RISK REWARDS RESULTS: BOSTON THEATRE CONFERENCE 2004
On August 7, 2004, StageSource hosted the first-ever Boston Theatre Conference, Risk, Rewards, Results: Boston Theatre 2004 and Beyond. A meaningful convening at Brandeis University's Spingold Theatre of nearly 300 professional and emerging theatre artists including actors, directors, designers, playwrights, production and administrative theatre personnel and organizations throughout New England provided the community its first significant occasion to collectively take stock of the recent past, the current climate in which we create our art, and the future landscape.
The idea for a conference came out strategic planning from the StageSource board of directors and staff as a direct result of the growth of the community and as an extension of the annual StageSource Theatre Town Meetings started in June 2000. The Greater Boston theatre arena has changed dramatically over the last five years with the emergence of a significant number of new theatre companies and artists and the maturation of many of our existing companies and artists throughout the region. From the time of the Conference over the course of 18 months, at least ten new performance spaces were scheduled to open creating a whole new set of opportunities and challenges. Having a community-wide dialogue at this critical juncture seemed very appropriate.
The schedule of the day at the Conference included all-inclusive general sessions, smaller group breakout sessions, a keynote address by Anne Bogart (Artistic Director of The Siti Company, New York), a vendor fair, and a reception at the conclusion of the day at the Rose Art Museum sponsored by the Brandeis University Office of the Arts.
Read reporter Louise Kennedy's chronicle of the Conference printed in The Boston Globe under "Boston Theatre Conference Examines Local Stages".
For the 2004 Conference, we were most grateful for the financial and in-kind support of Broadway in Boston/Clear Channel Entertainment, Kennison Staffing, FleetBoston, and Brandeis University Office of the Arts in making this Conference possible. Thank you to all of you who attended, volunteered, and supported this extraordinary event. I encourage you to continue to share your thoughts.
I hope to see you at the next Boston Theatre Conference scheduled for August 5, 2006! Check back for details on registration in the coming months.
Jeff Poulos, Executive Director
Key issues, priorities and initiatives that emerged and were repeated throughout the Conference have been summarized here. These issues might be addressed by any combination of theatre community individuals, producers, StageSource board and staff. The StageSource board and staff plan to evaluate these and if appropriate, incorporate into its strategic plan for future initiatives. Individuals and Producers are encouraged to also evaluate these and incorporate into their respective agendas.
Increase efforts, support, activities focused on advocacy for more public support.
Expand Services beyond Metro Boston
StageSource states in its mission that it provides leadership and resources for the advancement of theatre in the Greater Boston/New England area. There are now a significant number of producers and individual artists in Massachusetts outside of Metro Boston as well as in New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont and Connecticut that have expressed an interest in receiving an increase in services that can assist them.
There were more issues raised about Marketing than any other area. Marketing dominated the free-form lunch discussions and even popped up repeatedly in sessions where the primary focus was relating to artistic issues. Here are some of the priorities raised:
- Tourism, reaching the untapped market of visitors to the region
- Wider calendar distribution
- Reaching the student audience
- Reaching a diverse audience
- Local and/or national campaigns about Greater Boston theatre
- An awards ceremony/process for the community that is driven by the community
- Facilitate theatres in creating a Fringe Festival for new plays
- As part of the StageSource Professional Development Series, host a playwrights' roundtable, invite established playwrights from outside area.
- With Playwrights Alliance, facilitate theatres in creating a Fringe Festival for new plays (see above, Marketing)
- Producers of new companies expressed an interest in finding experienced producer mentors
- Playwrights, Stage Managers, Designers and Directors meeting more experienced of the same
Tapping into the local colleges to connect students with theatre companies
Designers and Producers connection
Connecting designers and producers regarding the dwindling of this resource
Assess how StageSource conducts the annual auditions. Can the auditions system be improved? Have evening time slots; shorten days for producers; impersonal feeling (add thank yous?)
Create a Directors Alliance
MEMBERS OF THE COMMUNITY:
- Marketing: participate in collaborative efforts; become involved or engage board members, volunteers, staff to become involved.
- Diversity: look at the issue of diversity at your theatres in terms of casting, planning, using resources, hiring staff, building audiences. Seek out artists of color, go to plays in other communities, give tickets to audiences you might not usually attract, seek alternative sources such as churches.
- Advocacy: join MAASH, invite to and acknowledge at your theatres city and state representatives, engage your staff to take action (write, send emails, etc).
- Meet with designers and production personnel to work to retain this dwindling resource in the community.
- Advocacy: join MAASH, take action on advocacy alerts, volunteer for or donate to campaigns of city and state representatives.
- Diversity: see the work at theatres outside your community, volunteer at other theatres.
- Marketing: marketing efforts need personnel to help forward initiatives. Resources are limited. Volunteer for a fringe, small or midsize theatre company; represent a company at the Theatre Arts Marketing Alliance meetings.
- Training: an issue that has been repeated over the years at different meetings, alliances and at the Conference is that artists should continue to seek out training opportunities. Classes exist at theatres, casting companies, and other venues and are offered as part of the professional development series at StageSource during the year. Producers encourage this community to continue to train outside working as actors, directors, playwrights and designers.