, they also have ticket prices that are significantly lower than the actual cost of creating productions and provide productions intended to educate and benefit the public. They provide important services to the community such as arts education in schools, as well as community and neighborhood development programs. It is critical to realize that our ability to exist and deliver on our public mission would not be possible without charitable contributions and tax exemptions made possible by state and federal exempt status.”

July 2008 Field Letter

In the July Field Letter, Teresa recaps June’s TCG Conference and the National Performing Arts Convention. She highlights the NPAC electronic voting on post-conference priorities for the field (advocacy, arts education and diversity), and expresses her enthusiasm for the young arts leaders she met and observed at the TCG Conference. Teresa discusses several recent TCG-sponsored teleconferences, including the first two Leadership Teleconferences, which featured former Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin and acclaimed development consultant Dory Vanderhoof. She also offers her thoughts on the sobering news of the closing of TCG member Theatre de la Jeune Leune. Teresa observes, “This 30 year old company has had a major impact on both the Twin Cities and national theatre landscapes, with a repertoire of highly imaginative and detailed physical theatre… I wish them (forever the Lunies, whether or not they have a new name) all the best. I look forward to their next incarnation, and what we can all learn from the courageous decision they have made.”

August 2008 Field Letter

In the August Field Letter, Teresa alerts TCG members of some upcoming surveys: a survey of the effectiveness of TCG programs and services, a very simple mini-fiscal survey, a survey regarding technology and strategic technology planning and the annual Fiscal and Salary surveys. She reports on her participation in the National Critics Institute and the Trustee Residency at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, urges the field to take action on the ongoing White Space issue and promotes the upcoming TCG Fall Forum. Teresa also announces the release of Theatre Facts 2007, which is now available on the TCG website. She points out a few developments which have gotten her attention, and observes, “Within the attendance categories, main stage attendance is down, but the continuing trend of increased attendance at family programming is notable, as well as for booked-in shows. Are theatres planning more of such programming? More theatres ended the year in the black in 2007, but how much of the collective surplus is related to capital campaigns, endowment earnings and/or capital gains, which can mask operating deficits?”

September 2008 Field Letter

In the September Field Letter, Teresa introduces new TCG staff members, previews her upcoming American Theatre column “How Theatre Saved America Part 2” and reports on a recent meeting with Julius Novick, author of the 1968 book Beyond Broadway: the Quest for Permanent Theatres. She also reports on a busy month of traveling to Charleston, SC, for TCG’s Expanding the Theatre Manager’s Repertoire, to New Orleans for the Network of Ensemble Theatres Conference and to Massachusetts for a visit with Double Edge Theatre Productions. She also draws readers’ attention to an article on the ongoing “White Spaces” issue in this month’s TCG Bulletin. Teresa emphasizes, “People often glaze over when we talk about white spaces, because the issue is so technical. But the outcome of the debate really can affect your theatre and cost you money, possibly requiring you to convert your wireless microphones and other equipment to fit with new regulations. We are working hard to keep that from happening, but it is important for you to be informed.”

October 2008 Field Letter

In the October Field Letter, Teresa reports on her recent trip to Madrid for the International Theatre Institute (ITI) World Congress, where she observed international theatres facing many of the same “challenges and aspirations” that TCG member theatres face, such as artist visas for international travel. Teresa also tackles the recent turbulence in the economy from theatre’s point of view, and she remarks that although a recent TCG mini-survey reflected more surpluses than deficits for FY08, that “theatres also continue to wrestle with cash flow issues and leadership burnout. So now this dramatic environmental curve ball, which some economists say will affect companies more than individuals, at least at the outset. But those companies represent many of our funders and trustees. And ultimately, the crunch will be felt or perceived to be felt by average citizens, who are also our audiences.”

November 2008 Field Letter

In the November Field Letter, Teresa highlights some important referendums and propositions that will be decided on November 4, reports on her trips to the LORT meeting in Minneapolis and the Theatre Bay Area’s annual meeting, and offers resources for keeping up with economic developments. In recognizing that theatres have been “experiencing a softening of attendance,” Teresa applauds the October Free Night of Theater campaign launch. In spite of the “chaos in the economy,” she reports, “What we’ve been hearing—by and large—from theatres is that they are indeed attracting new audiences, especially younger and more diverse audiences. As we continue to conduct research and survey the audiences who attend through Free Night, we are finding that a large percentage of audiences do return to buy a full price ticket. Some theatres report difficulties with no-shows, but many feel that the benefits are still plentiful enough to make this situation tolerable—and we are working on ways to minimize the problem.”

December 2008 Field Letter

In her December Field Letter, Teresa draws attention to the White Space issue, reviews elements from the arts policy statement sent to the White House transition team and reports on her travels to CENTERSTAGE and Emerson College. She reminds us of the upcoming TCG National Conference in Baltimore, Roots. Renaissance. Revolution., and highlights poignant TCG Fall Forum moments. Teresa also observes, “I know that many of you are struggling and trying to determine how best to deliver on your missions—and perhaps even how to survive—when faced with a recession that has inevitably led to some combination of funding cutbacks, audience attrition and shrinking endowments. We are working at TCG on the best ways to support the field in these times… Do let us know if there is anything in particular you need from us or if there are specifics of your experience that you would like to share with others in some form.”

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