Friday, November 21, 2014

NaBloPoMo Day 21: Stop, Start, Continue

When it is organization reflection time, what criteria do you use to make sure you're doing what you want and need to do? (This is assuming you have reflection time. If you don't, I suggest you start that right away.)

One of my favorite guiding questions is a triplet: What should I stop doing? What should I start doing? And what should I continue (and/or increase) doing?

These can be macro or microcosmic.

Maybe your organization needs to stop.

Maybe you need to call one donor every day just to say thank you (2 minute call, tops).

Maybe you need to continue paying your artistic staff as much as you possibly can.

Here are some of my organizational things for the next quarter:

-doing the technical design work myself.
-talking about payrates in a negative way
-leaving strategic work for after the mundane

-varied networking to grow our audience
-working the shiny new fundraising plan
-find a pro-bono pr agency

-providing excellent customer service/work on bringing box office in-house
-saying "yes and" to performance projects that push our artists and community
-working to pay myself consistently

What could your arts organization stop/start/continue? Or you personally? 
And check back with me in Feb to see how mine are going.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

NaBloPoMo Day 20: Advocacy Emails

Since I'm covering the Orange County Arts Commission office today to accept Fall Grant Applications, I thought I'd write a little about advocacy.

A lot of people get nervous when they hear the word "advocacy." Maybe it has to do with a fear of public speaking or of being rejected. Maybe it's about being scared of a perceived power imbalance. I think people are scared of "fundraising" for the same reasons.

But no one should be scared of advocacy. The verb "advocate" means simply "to speak or write in favor of." Advocacy isn't rocket science. It's communication.

Here are 3 tips on starting advocacy emails:

1. Know who you're emailing.
The best connection is with your local representative, be that a municipal or county commissioner, or state district legislator. Start your research with where they stand on your particular interest area (the arts, obviously). Then expand to their other special areas. There may be unexpected ways to discussing the arts through education, agriculture, business development, or tourism.

2. Start simple and upbeat.
A handwritten letter to begin is always a good idea, but start with an email if necessary just to get going. Introduce yourself and that you're in their elecorate, state simply that you're an arts supporter, mention one cool recent arts thing that they may be interested in, and that you're looking forward to working with them on this topic.

3. Repeat often.
Schedule an email to them every so often, every couple of months at least. These can riff on "this arts thing happened and thanks for your support" to "this arts thing is going to happen and will draw x number of your constituents." The keys here are brevity, consistency, and connecting the dots on how the arts help the community.

Eventually, the topic will be "we want this arts thing to happen and need your support." When the need for that email arises, it won't feel odd for you to write and it won't be out of the blue for your representative to receive, because they know who you are.

Do you have email tips? If you already advocate for the arts, how often do you write your representative?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

NaBloPoMo Day 19: Rituals

A local theater acquaintance posted about her daily rituals and Forbes magazine recently published a list of 20 top-of-their-game-women's morning routines. At home, I am all about these things. At work, not as good.

In order to be successful, arts organizations should build routines and rituals into the work day/week/quarter/year. Especially for smaller organizations, where employee(s) must juggle multiple work task hats: deliberate, consistent routines can help ensure that the work actually gets done.

There are so many places to start or things to consider about setting up routines. Arts leaders need to have:

-clear short and long term goals
-strategies and tasks for achieving them
-strategic thinking and professional development time
-networking get-togethers
-donor touches

And other things to consider include:

-which 8 hours out of the day are you really/do you need to be working?
-familial commitments that require a flex schedule
-personal "best" working times
-when vendors/clients/customers need you to be available
-what tasks are "must do" and "now" vs "want to do" and "later" (hint: not everything is high priority/urgent)

As a solo leader, it's been helpful for me to designate weekly routines. That is, rather than trying to hit marketing AND development AND planning AND etc etc every day, I designate each item to a day in the week and try to go deep into that area on that day. And those tasks that I've earmarked as ritual--the things that need to be done every day in order to keep the ship moving steadily forward--get plugged into my daily schedule before and as breaks in between the other work.

Do have a daily ritual or weekly routines? Share them here! 

Monday, November 17, 2014

NaBloPoMo Day 17: Returning to Passion

I found my way into theater a little later than other colleagues, according to informal conversation. I had "theater" friends in middle and high school, but I was never intrigued enough to want to join them on stage.1

Until, that is, my local pro-am theater2 produced the Finn/Lapine musical Falsettos. Through a series of poor teenager life choices, I served community service time at the theater while the show was going on. Luckily. Fortunately. Serendipitous-ly. If you don't know the show, it's the story of a Jewish family and their friends, many of whom are gay. Themes include being true with yourself and loved ones, growing up and the pain of adulthood, loving someone through good times and bad, and the importance of family. 

I'm not Jewish. I didn't know any gay people (out, anyway). But I was moved to tears by every single performance I saw (including returning on my night off to actually purchase a ticket). I saw a story on that stage that not only connected to my personal life's quest at that time but also showed me how small my own world really was and how much larger it could be. 

Which is why we "do" theater, right? Why we participate or attend. For those with the "bug," it's a compulsion to understand ourselves and our world. It's not like escapist television or movies. It's about illumination. 
I got into theater because I want others to feel the same way I felt during Falsettos. I want to be a part of something that could so move another person that something in them would change and be better. Comedy or drama, contemporary or period, life writ large or small, theater that compels is what I'm passionate about. 

What's your theater passion? What is it about this field that keeps you being a part? What is your compulsion?

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1. Because I thought you had to be on stage to be a part of the theater. This is a gross injustice that should be corrected in lower schooling. 

2. Can I coin that term? It wasn't community theater but it wasn't a professional-day job theater. Boom, done. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

NaBloPoMo Day 15: Ladies of Triangle Theatre

Ladies of Triangle Theatre (LoTT for short) is a loose network of women in Triangle area of North Carolina who work in any aspect of theater. The short goal of the network is to say "Yes, And" to each other whenever possible. 

All the statistics about national and regional productions by/led by women can be found elsewhere, as well as the ongoing dialogue/argument about why those numbers are low/aren't changing. 

Here in the Triangle, we are blessed with an incredible number of talented women on both sides of the stage. LoTT exists to support these women in their theatrical work, through various means. 

One is behind-the-scenes, much like a "support" group. Everyone needs that kind of safe space to work through problems and this is a difficult field to navigate by itself, let alone with family responsibilities and day jobs etc etc. 

Another is through informal gatherings. These have been brown-bag lunches, attending a member's show as a group, or drinks after a show. 

While it's not a producing entity per se, LoTT has branched out into doing shows "in conjunction with" a producing company. Our first was Crooked by Catherine Trieschmann at Common Ground Theatre. Since I'm a member of LoTT and the Executive Director of Common Ground, it made sense for LoTT to help out with the production. 

There is no application process to be a member: are you self-identified as a woman and do you work in theater in the Triangle? Are you interested in supporting other women and making the Triangle a great place for theater? Come join us!
We have nifty buttons! Logo design by the amazing Sylvia Mallory.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

NaBloPoMo Day 12: Theater Parent Emotions

(This post is a little more personal than usual.)

I'm a mom.

I know that doesn't come as a surprise; it's listed elsewhere (and I've written about it) on my blog and one of the things in my elevator speech about myself.
I missed this because I was
at an AFTA conference.

I wish that I could list that on my resume under "experience." Because it is the main reason why there aren't more bullet points. Opportunities or jobs or positions or speaking engagements that I turned down or didn't seek out because I needed to provide hands-on support for my family at home.

Because it's hard to do both at the same time. I've had to take my child to rehearsal this week for a show I'm producing/designing, which means she's up past her bedtime and seeing material that probably isn't appropriate for a 2nd grader (it's not R-rated, but definitely PG-13). I chose an online graduate school program specifically so that I could be at home as much as possible. I've asked family and friends to babysit because I had a show or a rehearsal or an arts-related meeting/conference far more often than any other reason.

I could move farther faster in my career if I gave up time with my daughter.

I could support her more in many different ways if I gave up my career.

But instead, I cobble together the work experiences I can and hope that I don't screw her childhood up too badly.

Are you a parent in the performing arts? Need to vent? Go ahead.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

NaBloPoMo Day 6: Please do not ask me if I act

The single most common response to the "What do you do?" "I'm the [Insert Arts Admin title here] of this theater" exchange is:
"Oh. Do you act, too?"
I loathe* this question. For three reasons.

1. It stems from a baseline assumption that there is nothing else of value worth doing in a theater except for being on stage. Whether this assumption is rational or is simply inherent from years of mass media infused celebrity and bad sitcoms, it doesn't really matter.

2. It also questions whether I have enough work tasks to fill my day. Like, I must not have enough to do running the business aspects of the organization. (NOTE: this does not negate the idea of 168 hours and that one couldn't theoretically have acting as a side gig or hobby.)

Me: College Freshman,
Assistant Stage Manager. 
3. It stops the conversation. ALWAYS. Yes, I have a pat, gracious response I give, but most people do not know what to say after that. I don't fall into the presumed role of "if I'm standing in a theater I'm one of two people: an actor or an audience member." If I'm lucky, the conversant may follow up with, "well how did you get into this job/field/position?" as one would with any small-talk conversation. But once it's clarified that 1) I'm not pining to move to NYC and 2) I don't know any Broadway/Hollywood/Local television stars, that's pretty much the end of it.

Maybe it's a front line thing. Nearly everyone I know in theater management that deals with audiences as some portion of their job (so, like 99%) get this, too. I think it goes back to our troubled dramatic (no pun intended) high school days when the drama kids on stage were all vaunted but the techie folks were left, quite literally, in the dark.

I imagine there are a lot of arts administrators who got into their work position directly because of a love of doing the art form (fine arts museum director who paints or sculpts, for example). But I'd lay even odds that for every one do-er manager, there is someone else like me, who got into it because we were passionate about supporting the art form.

Am I being sensitive? Or does this question hit a nerve with you, too?

*No, I do not use the word lightly.
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