American Theatre convened a roundtable of six leaders in the field of theatre management to discuss current issues and trends in management training. The panelists represented a broad spectrum, including the heads of both well-established and new graduate programs in theatre management. Joining them were successful managers without formal training, who learned through on-the-job experience in the field under the mentorship of more experienced managers; and creators of and participants in a variety of executive education programs for practicing managers. Participants were experienced in both commercial theatre and in various not-for-profit producing models.
JOAN CHANNICK: Thirty years ago, there were few academic programs for theatre managers. Today there are several dozen graduate training programs in theatre management and arts administration, which seem to be proliferating. As both a graduate of such a program myself and as a faculty member who has taught in a couple of programs, let me ask the heretical question: Is academic training necessary? In a field where most people don’t have formal training, what is the purpose of your programs today?
STEVEN CHAIKELSON: Both as an educator and as someone who in the real world outside the university employs people, I acknowledge that formal academic training is not required; there are plenty of excellent people in the field who are working their way up and learning the business, up the ladder, rung by rung. From an employer’s perspective, though, I find that graduates of MFA programs have a much greater sense of the big picture—how very different areas of the industry have impact on each other.
So you’d characterize training programs as an efficient way to get broad experience in a brief period of time.
CHAIKELSON: That would be the primary motivator. Secondarily, it’s also a great advantage in terms of building a network with the faculty as well as the students with whom you’re going through the program.
EDWARD A. MARTENSON: This question has a very different answer if we’re talking about the value of the training from the students’ perspective than it would if we’re talking about the value of the training from the field’s perspective. Apprenticeship always has been the primary mode of training for all disciplines in the theatre field and probably always will be. We look at the traditional content that comes in academic training as an add-on to that. Nothing can substitute for experience in our field. You have to be inculcated into the way things work through apprenticeship. In the context of our program and others I respect a lot, apprenticeship is at the center of what you would think of as an academic program, and the classroom work is in addition to that.
The answer to the question from the academic side is another question: What are the limitations to apprenticeship, and how can we fill them in? Apprenticeship is inevitably connected with the concept of best practices. You want to give students a clear idea of the way things are done best out in the field, so they can fast-track once they’re out. If apprenticeship existed only on its own, if that’s all there was, then best practices has the potential to become the thing you aspire to, as opposed to what would be more valuable for the field as a whole—which is viewing best practices as the platform that you stand on to innovate and raise the standard of practice. Academic training should be designed to give the students the tools—in addition to giving students best practices—that create the capacity for them to raise the standard of practice during their careers.
Criss, what was the impetus behind the creation of your new Arts Leadership Program? Why did Chicago Shakespeare Theater ally itself with the Theatre School at DePaul, and what distinguishes your program from those that already exist?
CRISS HENDERSON: I had no formal arts management training other than the fact that I had this amazing theatre that gave me the opportunity to learn over 17 years, as we grew from a $100,000 budget to a $13.5-million budget. Building on some work that the Illinois Arts Alliance had done on succession planning (which raised the question of where the next round of leadership was coming from), we wanted to create a way for our organization to continue to serve as a laboratory for growth. The Arts Leadership Program is different from many of the established arts management programs. It is a very individually driven and determined educational/professional experience for only two fellows each year. The dual commitment as a Chicago Shakespeare Theater employee and DePaul graduate student creates a laboratory in which emerging leaders can experiment professionally and academically—honing and developing their skills and talents while finding or refining the direction they want to set out in as they enter what we hope will be a long and impactful life in art-making and arts management.
Susie, as president of the League of Resident Theatres, you’ve now taken on professional development of practicing managers as part of LORT’s mission. What are the field needs that LORT is trying to address?
SUSAN MEDAK: There was a moment when it became clear that the organizations were becoming increasingly complex and that the management skills of people who were in the job pool were not up to those challenges. Our organizations are much more complicated than they were 20 years ago. So many of us realized that we would no longer hire ourselves to run these organizations. Many of us who have been managing for a long time came into the field with very little skill and a lot of good intentions and a great sense of idealism, and we were lucky enough to be able to apprentice ourselves to people who knew more and to be able to grow with the field.
The field and the world have become more complicated. I see a disconnect between the training programs and those of us who are hiring. While the training programs are producing young people who think of themselves as arts managers, they’re not necessarily being hired in great numbers by the field. At the same time, the field is changing so quickly that most of us no longer have the skills that we need to be doing our jobs.
LORT has three groups of managers: There are the veterans who have decades of experience dealing with unknown things they haven’t dealt with before and need to have new tools in their repertoires. There are midlevel or young managers who have never received formal training, or received it and then threw themselves into jobs, where they still don’t feel completely equipped. And then there are people within our theatres who very much want to grow within the organization. While there isn’t a natural mechanism within our theatres to be training them, there can be a mechanism within LORT for training them. Trying to address all three of those needs is a bit of a challenge, but it’s what we’re hoping to accomplish. If we do it right, I think we’ll produce a generation of much more sophisticated managers.
MARTENSON: Whether we’re talking about early-career training or executive education—that is, in-service training—the source of the problem is exactly the same: that is the high level of complexity of the organizations in the field. It’s not only a matter of the environment that we inhabit being more complex, it’s that the institutional form that we invented primarily for the nonprofit theatre is in and of itself a mechanism of much higher complexity than any mechanism that we’ve invented in the history of theatre. People need ways of being able to figure out new solutions. There are problems that they can’t solve instinctively, and they need new ways to think about those things.
CHAIKELSON: I think that makes a really strong case for broad-based training programs that give a strong foundation in all aspects of the business of running theatres. I would make an analogy with a law school education, where it would be very rare for you to come out of law school and immediately become a partner in a law firm. You go to a law school, you get a very broad-based legal education that teaches you to think like a lawyer, then you can join a law firm, and from that base you then specialize and develop in your career.
MEDAK: The young people who have come out of training programs whom I have mentored have been among the most stimulating people that I have had the chance to work with. In addition to learning skills, they’ve also learned the rigor of how to think. We all have to be better thinkers. So I think the kind of graduate school training, the kind of intellectually engaged exercise that you’re asking students to undertake, has the capacity to serve the field extremely well in the long run.
What are the kinds of skills or habits of mind that are needed to be successful managers or producers today?
DEBBIE CHINN: The ability to converse with diverse constituents. We have about five generations of people that we now have to manage in different ways, from your older board members to your young interns, and we don’t know quite how to move graciously or gracefully between some of those.
We need to learn how to deal with generations of people who speak very differently. I find I’m having to learn so many technical skills. I’m having to learn about how to communicate—I’m having to learn about MySpace, and all of these social networking things. It’s mind-boggling to have to pick up those very basic skills. Then there are also people who don’t respond to e-mails or text messages or IMs.
Where do you learn those things? Do you turn to the younger people in your organization, who are probably more technically adept than you are?
CHINN: I talk to my 21-year-old nephew. I learn some things through my colleagues, but I’m learning much more from people outside the profession, who are telling me that people don’t respond to the ways in which I am communicating. We had an interesting session with a group of financial people from Clorox who helped us do a quick, down-and-dirty assessment of our business plan. They felt that we were still working out of an old business model, when people are communicating and expecting things in a different way. I’m learning from these 30-year-old MBAs, who don’t read the paper but get all their news on their BlackBerrys. It’s teaching me how to market in a different way. But I’m not learning marketing from my marketing colleagues, I’m learning from outside the profession. That, to me, was a big eye-opener, because I assumed I would learn about best practices marketing applications from marketing directors in the nonprofit sector.
MARTENSON: We have a profession that’s built around conventions. An easy example is that if you know how to be a stage manager in one theatre, you know how to be a stage manager in another. If that weren’t true, our whole structure would fall apart, because you’d have to spend five weeks training up a stage manager every time he or she came in. We have this huge volume of unstated “this is the way you do it” that can be transferred from gig to gig. That’s our strength, and that’s also our weakness. There comes a point where you bump up against the limitation of that and you have to look outside for new ways of thinking about the everyday problems.
MEDAK: Among the challenges right now is that the speed of change is such that as soon as you learn one way to solve a problem that solution is already obsolete and you have to start looking at the next way. The difficulty is that we can’t afford to abandon completely all of the skills that we’ve accumulated, all of the practices that are in place to begin with. So what you’re doing is accumulating new practices without being able to discard the old ones. You have to be able to absorb more information than we ever have before and to be able to process it quickly.
MARTENSON: I learned entirely through apprenticeship. I had no training. The first thing I learned was the rulebook. And the second thing that I learned was financial management. And the next thing that I learned was accounting, and then labor relations through participating in LORT, and so forth. By the time my career in managing theatres was drawing to a close, I had finally passed the point of knowing about H.R. from a kind of legal perspective, and I had finally gotten to the point of being interested in H.R. as how do you motivate groups of people and how do you mold organizational cultures and so forth. The apprentice way of learning these things is step-by-step. It’s additive. We’re like little libraries. We have to collect books, but you can’t throw any of the old ones away. You have to keep expanding your capacity.
Melanie, you have defied the conventions of the field. You’ve created a new producing model, and you’re also very thoughtful about developing the next generation of leadership within your own company. Talk about the challenge of developing a shared leadership model.
MELANIE JOSEPH: I don’t even like to think about the word “manager” because in some ways it’s removing the person from the making of something. We make things.
When I was structuring the Foundry, I didn’t want to have a managing director and an artistic director. It didn’t feel right to me. I always imagined that as the Foundry grew it would define itself as a collective (for lack of a better word). Imagine if there were five producers in the office and we were all producing projects and we shared some kind of aesthetic. I didn’t know how to name it until I’d done it for a while, and then I realized what the word “producer” meant. The idea of an artistic producer is a person who is somehow still close to making things. Everybody learns pretty much everything. We tend to share the ownership so that when we have to negotiate a contract (which I hate to do most of all), all of us can do it. All of us can deal with an agent, all of us can deal with Equity, all of us can deal with a tour, all of us can deal with a presenter, all of us can deal with a technical rider, etc. It takes time for that to happen, but whenever an intern comes in here, they’re literally exposed to everything, not confined to a department.
I’m soon going to be 51. I’m thinking about how I want to live the next chapter of my life. I was thinking at one point of succession, but I don’t really want to leave the Foundry because there are so many things that I still want to do that the Foundry permits me to do. We got official about it. We now have three producing artistic directors who run the Foundry. We have a producer’s chair where we are mentoring young producers. We give them a certain amount of money for a project, they have a chair in the office, and they have access to all our files and funders, and we mentor them through the production of that particular project.
One of the things that I find particularly surprising in the people who come out of the professional schools is their lack of connection to the art. I always feel so bad about it, because I don’t know why they would be doing this if they didn’t love art and artists. We were working with somebody out of a professional program—we were mentoring him through the production process—and we wanted to have a meeting with the whole company. He said, “Oh, we don’t need to meet with the actors.” And I said, “Oh, of course we have to meet with the actors. They’re in the show. We’re going forward on something together. How do we not meet?” He didn’t understand even remotely what we were talking about.
CHAIKELSON: You’ve hit on a really crucial point. Most of these people who are coming in who want to have these ongoing careers in theatre as managers and producers have been acting or directing for years—they’ve gone back and forth between acting and directing and maybe writing as well. They get into these programs and, once they are compartmentalized in a management program or a producing program, they are somehow seen by the directors and actors they’re in school with, and especially when they get out into the world and are working, as simply the paper-pushers and the check-writers. That has a really negative impact on their development.
MEDAK: I think there’s a real discrimination. In many programs and in many organizations to be identified as an administrator means that you are not an artist—you’re not somebody who thinks of herself or himself as having an artistic sensibility. Worse, I think you are perceived as being not creative.
JOSEPH: That’s why I call myself an artistic producer. I don’t mean that lightly. I think of myself as an artistic partner in every single show we do. I consider my opinion of that work as important as any director’s. And I don’t want to have to defend it. With any artist that we commission—we do all our work by commission—we make it really clear that if you work here, we are your collaborators. Period. We are not your producers.
CHAIKELSON: There’s a feeling that the managers are not entitled to have an artistic opinion. Or that they’re somehow in the way if they come out with something artistic in certain situations. At Columbia, at least once or twice over their training as an artist, directors and playwrights have a class with management and producing students so that they have more of an appreciation of them as individuals and what they bring to the table.
MARTENSON: Consciousness of this has to be foremost in our minds in the selection of the students and in the way that we orient them right from the beginning. It is so easy for those who put themselves on a management track to forget that it’s necessary for us to be theatre people first and managers second. And if you ever lose sight of that as a profession then we’re very likely, inch by inch by inch, to become like the symphony orchestras, where there’s a wall between the artistic life of the institution and the management life of the institution.
MEDAK: I’m finding that even the smallest of companies is discovering that they need strong management skills. During the last two years, I’ve been asked to mentor three top leadership people from small, non-traditional organizations. None of them had envisioned becoming managers, and certainly not managers of anything that might be construed as institutions, and yet what each was experiencing was that as their organization grew, they needed to develop more refined administrative skills. If anything, each company was slowly and without intention moving toward a more institutional structure. I am increasingly convinced that form follows function in theatre as well as in anything else. Organizations develop institutional models, in part, because function drives the form. How an organization goes about attracting an audience is not separate from making theatre. It is about one aspect of making theatre, and it requires the same level of expertise as costume design—it’s just a different kind of expertise.
HENDERSON: One of the things that we’ve tried to do with the Arts Leadership Fellows is to take a very far-reaching look at the structures. The Guthrie Theater’s new structuring, where [artistic director] Joe Dowling dissolved the partnership and put this sort of cabinet beneath him, and the appointment of the three artistic directors at the Stratford Festival of Canada—these things signal new directions. I hope that there’s a willingness on the part of institutions over the course of the next decade to let the leaders question those old forms. I think the spirit of the collective that Melanie talks about, and the semantic difference between art-making and art-managing, is essential, no matter what the size or scope of the work. As our organizations grow, it’s valuable to go back to that sense of collective spirit that we had a decade ago.
I don’t think we’re giving our emerging leaders the voice. I don’t think we’re helping them find their voices to lead or steward or manage, or whatever their preferred direction may be. To some extent that may be a result of the proliferation of training programs. It may be that growing into a legitimate field we’ve created the separation.
CHINN: I like Melanie’s idea about shared ownership, and I think what may be compounding the problem of the division of artistic and management is that we’re held to different standards and benchmarks. I’m held to account for the financial results to our organization whereas my artistic director may not necessarily be so. There must be a way where we can start to craft a unification of both those top leadership positions so that we’re held to the same objectives. A lot of artistic directors just assume that the financial piece of it will be taken care of by the managing director, and sometimes there’s a great deal of tension when managers assume their positions in an organization. We’re in survival mode, most of us.
I’m very fortunate that I have an artistic director [Jonathan Moscone] who is very, very creative and collaborative about reaching common financial goals and working within his artistic model to achieve those goals. I’m not entirely sure that students coming out of grad school understand that it takes both sides—that it’s not “this is what a managing director does” and “that is what an artistic director does.” You’re successful artistically if you’ve had rave reviews, and you’re successful from a management standpoint if you have a surplus. Seldom do we have a board that calls on both leaders to work together to come up with shared ownership of the organization.
How do you train future artistic and managing directors for their role in working with a board on the governance issues of a theatre? It’s the one thing that can’t be replicated within a training program.
MARTENSON: In our training program we’re absolutely explicit that the reason that we exist is to raise the standard of practice in the field, and increasing the capacity of future leaders to do that is our method. Governance is the most important way in which these organizations we’ve created are more complex than anything that’s gone before. I think this is our frontier. We can’t get at a better sense of governance of our institutions just by looking around to see who’s doing it best and emulating that. Governance isn’t really about who is on the board and the relationships with the executives. Governance is about how you make decisions in the upper reaches of the organization, and that includes the artistic director and the managing director, with board members. Governance is really much more a shared function than the way in which we normally talk about it.
MEDAK: The two fundamental issues of management are managing process and managing people. The combination of those two drives all of those other decisions: How to draw good decision-making out, how to draw good observations out, how to move from thought to action are the fundamentals of the organization.
MARTENSON: Governance is a shared function. We’re going to continue to be mired in dysfunction or borderline dysfunction as long we think about governance from the perspective of “Who gets to decide?” The real question about governance has to be, “How can we get the best decisions?” rather than drawing lines about who gets to decide.
CHAIKELSON: A large part of that is something that Ed’s already touched on, which is how we address the thought process. We try to help build good collaboration, good leadership and good problem-solving skills. You start with the rules and regulations. You look at industry standards. You look at the conventional wisdom. You get all of that under your belt. Then, if you’re dealing with a not-for-profit, you look at the commercial models. If you’re dealing with the commercial, you look at the not-for-profit models. And you look at other areas of entertainment or industries to explore other ways that people are solving problems.
JOSEPH: And you look outside the United States as well, because there are really interesting things going on in the rest of the world.
Steven, we’ve been focusing on the not-for-profit theatre, but one of the distinctive things about Columbia’s program is that you give equal emphasis to the commercial and not-for-profit worlds. How do you use the interaction between those two sectors? Are they separate tracks?
CHAIKELSON: No, they’re completely complementary. In some cases the focus of an individual course may be more not-for-profit or more commercial. In other classes, one lecture may encompass both not-for-profit and commercial and the way that they have similarities and differences, or the way they work together in respect to particular issues. The faculty are people who move rather seamlessly between commercial and not-for-profit worlds. You can be a leader in a not-for-profit theatre and have to deal with the commercial producer in terms of enhancement. You may be self-producing in more of a commercial arena, especially if you’re at a Roundabout or a Manhattan Theatre Club or a Lincoln Center on Broadway. A lot of our alums tend to move back and forth between the commercial world and the not-for-profit world and bring the practices from one to the other.
So an important skill that one needs to have today, which perhaps wasn’t necessary 30 years ago, is to be able to operate in both the not-for-profit and commercial sectors, because there’s so much greater interaction between the two worlds.
MEDAK: I think to say “both worlds” is too narrow, because there are multiple commercial structures and multiple nonprofit structures. We have to have a comfort level with a fluidity of styles.
So much of management is about human relationships. The strength of a manager, the strength of the management process, the strength of the decision-making process, always comes down to the capacity of people of goodwill to interact with each other. And I have yet to figure out how you train people for that skill set. I’d love to hear how you try to integrate that into your programs.
CHAIKELSON: Well, certainly coming in with a degree in psychology wouldn’t hurt. One of the things we try to do is complement the pure management-type classes with courses that are producing and management oriented, but where you’re sitting around the table with your directing colleagues, or with playwrights, or with dramaturgs, or, in some cases, students from other areas of Columbia University. Bringing other people into the room, seeing how they perceive a certain area of the business and getting the issues out on the table is a very important part of the program.
HENDERSON: One of the things that the full-time employment component of our training program allows for is that every fellow has projects that are based with the senior staff of the organization. The program requires that the fellows work through the different leaders with their different styles and their different objectives. Each fellow also produces our annual corporate gala and is the key person who sits with the gala committee and the gala chair, who represent leaders in the community. It has turned out to be a great opportunity for the fellows to sit with major CEOs of companies, one on one, and work on a specific project. The understanding on the part of the board member or the CEO that this is an emerging leader, an arts manager in training, has made for a really interesting dynamic on both sides.
MARTENSON: Working effectively with others is an indispensable skill. At the Yale School of Drama we don’t isolate that into a course or into a little program element. It permeates everything that we do. In order to graduate from our program, you have to have demonstrated that you can go out and work with people in order to get things done without having the formal authority to do it.
How are artistic leaders being trained? Most of these academic programs tend to be focused on what we’d consider traditional managerial roles, although there is some looseness about that. People being trained as directors may aspire to lead theatres as artistic directors, but there’s not the same kind of attention being paid to leadership training for artists. National Arts Strategies, TCG and other service organizations have begun to try to fill that gap.
MARTENSON: A few years ago Greg Kandel and I put together an executive program for artistic directors under National Arts Strategies and TCG and Dance/USA, and the response to that has been overwhelming. It certainly is part of my agenda that I’ve carried with me into my new job at Yale, to try to explore whether we should be more formal about a description of a leadership training track for artistic directors.
JOSEPH: It’s kind of interesting to think of the divisions of labor that are articulated even at the school level—the management program, the directing program. It’s interesting to think of how it gets perpetuated by those divisions.
MARTENSON: Certainly it’s a widespread assumption in the field that the primary training to be an artistic director is to be a director. I think that there’s no reason at all to shy away from questioning the validity of that assumption. There’s no reason why if a young playwright has a serious interest at some point in his or her career in directing a theatre, he or she shouldn’t take advantage of a training track.
CHAIKELSON: At Columbia, while we don’t have a formal training program specifically for artistic directors, we have this philosophy of not just wanting to turn out a bunch of quote-unquote “managers,” but more creative managers, creative producers, and producing artistic directors. We have classes in which the students are working to create new nonprofit theatres and build those models within a classroom setting, where they can wear an artistic hat. We have courses on planning your season where, again, people who are interested in much more of the producing and artistic direction side can learn those skills, take what they know about dramatic literature and the development of new work and apply it to setting your season, impacting audiences, budgeting.
How do we keep talented people engaged over the arc of a long career? How do we create a learning culture in our field? Where is knowledge developed? In the university-based programs, do you see yourselves as the place where research and development happens in this field? And how do you then share that learning with the broader field?
CHINN: Executive coaching is critical for people who have been in the field for a long time. There comes a point where we tend to feel very isolated, or sort of stuck. We need to be able to fine-tune our leadership skills as we get deeper into our careers, to help prevent burnout. It can be helpful to talk with a coach—who isn’t a professional colleague—about a certain conflict issue that you might have with an actor or the union rep or the artistic director or whatever, and to learn how to speak differently so that it’s not confrontational. Many of us could benefit from renewed learning.
MARTENSON: We’ve graduated about 40 classes, about 260 graduates, from the management program at the Yale School of Drama. About three-quarters of our graduates remain in the arts and entertainment field, but only about half of those, a little more than a third of the total, are in the theatre. That would put us somewhere in the vicinity of 90 people who have had the kind of leadership impact in the theatre field that we train for. And you can look at that as half empty or half full.
The ultimate value of all of the training activities that we’re talking about is really limited by the value that the field places on them. The practicing leaders in the field are the ones who determine whether they have a hunger to make themselves better. The practicing leaders in the field are the gatekeepers who decide what young people they hire and choose to bring along. So, in a kind of marketplace way, they are assigning a value to training that I think that all of us would prefer to be higher. People in the field tend to think that the reason more people coming out of the training programs don’t commit themselves to the theatre field is that they choose not to—whereas from the point of view of the students, it’s a choice that the gatekeepers in the field are making. They have to go where the jobs are.
CHINN: Does compensation play into that?
MARTENSON: It plays into it a lot, because all of these training programs are very expensive and you come out of them with loans. Those economic realities are forceful.
MEDAK: It would be glorious if we could create better linkages between the graduate programs that are training people and the theatres that are hiring people. If there were a perception that there was a more natural link between the two—if there were a perception that your graduate school training program was actually going to help you attract a job—I think there would be greater incentive for people to become well-educated.
JOSEPH: Most of our politics are determined by the market, by economics. How you keep people in the field, or don’t keep them, or attract them into the field, has to do with how the field exists in the continuum of the world that we live in. There’s perhaps a sanctity to art being a public institution and not necessarily financially sensible. I don’t think we can separate ourselves from the context that we exist in and the kind of rabid appetite of the way the market governs our world.
MARTENSON: The economic realities can’t be divorced from it altogether, but it seems to me that they’re minor in comparison to things more in the realm of social relations. I’ve been very interested in the question of why is it that in our field the employers, that is the theatres, aren’t beating down the door to hire all of our graduates the moment that they graduate, while in other fields that happens as a matter of course. As near as I can tell, the single reason that separates fields that do that from fields that don’t is that in our field the people who are doing the hiring weren’t educated in that way. They came up through apprenticeship. But, for example, in the field of consulting, nobody gets to work unless they’ve had the training to begin with, so they automatically assume that the new people that they bring in are going to have to be well trained. That’s almost a cultural assumption, and not an economic matter.
MEDAK: There’s a real prejudice in the field among those many people who didn’t go to graduate school against the students who come out of graduate school. It’s an unpleasant thing to say, but we know that it exists, whether it’s based on insecurity or on the idea that I learned in a certain way and therefore you should, too. We don’t operate the way medical and law schools do. It’s a terrible waste that we don’t think about the graduate schools being a point of entry for most of our organizations. This may be a time where people are more open to that than they’ve been.
HENDERSON: I hope that our program in Chicago can serve as a model for theatres across the country, encouraging them to engage more deeply in professional training through strategic partnerships within their own communities. Each of our organizations has people, energies and expertise to share. If theatres could formalize those core educational competencies and make them available in various forms to the next generation of arts leaders, it would be a win-win proposition for the theatre, the students and the field.
In fact, our Arts Leadership Program has as much positive impact on our theatre as it has on the fellows themselves. The fellows have challenged many of the modes of operation and institutional conventions here at the theatre in a way that only a student can. That wide-eyed curiosity cuts through a lot of old-school theatrical thinking. The program allows us to draw from a national pool of candidates and keep our young staff among the best and brightest in the field. It has created a greater sense of responsibility among our senior staff to mentor and coach—and not simply supervise. It has also inspired staff throughout the organization to look at professional development opportunities, and many more are requesting to attend seminars and conferences than did before.
All in all, there is a culture of learning that helps everyone stay connected to the work. I believe that the spirit of questioning and curiosity that results will help us keep our work under the microscope of this learning laboratory and challenge us always to make what we see through its lens better.
Joan Channick, moderator, is the managing director of Long Wharf Theatre, in New Haven, Conn., and has taught in the Yale School of Drama’s theatre management program and in Goucher College’s distance learning arts administration program.
Steven Chaikelson is chair of the theatre division at Columbia University School of the Arts in New York City where he heads the MFA program in theatre management and producing.
Debbie Chinn is managing director of California Shakespeare Theatre in Berkeley.
Criss Henderson is executive director of Chicago Shakespeare Theater and director of the DePaul University/Chicago Shakespeare Theater MFA Arts Leadership Program.
Melanie Joseph is producing artistic director of the Foundry Theatre in New York City.
Edward A. Martenson is chair of the theatre management program at the Yale School of Drama, former executive director of the Guthrie Theater and a consultant in organizational leadership.
Susan Medak is managing director of Berkeley Repertory Theatre and president of the League of Resident Theatres.