Take the adventure, heed the call, now ere the irrevocable moment passes!—Kenneth Grahame
When did you first hear adventure calling?
Where did that irrevocable moment fall for you, that sudden grace of knowing that whoever you might have been, and whatever you might become, from this time forward, you would always be a theatre person? Whether we have followed that call to Broadway or Boise, whether we hang from the grid or cheer from the house, it’s clear that we are bound to each other by this calling. For all our splendid differences, we share this essential thing: Theatre opened a door, and we walked through it to discover we were home.
Of course, like any home worth the name, being there ain’t always easy. If you’ve heard the call, then you’ve also heard the lack of it, those months or even years where purpose falls silent and the work happens more from habit than passion. You’ve struggled to make your calling heard over the din of our discordant culture; you’ve persisted in the flux of a virtual age. For 50 years, TCG has endeavored to strengthen, nurture and promote this home we share, to make this calling we bear a little lighter.
While the urgency of that mission remains undiminished, our vision has evolved to seize the possibilities and the urgencies of our times. Over the course of our 50th anniversary year, TCG invested in a strategic planning process which renewed our focus on theatre people. Our new vision statement reads:
TCG will become the catalytic center of a network of theatre people building more creative, diverse and civically engaged communities through theatre. Participation in theatre will be widely recognized as a right of every individual, a necessity for every community and a uniting force nationally and internationally.
In an increasingly interconnected, non-hierarchical and resource-stressed world, TCG will be the hub of an interdependent, inclusive and sustainable theatre field. TCG will harness our digital, high-tech future to champion the value of local, high-touch human connection. Our programming and core values will ripple through the primary partnership of our Member Theatres and other partner organizations to empower all theatre people and the communities they serve.
This vision, and the strategy that accompanies it, rejects the counterproductive dichotomy often made between theatre institutions and individuals. Our theatres and our theatre field at large are made up of people—individuals striving to make a difference through this art form. TCG’s mandate is to empower all theatre practitioners, and to help us remember that our seeming differences—from aesthetics to geography, from size to culture—are not a symptom of a broken system but a sign of its strength. We all draw water from a common ground, and bloom towards the call of a shared light.
To better support this ecosystem, our strategic plan has identified two field-wide areas that demand immediate attention: Diversity and Inclusion, and Community Engagement. We will also give special focus over several years to rotating sets of distinct groups, starting with actors, production people and trustees.
No one bears witness to the potential of our shared calling more than John O’Neal, the great artist and co-founder of the Free Southern Theater. At our 2010 Fall Forum, O’Neal shared his irrevocable moment, saying, “In 1962, I said the nonviolence movement in the South was the most important thing, but there I was heading north to NYC instead, and that had to change.” His subsequent work as a “cultural arm of the civil rights moment” reminds us how much is possible when we trust that voice within us and turn towards staging the world we’d like to see.
In a recent visit to the TCG offices, John remarked, “You’re building something—I don’t know what it is, but I can see something important taking shape.” I’d like to believe this visionary founder couldn’t yet make out that shape because its final form depends on you, dear reader. Remember that irrevocable moment when you became a theatre person? How can TCG help you bear that calling? How can we work together to strengthen this home we share? How can we create a better world for theatre…and a better world because of theatre?
The next 50 years begin today.