Defining Gender Parity Town Hall

When we announced the Diversity/Inclusion/Gender Parity conversations that StageSource was going to hold in the fall of 2012, a few people asked me why we included gender parity. Pointing to several prominent women in the Boston/New England theater community as examples, the questions was raised–aren’t we doing well enough? Does gender parity really need a separate conversation?

I would answer that question today the same way I did then. No, we aren’t doing well enough. And yes, it needs its own conversation. Because gender parity is an issue in our society, and in the arts.

If you look at the numbers Pat Gabridge gathered around new work, which included the number of plays written by and/or directed by women, you can see that there is a way to go for parity.  And the Boston/New England theater community is not alone in this. A conversation with artistic directors in Washington DC set off a series of national conversations, summarized by Ilana Brownstein here, with other resources included in her excellent blog post.

Counting is always tricky. And counting in the arts is trickier. Because numbers also have stories. What are the budget sizes of the theaters doing the work? Does the fringe community tell a different story than the larger theaters do? When/where/how do we start benchmarking where we are? And how do we measure success?

In the Diversity/Inclusion/Gender Parity Task Force report we released last year, we talked about the need to look at these issues on stage (actors and roles), back stage (designers, stage managers, technicians, directors, playwrights), in the offices (administration, front of house), in the audiences, and in the board rooms (and donor bases). How do we have a conversation about gender parity in all of those worlds? A “lack” of women isn’t an issue, so what is holding us back from parity? Might cracking that give us guidance in the other two areas?

The Defining Gender Parity Town Hall has three parts:

Testimony: We are going to have an opportunity for 15 people to sign up and give 2 minutes of testimony about gender parity in our theater community. Why does it matter? What is at stake? How would you measure success? We will also give people an opportunity to send in their written testimony.

Conversation: Rather than an expert panel, we are going to facilitate a conversation in the room. We are inviting some specific people to participate, and will ask for some reflections on the testimony given. But since we are trying to find solutions, thinking as a group will help us with new ideas.

Action Steps: What next? How are we going to start measuring what we are doing? Who is going to be part of the team that helps do that? Is there a different way of measurement that we should know about? This is a community event, a community issue, and the solutions will come from the community.

Please RSVP on our web page. If you can’t be there in person, watch the streamed conversation on Howlround.com.

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#ilovestagesource

Sharing the sentiments of members who are not on the social media, but wanted to show their appreciation  just the same!

Change your profile picture and help StageSource occupy Facebook and Twitter!

Change your profile picture and help StageSource occupy Facebook and Twitter!

My love of StageSource;

When you need something minor, it’s treated As something major. When you call, you
Know the person who picks up really does
Want to help.

I’ve been working on a book for several
Years, and it’s easy to fall out of the community.
When I feel that way, one of the things I do
Is to go in and volunteer at StageSource.
Familiar faces wander in and out, familiar
Names are on the other end of the phone.
Just being there re-connects me to the
Community I love so much.

Love
Janet Kenney

The excitement I feel every time my Stage Source emails come, compairs to a kid getting that extra serving of his favorite snack! and often times it feels like a Birthday Cake just for you. I am always happy to get mail from you and I tell every “newbie” I meet, that they need to join StageSource. Thank you for the information, audition calls, job training and library service. (Sometimes I yearn to go to the library there and just read! but live in the center of the state. Any chance of a Worcester small library office in the future. ) and for the events you plan and place in front of us. I think your new space must be just swell. My Best wishes and congratulations.

Gwen Mason Callahan

StageSource is an essential part of the Boston theatre scene. It is the glue that holds together our theatre artists, a resource for everything going on in our community, and the only way to find auditions! As a young actor just beginning my professional career, I used it to scope out opportunities to meet new people, find jobs in the industry, and learn about what was happening around town. More than anything, StageSource was a community. It made me feel a part of the Boston theatre world, and it was because of StageSource that I was able to begin my career in Boston. Without it, I wouldn’t have found the friends, resources, conversation, and jobs I was so grateful to find there.

Marie Polizzano

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#BosArts Hearing Update

This morning’s Arts & Culture Hearing at the Boston Public Library was a great event. More than 60 people testifed, myself included. Our friends at Howlround were livestreaming it, and have created an archive as well as storifying of the tweets. Friends, #BosArts was a trending topic on Twitter. The room was packed. Ideas were flowing.

The transition team is meeting today, and a few more times, compiling their recommendations. Weren’t able to be there this morning? You can still submit your ideas here. We will keep you posted on their progress and their report when it is released. And let’s remember, all of us have a role in the success of this administration, so stay involved.

Rather than a laundry list, I decided to focus my testimony (we only had 2 minutes) on a dedicated funding stream for the arts. I have included my testimony here:

Good morning. My name is Julie Hennrikus, and I am the executive director of StageSource, the arts service organization for the theater community, with a membership comprised of both individuals and organizations. We are proud to have our office in the Midway Studios building, where we share a space with the Arts & Business Council and MASSCreative. There is much to celebrate in the Boston arts community. Just looking at the theater sector, on any given night there are dozens of performances throughout the city. There is a depth, a breadth that raises our entire community. But much of this vibrancy has been on the backs of small and fringe companies, and individual artists. This has to change. I am here to encourage the Walsh administration to explore dedicated funding streams for the arts, and to codify them so that they are dependable for future generations. Other cities have created these streams, upon which are built services, grants, subsidies, and infrastructure. This funding also supports initiatives around public art. Let us explore ways to not only feed, but to nourish the grassroots of the arts community. We know that the economic impact of the arts is great for Boston. Let’s make sure that impact supports the people making the art, and the small organizations struggling in this difficult funding environment.

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#BosArts Advocacy

Last year, I was one of dozens of people who worked on MASSCreative’s #CreateTheVote campaign. The goal of the campaign was to make sure that the arts were part of the platforms for the candidates for mayor of Boston. Questionnaires were sent out, and posted on line. There were committee meetings with each candidate. And a candidate’s forum to discuss arts and culture was SRO at the Paramount Theatre. #CreateTheVote was a success.

Well, the first part of this advocacy work was a success. But we aren’t done. Bostonians have an opportunity to testify at the Arts and Culture Public Hearing this Saturday, January 25. Can’t make it the the BPL on Saturday? Howlround will be livestreaming the event. And some of us will be reporting back on Twitter using the hashtag #BostonArts. Mayor Walsh’s team have also provided an on-line form to share your ideas for the new administration.

Engagement in this process is an opportunity we cannot squander. We in the arts community need to be part of the conversations that are shaping the city of Boston, and the environs. And by we, I mean artists, organizations, audiences, and service organizations who support the field. Mayor Walsh’s team is asking for input. Let’s make sure that the Rabb Lecture Hall at the Boston Public Library is at capacity (RSVP here), that #BosArts is trending on Twitter, and that Howlround reports a record number of viewers.

See you on Saturday.

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#NEthtr13 in Balance

Best of/Worst of: Year in Review. We have come to expect it. The list, the discussions around why “x” was added, but “y” wasn’t. Several media outlets have created their lists, including the ArtsFuse and the ARTery. (Feel free to list others in the comments.) On Sunday Don Aucoin, crtitic of the Boston Globe, published his own list, “A Year of Big Names and Big Letdowns on Stage”.

It didn’t take long for my email and social media to light up. Mr. Aucoin only briefly mentions his “highlights” of the year (which are tongue in cheek at best), and spends the entirety of his article talking about the letdowns on the season. He focuses primarily on the larger theater companies and visiting commercial productions, but even in that frame, there are no highlights? Even when one LORT theater wins a Tony for best regional theater (the Huntington Theatre Company), and the artistic director of another (the ART) wins a Tony for best director of a show that we all saw last winter? In most other end of year wrap-ups, that would at least merit a sentence.

Let me be clear about one thing—criticism is important. And critical thinking is necessary. “Liking” and “not liking” a production is the start of a conversation. Opinions matter, and critics have a wide frame that allows for more discourse. Stirring the pot is good for the stew. In these days of social media. the discourse is changing. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need critics. We do. But with the power of a platform like the Boston Globe, there is some responsibility. Mr. Aucoin has every right to write the article he did, but did it have to be his end of the year wrap up?

When I think about what makes other cities a “theater” city, and why Boston isn’t described as such, I know that articles like this make a difference. We in the community know that Boston and New England have a lot of great theater going on. It comes in all shapes, sizes, price points and locations. The depth and breadth of the community is a story not told often enough. And when our paper of record doesn’t balance an end of year article (though every other art critic in the section did just that), it tells the readers of the Boston Globe that we don’t matter, or that we don’t do good work here. And diminishes our community just that little bit. Which makes it harder to say “we are a theater town”.

We are a rich, vibrant, varying community. Let’s organize around that idea in 2014. And own it. More on that later this week, with our resolutions for 2014. If you would like to write a letter to the Boston Globe about this article, here are the details: Letters to the editor should be written exclusively to the Globe and include name, address, and daytime number. They should be 200 words or fewer; all are subject to editing. Send to: E-mail:letter@globe.com, Fax: 617-929-2098, Regular mail: Letters to the Editor, The Boston Globe, PO Box 55819, Boston, MA 02205-5819

For today, in the waning hours of 2013 (and early days of 2014) let’s talk about 2013 in theater. What was your favorite show/production/moment? Comment on the blog, or on our Facebook page. Or use Twitter and hashtag (#NEthtr13) it.

Happy New Year theater makers of New England! I am proud to be part of this community, and am looking forward to working with you in 2014!

Posted in Advocacy, Community, Up for Discussion | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Theater for Change: A Boston Story

If you’re waging a campaign – for mayor of Boston, better schools, cleaner air, more funding for the arts – what do you need to win?

Ask any seasoned activist and you’ll get a laundry list of essentials: smart strategy, good organization, money, committed volunteers, savvy communications….

“A play?”

“Excuse me?”

“You know, with actors?”

“Mmm, interesting, I don’t really think….”

Right. These days not too many people outside of the theater think about making theater to make social change. And frankly it didn’t occur to me in relation to David Walker.
Let me back up. I’m a playwright and also a bit of a history buff. Three years ago I participated in a seminar series on the history of black Boston. We were discussing the abolitionist movement, and David Walker’s name came up. I was embarrassed that I’d never heard of him.

It turns out I was far from alone. Walker (1797?-1830) is an unsung hero. He made a critical contribution to the anti-slavery struggle, but you won’t find him in standard history books. He spent his most influential years in Boston, yet his grave in a South Boston cemetery is unmarked. His only public commemoration is a small plaque on the side of a house on Joy Street in what was then the African-American enclave on Beacon Hill. To most Americans, David Walker – visionary, radical, an inspiration to later generations of black leaders and activists – is invisible.

Our little study group decided that had to change, and we launched The David Walker Memorial Project (DWMP).

Fast forward to this month. David Walker is being honored and celebrated – appropriately during this 150th anniversary year of the Emancipation Proclamation – with a series of public events organized by the DWMP in Boston: a Remembrance March, a symposium, a reading/discussion of his liberationist pamphlet, “Walker’s Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World”…

And a new play of mine, “Raising David Walker”, which runs October 24-27 at Hibernian Hall, in Roxbury.

Most of my plays can broadly be called “political” – an inexact term, to be sure – but this is the first time I’ve written a play that directly serves an activist campaign. It got me thinking about the relationship of theater and political activism, and I thought I’d share some of those musings in this blog (along with a shameless promo for my play.)
When we first began the DWMP, I had no plans to write a play about David Walker. Our focus was on how to make him better known and appreciated and to lay the groundwork for our long-term goal: to build a public memorial in his honor. We set up a website (www.davidwalkermmemorial.org), we revised and expanded the inaccurate Wikipedia entry on Walker, and we discussed plans for a curriculum for teachers and students.
Still, I knew that somewhere inside the David Walker story was a play itching to get out. Not a history play, not a biopic – Derek Walcott’s opera called simply “Walker” is focused on the man himself – but something that would connect Walker and his ideas with the contemporary struggle for racial justice. And then – eureka! – I found my starting point: the widespread belief in the black community back then that Walker, who officially died of TB, was in fact assassinated.

Even when I began developing the play, it wasn’t clear to me that it could have a role in the DWMP. For starters, there was the small matter of getting the thing produced. Luckily (doesn’t luck always play a part?), Dillon Bustin, the artistic director of Hibernian Hall, came to a staged reading of “Raising David Walker” at The Democracy Center in Cambridge, liked it, and offered to stage it at Hibernian Hall. And the timing came together, too: we were able to schedule the production to coincide with the other DWMP events this fall.

Although it may be distinct in being linked to a specific campaign, “Raising David Walker” is just one of a host of contemporary plays on social and political themes that have graced – and are gracing – Boston stages this fall. In a recent Boston Globe article, Don Aucoin highlighted some of them, including Quiara Alegria Hudes’s “Water by the Spoonful” at the Lyric Stage, Ginger Lazarus’s “Burning” at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, Robert Schnenkkan’s “All The Way” at the A.R.T. and Zeitgeist Stage’s revival of “The Normal Heart” at the Boston Center for the Arts.

There are also all kinds of cool theatrical uprisings happening beyond the confines of our theater buildings. By way of example, the True Colors troupe of The Theater Offensive, Reflect and Strengthen in Dorchester, and Project HIP-HOP (Highways Into the Past – History, Organizing and Power) in Roxbury all provide opportunities for young people to create and perform material that speaks to the realities of their lives. In doing so, participants develop self-belief and a sense of their own personal and political power. Their work builds on a long and honorable tradition of theater being employed as a social justice education and organizing tool (e.g. El Teatro Campesino in the farmworkers’ movement led by Cesar Chavez in the 1970’s, and, nearer home, the evergreen Bread and Puppet Theater of Vermont.)

But if you mostly work in more conventional theater spaces, you can’t help but wonder – at least I can’t: What impact am I really having? Who am I reaching, who am I engaging (beyond my friends, family and loyal fans)? What does “relevance” mean anyway in the context of theater?

Related to this, of course, are some systemic challenges: the dominance of electronic media and the marginal status of non-commercial theater in our culture. Accessibility and affordability. Whose voices do we hear in the theater? Whose don’t we hear? And who gets to be in the audience? The folks most victimized by poverty, greed, cruelty, hypocrisy and other social scourges rarely see their lives and struggles represented on stage because they can’t afford a ticket. And then there’s the perennial numbers question. Even if a show is sold out – hallelujah! – comparatively few people will see it. It’s the nature of the beast. As the British playwright and activist David Hare once wrote: “In all theatre, there is some basic disproportion between the amount of effort which needs to go in, and the risk that so few people may take so little out.”

At least with “Raising David Walker”, I’ll be able to look to the success of the DWMP as a whole. If our website attracts more traffic, if information requests increase, if we can raise the money and build the memorial, it’s fair to assume (and I will) that the play, as part of raising Walker’s profile and generating support for the project, had something to do with it.
The social impact of any art form will always be a matter of debate. I think John McGrath, founder of the Scottish popular theatre company 7:84, has it right: “…the theatre can never ’cause’ a social change. It can articulate pressure towards one, help people celebrate their strengths and maybe build their self-confidence… Above all, it can be the way people find their voice, their solidarity and their collective determination”.
________________________________________________________________
Oh, a teaser about “Raising David Walker”!… “The year is 1979. Serena Fox, a graduate student in forensic science at a Boston university, takes an elective course on the history of racism and is introduced to David Walker, an early nineteenth-century abolitionist. Captivated by Walker and his Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World, she begins to hear his voice in her head. One morning Serena enters her living room to a find a man dressed in period clothes sitting on the couch. He says he’s David Walker….” The incomparable Vincent Ernest Siders is directing, and we have a great tech team and a cracking cast – Diego Arciniegas, Shanae Burch, Ric Engermann, Kris Sidberry, and Jem Wilner. Tickets – $20, $10 for seniors and students – are available at www.hibernianhall.org. Hope to see you there!

**************************

Peter Snoad lives in Jamaica Plain. He’s Visiting Playwright at Hibernian Hall for
2013/14 – three more of his plays will be done there next year – and a recipient of playwriting fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. psnoad@yahoo.com; http://www.petersnoad.com

Posted in New Work, Playwright, Social Change, Up for Discussion | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Invest in Yourself

We are one week away from starting a new series of classes here at StageSource. Called “Basic Training: Strengthening Your Administrative Core“, these are more than just best practices, or basic how-to-produce workshops.

They are an opportunity to invest in yourself, and your success.

We have geared the classes to individual artists, or people running (or working with) small and fringe companies. But the classes are also an opportunity for arts administrators to refresh their skill sets, or build new ones. Additionally, you will be meeting people who work in the arts community, and spending six Monday nights with a group of people who will become a network of support as you move forward.

Training is an important part of the theatrical process. Performers take classes, playwrights workshop new work. Arts administrators need to do the same thing. The path to success is not without detours, or opportunities to take a side trip that may be a better route to success for your work, or your company. There are basic skills you need to know (budgeting, marketing, legal knowledge, audience development), but even these can be adapted to support your success.

I teach arts management classes at Emerson College. In the ten years I have taught, I have changed my approach to the topic drastically. From “here’s how to start a company” to “don’t start a company right away, do your work first and figure out what works”. From “here’s how to write a grant” to “there are a lot of ways to raise money, which works best for your project?”. From “here’s how to measure success (one size fits all)” to “let’s talk about success for you as an artist. What does that look like, and how do you/we support it?”.

I have also availed myself of workshops and classes. I regularly read a number of blogs and publications. Even though I teach and am very knowledgeable, I never stop learning. The arts world is changing, and we all need to build up the skills to lead the change.

 

The Basic Training classes are an opportunity for you to invest in yourself. And what better investment is there, really? There is work to be done, and changes that need to be made; help us strengthen the core of the people who are going to do it.

Will we see you in one or all of the Basic Training classes? Please call us in the office with any questions, or to sign up. We are open to setting up a payment plan if that is easier for you. Give us a call at 617-720-6066.

Posted in Administration, Arts Administration, Community, Member Benefits | Leave a comment

Everything You Need to Know

One of the great things about StageSource gatherings is the opportunity to talk to people who come to theater from the “other” side. I work on the administrative side — marketing, fundraising — so I love hearing from people on the artistic side. And from what people tell me, the reverse is true as well — that the actors, directors, writers, and designers are often very interested in learning more about how the administrative side works. We are sometimes a mystery to each other, but clearly you need both sides if you’re going to produce theater.
The upcoming workshop series “Basic Training” was developed out of this kind of interaction. At the conference, the sessions about finding spaces to make theater, about the challenges of small and fringe theater management, and about fundraising drew large audiences. Many were theater professionals who wanted to start their own small companies or produce shows on their own, but who didn’t feel confident in their understanding of the business end of the theater business.
The “Basic Training” series addresses these professional development needs. It’s intended to give theater professionals a well-rounded exposure to all the administrative elements you need. The workshops are being run by accomplished professionals who actually do this stuff for a living — Sara Stackhouse from Actors’ Shakespeare Project, Darren Evans from the BCA, Megan Low from Arts and Business Council’s, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts Program, to name just a few. You’ll have the chance to learn the nuts and bolts from these professionals, and in a small-group setting where you can interact with your peers as well.
The first session is on October 21. Please click here to find out more, and join us!

Janet Bailey, Basic Training Creator

Posted in Development, Events, Ideas, Marketing, Member Benefits, Prducing, Programs, Resources, Services | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Creating a Pitch

Going to The Greater Boston Theatre Expo?

GBTEXPO_final with sponsors

Not sure what to talk to people about?

Watch Julie’s latest video for a quick tutorial on how to create a pitch.

What are your tips and tricks to creating the best pitch?

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Live from the Library: What is The Greater Boston Theatre Expo

StageSource Executive Director, Julie Hennrikus talks to Michael Maso of The Huntington Theatre Company and David Colfer of Emerson Stage about the Greater Boston Theatre Expo.


GBTEXPO_final with sponsors

More than 50 Greater Boston theatre companies of all styles and sizes will unite onTuesday, September 10 in the Cyclorama at the Boston Center for the Arts (539 Tremont Street, Boston) for the first annual Greater Boston Theatre Expo. The public is invited to attend the free event held from 5:30pm to 7:30pm to meet representatives and artists from the region’s fringe, small, mid-sized, and large theatre companies, to get information about upcoming productions, and to take advantage of Expo-only ticket offers and giveaways.

Posted in Ask StageSource, Community, Events, Ideas, Live From the Library, Marketing, News, Podcasts, Programs, Resources | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment