- LISTEN AND INTERACT with the foremost experts in arts leadership.
- DISCOVER AND SHARE fresh techniques and best practices for theatre governance.
- CONNECT AND RE-CONNECT with industry colleagues from across the country.
This year's theme is Strategy Forward and our guiding questions will be:
- In a time of increasing complexity, should theatres be strategic planning or scenario planning—or throw out the plans altogether and develop organizational flexibility?
- What are models both within and without the field of successful board and staff strategic collaboration?
- And how does this all manifest on our stages and in our communities?
As I think about the work ahead, I'm reminded of a recent Facebook conversation between colleagues discussing transitions in artistic leadership in the D.C. theatre community, which highlighted that the last time a woman was selected to lead a major regional theatre was in 1998 and that was at Arena Stage. Since then, Olney Theatre, Round House Theatre, and Theater J have seen leadership transitions go from man to man. None of them of color. (Studio Theatre went from a woman to a man. Center Stage in Baltimore, MD went from a woman to a man, specifically, to a man of color.)
Having just served on a Producing Artistic Director Search Committee at a major regional theatre, I will say that the makeup of your board/search committee and their commitment to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion are of the utmost importance during transitions of power. They must be committed to the theatre's mission; knowledgeable of issues impacting the local, regional, and national theatre communities; aware of the needs and contributions of the staff; excited by a vision for the future; and not afraid of the great change necessary to make all of this happen.
In other words, your fundraising and advisory boards must be peopled with change makers and their investment in your organization must be tied to the health, growth, and sustainability of the community you serve. All of which is easier said than done, of course, but absolutely necessary. We are at a time in our country and world where great change and new ways of thinking are essential for survival. We need a tide of reckoning, a wrestling with our unconscious bias towards race, ethnicity, gender, class, religion, and ability when it comes to leadership and representation. It will be interesting to see what happens at Shakespeare Theatre Company, Signature Theatre, and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company...as well as other regional theatres across the nation.