All around us, arts organizations are struggling. Theatres all over are no exception, the theatres in this state have all shown signs of cutting back, trimming costs, tightening their belts. I don’t know that this is a new thing – it seems like theatre and the arts are always, generally speaking, struggling with staying open, staying relevant, staying exciting and excited. And, of course, with belt-tightening comes planning and hoping for the future.
As we head into 2012, we’re in the middle of our 6th season at Williamston Theatre. I’m proud of what we’ve done so far, but also dissatisfied – there’s more we can do. As we prepare for the last 1/2 of this season, and I start to lay out what next season will be, we’re struggling with the same things a lot of companies are: Art versus Business, what risks to take, how to maintain our audience and grow it, etc…
I certainly don’t have all the answers to all those questions. (If I did, more theatres and arts organizations would be banging on my door!) But as I’ve been pondering how to move forward, there are a few things that keep coming up in our organization that I think are going to be touchstones for some of the projects and decision making we’ll be tackling in the near future. The idea of stewardship. The creation of opportunities, and our obligation to seize them. The importance of helping the company members to find their passion, and then to pursue it. The inclusion of our community, and other arts organizations, in the process. The reminder that just because we’ve done things one way in the past, we don’t have to do them that way in the future.
I don’t expect we’ll achieve all of these goals all the time. Heck, we may not achieve some of them at all. But I’m going to pursue them, and treat them the way a good director treats “Theme” in a rehearsal process: If there’s a decision to be made, always seek the option that most fits the theme. I’m not sure how realistic the goals are, but I know this: Sometimes, in the daily “putting out of fires” that happens in all of our jobs, the big picture is lost in the process of keeping the doors open and the lights on. I think we need – I know *I* need – to be reminded to step back sometimes and re-evaluate the whole. If I’m lucky, keeping these touchstones in mind this year could have a positive effect on the company.
I’ll check back in a year, and see how we did!