Want to know where the theatre leaders of tomorrow will come from? Start here.
In the following pages, you will discover that—although art is what counts most—a strong producing or management acumen is what keeps a theatre company afloat. If in theatre’s earlier days, management was simply the byproduct of necessity, gradually the position of managing director (or producing director) has taken on critical significance. The process of creating theatre has now become so challenging, expensive and unwieldy that even artist-run collectives have to face the question of how to run their operations, and by what rules: How will companies be governed? Who will make the decisions?
Many theatre artists lose touch with what what’s going on in the “biz” side of show business. During the creative excitement of rehearsing a show, designing a beautiful set or acting one’s heart out, it’s possible to forget the fact that someone on the team laid the necessary groundwork for the production to get mounted. Before the curtain ever rises, someone must oversee planning, budgeting, scheduling and marketing. Someone crunches the numbers and applies for grants from state, corporate and foundation donors. Someone sews up performance dates, deals with audience-development issues, crafts promotional strategies and handles crucial administrative details. It’s management whose job is putting out fires, stoking fires or trying to get the fire going for the season to come.
It can be a thankless job to run a theatre, but survival is the ultimate victory. Even a company that claims to do groundbreaking work would be nowhere if it didn’t have a degree of stability in terms of consistent income, a workable space, a solid staff, a regular audience. This edition of the annual “Approaches to Theatre Training” takes an alternative path—rather than delving into artistic matters, this time the magazine pauses to consider the livelihood of the art: Who’s going to put our houses in order? Who will want to be in charge of practical but essential business matters? Where are these leaders coming from? How do you bring in and cultivate new talents? How can we ensure that these theatre heads, administrators, producers—whatever you call those who do the indispensable work of management—are also our artistic soul mates?
This special section tackles such questions in three parts: a wide-ranging roundtable discussion moderated by Long Wharf Theatre managing director Joan Channick; an essay and academic checklist by arts management expert Jim Volz; and a series of five mini-profiles of the new generation of theatre managers—figures from a variety of backgrounds, working at theatres of differing size and focus and locale, but all with significant stories to tell.
Take heart. Arts management as a field is on the rise, and its raison d’être is to undergird the vision of artists working to create resonant images of the human condition. At its best, the new breed of management leaders gives theatre artists the freedom to make an impact.