Experiencing the “NextActSF”

Here are my notes from today’s Theatre Bay Area annual conference, selected events:

Supply and Demand

Non profit not “mandated to serve the law’
Board chair or MD running theatre – problematic
Theatre and arts partcipation: problematic
Role of media – catching stage performances “on demand” – catching all kinds of audiences that might not be reflected in initial box office audiences.

Doing a disservice by looking at arts participation in the same way; maybe arts work is not down, but actually up.

Example of plays used with large amount of advancement money. Mission of organization is to do provocative work.

What is the product, where is It available, and who participates?

Example of costal and inland organizations working together; but how do they work together, like with Carmel and Salinas?

What are the NEEDS – the excellence product, and quality of work.

Changing show lineup/downsizing as “doing it better”, working with a show line-up to improve their work and not frame it as good work.

NEA only doing under 250k work.

Making room for MFAs and younger artists…

Session 2: Supply and Demand – From Argument to Action

Participation may be declining slightly, but there are still huge audiences available to be cultivated.

Looking for an experience… Not “just going to the theatre”. Movie theatre example of Sundance Kabuki, about the full process.

Theatre navigating edgy balance between what people want and what they are presenting. Believing in the mission and the quality of the work.

“Do less and do it better”

Muguwumpin and Z Space women are very knowledgeable about workshopping, big space, lights and sound and tech work.

Collaboration to create a safe place for new work coming to the community, where the theatre itself “curates” the audience. Cultivating an audience that will be there to support the work, especially as part of preview performances.

Division between artistic work and how it is advertised to the people.

Can a small play be workshopped in a large space?

Poll the community. Engage the role of the community process.

Cross pollination of audience – only presented as positive. May affect audience members in different levels and circumstances.

Audiences want a sense of ownership of the arts institutions.

Questions and Answers
“Theatre voice, please”

Not about “I don’t want to go”, it is about “I don’t know what is out there”

Question from British woman – “no food or drinks” in American theatre – why? Producer complaining about drinks – some people think it is a special night out, or something that you do ***

Berkeley Rep: invitational, people can come as they are. Inviting and engaging and welcoming. With increased number of choices, need to ensure that the audience members will appreciate the theatre itself.

Question of theatre workers or recent grads going into theatre-deprived areas. Answer may come from starting people younger, building arts appreciation.

Just graduated? Why not partner with someone who can incubate you with the entrance to your professional career. Someone will give you the space on a Monday night, or have your back.. And that is priceless.

Irvine Foundation is supporting ACT to produce work. Will announce a new arts strategy on June 27th.

Question of movie with a high budget vs. Theatre with a low budget.

Theatre as a live event, where the perspective can shift and become something else. A miracle quality of influencing audiences.

When you wake up to go to the theatre, what are you trying to say about the world?

Directing Panel

“the moment came when I decided to call myself a director”

Working as a career but taking anything that comes your way, doesn’t always or necessarily lead to satisfaction. Moment of realizing that you can’t say yes to everything because it does not represent your artistic vision.

Mark – high school theatre program.

Pushed into directing path. Asked to direct and found to be enriching.

Role as the director of a company: pros and cons. Jon Tracy mentions the role of location, having run a company in Vallejo. Meredith Hagedorn with Dragon Productions credits the college learning experience.

Question of MFA. What was the choice, and has it helped the artist or not.

“going to grad school changed my life as a director” and gave easy access to professionals. Three years of intense training that might have been professionally accumulated in a 10 year period.

“it was a huge turning point in my life” and fed the director into Shakespeare Santa Cruz, where he was able to rise through the ranks over a couple of years.

Gained confidence through the graduate program, and gave useful entryway into the performance world through community venues.

Considering graduate school – whether it is a worthwhile choice or they considered it.

“I knew what I wanted to do very early on and then to get out there and do it.”

Looking for communicators, openness to working with a team,

Directing for companies other than your own – balance of how to look at quality or process of work (two person shows?) and what they do for the artistic process.

Freelancing, how does it work and what are they doing.

Role of genres within their work.

Might get “trapped” in a certain world. Looking at how the title might advance your work in the longer run of things.

Getting work from pitching, versus a phone call.

Bay Area versus national companies… Courtship process with a company. First meeting, get to know each other, and then come back with some potential titles to work with.

Question of Mentorship. Did they have mentors or are they working with specific mentors in their lives and artistic work.

May depend on the kinds of relationships that they develop through their work.

One key mentor who has followed the director’s work since giving them their first “in” and showing them how to get started.


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