#NEthtr/#BOSthtr or What I Learned at Our Theater Town Halls

The TCG Conference is in Boston this year. The chairs of the Host Committee are Michael Maso and Kate Warner. The rest of the committee is here. There are several subcommittees, including committees for hospitality, student engagement, a planning committee for the Friday night party, volunteer coordination and community engagement. We’ve been meeting since September, and we are really looking forward to welcoming folks for the June 21-23 conference.

Though the conference is in Boston, our host committee is regional. As part of our engagement activities, I went to several Theater Town Halls that we coordinated with different theaters/regions. While part of the conversation was about the upcoming conference, most of each conversation was about theater, and what “model the movement” means to our community. I drove, usually with Kate Warner and sometimes with my fabulous intern Anna Trachtman, to four Theater Town Halls in addition to the one we had in Boston. They included:

Here’s part of what I learned:

  • There is nothing like in person conversations. In fact, I’d love to continue these road trips in the future, and keep these conversations going.
  • Social media is a great way to continue and expand the conversation. Twitter and Facebook  have helped cement some of these connections.
  • Though none of our destinations were more than 2 hours away, they were each their own community of theater companies. We are a rich, vibrant, diverse region of theater.
  • Individual artists work throughout the entire region. When we were leaving Portland Stage, David Remedios was just arriving for a production meeting. Tony Estrella drove up from RI to be on a panel for our GoAudition! bootcamp, and he also directed a piece for the Boston Theater Marathon. Several actors have reversed the commute and worked at GAMM. When I mentioned on Facebook that I was driving to the Berkshires, I got a half dozen messages from friends who were going out there this summer to work. I could go on. While organizations are rooted in a community, theater makers (and audiences) travel.
  • And my final lesson? I need to rethink hashtags, and more. Though my travels made it clear that not everyone is on Twitter, my hashtag strategy has been to suggest that everyone use #BOSthtr, thinking of Boston as in Red Sox (i.e. regional) rather than a city. But we aren’t all BOS. We are all New England. So let’s also use #NEthtr to self identify. And to help me find your tweets.

And even if you’re not on Twitter and don’t care about hashtags? For StageSource, these town halls have made me rethink who we are, and who are members are, and how we serve them. While many (perhaps most) of our members are in the greater Boston area, is that the right way to position ourselves? Especially when our individual members will and do travel for work? Our database allows for search functions. And our members can self select what postings they pay attention to–they already do. Can we use a combination of technology (our database, weekly enews blasts, social media) and in person conversations to deepen our community ties to the different parts of the region? Is this an opportunity to model the movement for New England?

I am really looking forward to the TCG conference. And I am also looking forward to continuing the conversations in our community, and having more Theater Town Halls in the future. We didn’t get to the Cape, North Shore, NH, VT or CT this time around. And there is still so much to talk about.

#BOSthtr, #NEthtr See you on Twitter.

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About jhennrikus

Julie Hennrikus is the Executive Director of StageSource
This entry was posted in TCG 2012 Conference. Bookmark the permalink.

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