Ever since my first days at TCG, people have asked me if I miss working in a producing theatre. How does it feel, they want to know, to ride an elevator to the 24th floor of an office building every day, instead of passing through a scene shop filled with freshly cut wood on the way to your desk? That question seems all the more relevant at times like these, when new theatre seasons are being launched nationwide and we’re highlighting them in this annual Season Preview issue of American Theatre.
I did spend many glorious years in busy theatres around the country before arriving at TCG. And so the answer to the aforementioned question is: Yes! Yes, of course I miss it! I miss the intense sense of collaboration that comes when theatre people—artists, production staff, marketers, costumers, accountants, building engineers and so many more talented individuals—are working together to bring about something of beauty. I miss the excitement of opening night, as well as the daily stories that come from a stage manager’s notes explaining exactly what transpired at a performance—an audience’s awed response to a particularly breathtaking moment, say, or the “near miss” that occurred during a cue-heavy shift backstage.
But the fact is that at TCG we have our own “season” as well, and our own events that call for staff collaboration—events that become our “productions,” with their own guts-and-glory stories! Since we query artists every year at this time about what they’re excited about in the new season,
I want to share with you what I’m excited about here at TCG as we gear up for the year ahead.
- Plays, plays, plays! TCG’s book program began in 1974 with the appearance of the first Theatre Directory. This year, as we close in on four decades of book publishing, we will be introducing no fewer than 20 new titles. The process of producing a book—from editing to artwork to publication, digitalization and distribution—is a tremendously collaborative process among our authors, our publisher, our editors and artists, our customer service reps, promoters and outside partners, including our distributor, Consortium Books. We have our “opening night” moment of excitement when a beautiful new volume lands on our desks. Among the books due this year: The Elliot Trilogy by Quiara Alegría Hudes, with the Pulitzer-winning Water By the Spoonful just out, Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue due this fall, and The Happiest Song Plays Last in the spring; Amy Herzog’s After the Revolution / 4000 Miles and The Great God Pan; the complete revised edition of Angels in America, with all of Tony Kushner’s changes and with a new introduction; Once, with a book by Enda Walsh and music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová; Don’t Start Me to Talkin’…the selected plays of John O’Neal; and The Director’s Voice, vol. 2, edited by Jason Loewith. These are just a few of the highlights—all undertaken to support writers and sustain the spoken word!
- Diversity, Inclusion and the Audience (R)evolution. Last year, TCG undertook a strategic planning process that involved input from our full board, staff and many of our stakeholders. Putting our minds together as an organization exemplified that collaborative spirit and brought about a new vision and strategy, along with a set of specific initiatives we’re diving into this year. Ready to launch this fall is the Audience (R)evolution, which, as its name suggests, will examine the evolutionary and revolutionary ways theatres are building audiences and connecting with their communities. The program includes a major survey of successful models and strategies nationwide, a knowledge-sharing convening in February, and a grant program that will offer theatres funds to test out new models. Another critical strategic initiative focusing on diversity and inclusion will be emphasized at our Fall Forum on Governance, slated Nov. 9–11 in New York City, titled “Leading the Charge!”
- Joining Forces through Blue Star Theatres. In 2011, the White House launched Joining Forces, a comprehensive national mobilization of “all sectors of society to give our service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned.” TCG has been working with member theatres, the Blue Star Families organization and the MetLife Foundation to develop a program that connects interested theatres to the families of active-duty service men and women, as well as veterans. This important national collaboration gets underway this year.
- Our 23rd National Conference, TCG Does Dallas! June 6–8, 2013: I had been in the theatre business for about 12 years before I had my first close encounter with TCG, at the 1996 National Conference at Princeton University. I was a newbie because, until that point, I had not been at the helm of an organization. At the time TCG had a policy that only two people per organization could attend, and they were required to be the top brass. Since then, the conference has expanded and opened up considerably—it’s gone from biennial to annual, and now rotates locales around the country so as not to be East Coast–centric. Any member theatre’s staff or board member may now attend, and individual artists as well as teen councils, university affiliates and many others are encouraged to participate. Attendance is now typically 1,000 or more theatre practitioners and supporters, representing the ever-increasing diversity of our field. The National Conference is the catalytic hub of all we do, and it is also all-hands-on-deck for TCG staff—making it our biggest “opening night”!
TCG’s new vision statement has it right: We imagine a better world for theatre, and a better world because of theatre. We hereby enter our new season in that spirit. And we wish you all a happy 2012–13!
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