Category Archives: Session Notes

NOTES – How do you Market Five Living Generations

Session C: How do you Market and Raise Funds from Five Living Generations?
Right now there are five different living generations who all may be ticket buyers, donors, volunteers and patrons. Baby Boomers don’t think like Gen Xers, who are nothing like Millenials and what about the GI’s and the Silent Generation? What is the best methodology to market, fundraise, retain and satisfy them all?Location: OST Mandell Studio Theater
Moderator: Shannon Lacek – Orlando Shakespeare Theater
Speaker: Mark Brewer – President of the Central Florida Community FoundationAudiovisual Powerpoint session

Click here for Powerpoint attachment


NOTES – STA Business Meeting

STA Business Meeting

Saturday, March 3, 2012, 2:50am-4:00pm

Patrick Spottiswoode reviewed the accomplishments of STA for the last year:

  • New logo
  • Paypal
  • Increased membership, increased dues, perfected dues structure
  • Updated website making it more user friendly
  • Beautiful quarto
  • New host for next year, Pennsylvania
  • Successful teaching collaborative workshop at UC Davis: Shakespeare works when Shakespeare plays
  • Expanded pre-conference
  • Successful Conference here in Orlando


Treasurer Report

  • Refer to financial report
  • This year there is a surplus of $12,000, acquiring the NEA Grant of $10,000, $6100 spent in previous fiscal year.
  • Ended in black in last year’s financial.
  • Pay Pal Instituted.
  • Paid for three quartos this year.
  • Robust membership, presently 109 members, 27 associates.
  • Present budget balance of $42,600
  • This reflects cash reserves of $35000
  • (refer to 2012 budget.)
  • The only surprises on the budget sheet are the new dues structure, money is currently set aside for GM position.
  • If we were to hire GM we would have funds for the new hire in the Fall.
  • Question: If the executive decided to go to online quarto when would it go into effect?
  • Fall
  • Why are the dues reflected in two years? Answered in previous session. Dues collection is started at the end of the present year.
  • Patrick: one of the aims was to increase international members. Accomplished.

The conference in 2014:

  • Stratford Festival has offered. We are very grateful
  • Lesley Malin: Motion to approve Stratford Festival as hosts for 2014 conference.
  • Seconded. Voted on. Motion Passes.
  • Representative from Stratford will be on the Executive committee.
  • Representatives from each of the focus groups include:
  • Management: Casey
  • Education: Rebecca
  • Artistic: Lisa
  • Recommendation from the artistic committee: Increasing the committee up to nine. Because of the changes that have introduced this year, this recommendation will be tabled until next year.

Appointment of a working committee for 2016 Celebration. Representatives include:

  • Education: Michael Lominico, Kristin Clippard,
  • Management: Suzanne Dean, Nikki Allen
  • Artistic: Ralph Cohen, Phillip Sneed with assistance from Becky Kemper and Dawn


Approval of Executive officers including:

  • Patrick Spottiswoode, President
  • Jeff Watkins, VP
  • Michael Bahr, Secretary
  • Treasurer, Casey Gallagher
  • At Large Member Rep from Stratford
  • At large Member Sarah Enloe
  • At large member Patrick Mulcahey
  • Moved and seconded
  • Motion passes.


The executive presented two items of the Operational plan for discussion: Quarto and membership dues. Reports from focus groups:


  • Education Committee report: No problems with the dues being raised.
  • Quarto on-line is great, we like the idea of it being printable. The website will give us more opportunities, would encourage exploring possibilities to administer it like a wiki where people could contribute.
  • Inclusivity was the other big topic, would like our staff and actors reflecting our audiences. If we diversify our staffs they will diversify the audience.
  • Must focus on Economic diversity, gender.
  • Talked about overcoming the bias of sports and athletics. They could also be our partners
  • We would like to have a quarterly on-line discussion between each other. We are going to be doing other UC Davis modeled meetings. Webinars.
  • Really liked the idea of a reading and incorporating the ideas found in the new book “Counting New Beans” presented by Christh Dickinson, of Arts Midswest.
  • Management Committee Report: The Management committee felt that the dues were fine and could be increased for larger organization and bear a larger burden. Regarding quarto: Felt unanimously that it should go on-line. This way it can be forwarded to the board and archiving to libraries. SUU would continue to support they would still want to be a part of it. Prefer to have a quarterly schedule. Shorter in format, useful tool for the website. Making the quartos searchable by key words.


  • Question from the management committee included: How does the general manager position going to be fulfilled, Health insurance, how selected , how we would find partner organizations?
  • Management is exploring management in a pre-conference. Add activities on Wednesday arrival to expand opportunities to learn and network.


  • Artistic Committee report: We had concerns about taking quarto on-line. Perhaps it could be phased in order verify that this will work. Spoke to Jim Volz. Quarto copies are sent to us and for advocacy purposes. 1100 that go out to us, 900 go out for advocacy purposes, to NEA, to members. If it came in an email it is so easy to delete. Artistic director would be willing to pay for a few copies. Check with advocacy groups before we commit to the choice. Many of the relationships and places Jim sends the quarto are places he has built relationships with. Then Lisa listed many theatre organizations that receive the Quarto including: TCG, American Theatre Critic, NEA. Etc. We need it for Advocacy and recruitment purposes.


  • Christy Dickinson of Arts Midwest commented if you are sending it generally to the NEA, no one is reading it. You need to target to the right person. Send electronically, that is the way the world is going.
  • Clark Nicholson, Harrisburg, Shakespeare: We use the Quarto. It goes to our board meeting, is on our counter, table, in our bathrooms. It is good to have a physical publication that shows that we are part of a greater whole. We will lose something if we lose that tangible thing.
  • Lesley: The money is presently used for quarto would allow greater reach if used on the web. It allows us to expand our web.
  • Lisa: Postage is the major cost.
  • Patrick: Could we download and print color cover page.
  • Could we do a survey that would poll specifically about the use of Quarto?
  • Dawn: While asking about Quarto on the previous survey she will do a more specific survey on Quarto.
  • Within the focus groups Education and Management were for moving Quarto to an electronic format. In Artistic the vote was 19 for paper and electronic, and 11 for a web issue.
  • Patrick: Observation that management and education in favor while most of those that hold the one vote for the organization are in the artistic committee. He asked for another vote of the organizations regarding Quarto.
  • On-line: 22
  • Paper and online 16
  • Dawn will send out a survey. She had 40 groups that responded. She asked that all groups respond.
  • Tina Packer shared that the reason artistic wants quarto is because quarto is useful to artistic, Its not useful to the others in the present format.


  • Artistic group report continued: 2016 ideas. Some included: 1,000 Hamlets, youtube productions, actors from STA orgs present, all board member act production, produced the entire canon world wide, commission standard set of study guides, Shakespeare Flash mob, Shakespeare Karaoke, combine with Opera and Ballet. Artistic would like to reinvigorate the conversation for Shakespeare Equity contracts. Ideas for future conference topics include: Focus groups within sizes, research on vocal coaches, aha moments as themed lunch topics, move warm-ups to after lunch, Inclusion. Would like the planning to happen so that art sessions are not on top of each other. Always impossible so that Art sessions are not on top of each other.


Operational plan and vote

  • Lesley: acknowledge Dawn McAndrews work the survey, yeoman’s work. Thank her for her clarity and sense of purpose.
  • Vote on the plan with two amendments
  • Alteration to the existing plan
  • The dues schedule would be adjusted within the operational plan to include: groups over 5 million being charged $550.
  • Operational plan changes (all changes were based on discussion):
  • Pg. 9 Member Dues
  1. 1. US $ 5 million and up Dues: $550

2. US $1.5 million – $4,999,999 Dues US. $450

b. add to end “or granting a membership fee waiver.”


  • Membership Benefits
  • Strike a and b from the plan.
  • Pg. 17 General Manager Description
    • Compensation:
  • (Pending determination of FTE or PTE/Contractor)
  • Strike bullet 4 (no other benefits)


  • We will hold on Quarto, we will review that based on results of the survey.
  • Jim moves accept operational plan
  • Seconded
  • Discussion which included:
    • Question: Peter Scribner proposed that the increase in fee rate might discourage future STA groups, Offer a teaser with a cheaper rate to encourage.
    • Executive had previously discussed this suggestion. and did not feel was necessary
    • Lisa: ex can still offer scholarship to groups.
    • Question. The GM position has the language “No other benefits.” Member felt that she “Can’t in good conscience vote on a position without benefits, don’t think we should have them eliminated initially. “ Page 17 Refer to operational plan
  • Discussion ensued on benefits
    • The executive committee did want to see it as a benefitted position. If it is a part-time position then benefits would not be required. Will be explored by committee but we will strike the offending line on page 17 (as listed above.)
    • Dawn and Jeff will be on the search committee.
    • Dawn: recommend amendment: Pending determination of full-time employee or contract. (listed above)
  • Page 9 process of reinstating a membership waiver.
  • Lesley: Motion to strike membership benefits
  • Re-instating a membership waiver
  • Page 17 pending determination of part-time employee or contract. And striking “benefits”
  • Seconded,
  • Carries.
  • Ralph Cohen moved to pass the motion, as articulated above including changes on page 9 and 17,
  • Seconded
  • Carries.
  • We will have a committee discussing compensation and research chaired by Jeff Watkins and Dawn McAndrews.


New Business or Any Other Business

  • Recommendation for next year, identify which members are leaving early so we don’t over spend on food expenses.
  • Status of the banquet. Is the banquet a key element of the conference?
    • Cost of banquet is approximately $75.
    • Robert Barr: That is a standard price. It is usually half of the registration cost for the banquet. Jim Helsinger: cost of the Banquet for 2012 is: 6,167
    • A closing event is necessary.
    • Ralph: It’s the food that is the chief cost.
    • Gathering is important but it doesn’t have to be formal dining.
  • Christy Dickensen: have people choose what lunches they want. It helps to give out tickets.
  • Suggestion offered, could individuals choose whether they go to banquet or introduce a separate fee.
    • Pat: We don’t want a two-tier party.
    • Dawn: How about a pig roast
    • Lisa: less formality and still celebrate.
    • Its ok to go for a cheaper option.
  • Patrick: Thank you to Lesley Malin for all the help.
  • Thanks to Jim and Pat, the organizational flair, online, recording box office. Thanks to the staff. Thanks for all the volunteers who have made us welcome, a board that has made us welcome, crew, and actors, technical. PJ and AJ. Thanks to Jay for facilitation of the blog. Great to have the on-line presence. Caters. Thanks to our international members. The whole world has been represented. Its been a joy. I hope we get more international members. Sensed an incredible spirit of collaboration. Thanks to all our speakers and moderators.
  • Lesley: thanks to Patrick Spottiswoode.
  • Closure!
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NOTES – Focus Group Meeting 2 on STA Strategic Plan: Education

Focus Group Meeting 2 on STA Strategic Plan: Education

Chair: Rebecca Ennals
Saturday, March 3, 2012 10:00am-11:10am


  • Virtual Festival vs. a physical festival
  • Technology in 2016 is going to be different. As long as we are thinking about a collaborative initiative.
  • FLASH MOB of the balcony scene (Folger Theater)
    • Not just one day but the entire year (Balcony on feb. 14)
    • Guinness book of world records (Balcony Scene)

Would it be interesting to have an Ian Mckellan as Romeo?

Around the world. Using iconic days in Shakespeare’s life

Online celebration that culminates in a big event

The artistic committee is pushing for in person

39 times zones/ 39 plays (reading online)

Make it as interactive as possible. (Shakespeare in the round, creates interdependency)

BARDATHON Alaska shakes

  • Lines, scenes all virtual
  • Allows for community involvement

Time zones is like passing the Olympic torch (globe)

  • You can have stations.
  • Virtual map of what’s going on where

Virtually Connected, Globally Focused

“ALL THE WORLDS A STAGE” possible title

We are invited to nominate a working committee:

  • Kristen Clippard


  • Composition and engagement with education and training?
  • SF Shakespeare just eliminated the education board committee
  • Who does have an education committee?
    • Colorado Shakes does
    • Stratford does

They have not been the most helpful. Create more work and they don’t actively advocate to the larger board.

We look at the skill sets of board members before they place them in a committee. When new board members come on board. How they can engage with the organization. Otherwise I find they don’t read the education report. Find a hook and then they will invest. If they don’t come to an education activity then they shouldn’t be on the board. (The Globe)

San Francisco Shakespeare

  • Almost entirely an educational program
  • Board members have joined because of children’s involvement within the program. Finding which parents are willing to invest as a board member
    • Everybody is busy, but you need to create peer pressure within the board.
    • Once they see what you are doing they become invested and are invested.
    • Make it peer to peer

Seattle Shakespeare

  • Exists because of board member involvement whose children went through the programs
  • Make it a part of the ritual in joining the board


Youth advisory board

  • Must have gone through the education programs
  • The students are active. They get a full board member vote
  • They are the vocal part of the whole youth board
  • Really strict age bracket

Education is very program generated. So many times board members have many ideas, but little desire to execute it themselves.

Make sure the bright shiny objects (new ideas) align with the mission statements

The final decision rest with a staff member

Look at parents of children in camps! Look at someone who is active already

  • Get someone politically involved in the local group
  • Someone who shares the theaters values

San Francisco Shakespeare

You think you are asking, but you are being too subtle. (JUST SAY: will you go drink coffee with so-and-so?)

  • You build a board through communities. Have them get you engrafted into the community. Use the board or they will begin to use you.

Harper: board techniques

  • In the board training it is about getting the board active. They must name 3 organizations they will go to. What people/ organizations the board wanted to hit without looking like the hard sell. Give them advocacy tools and expectations.
  • Create clear expectations
  • Don’t be worried about issuing too many email blasts. If they don’t want to read it, they won’t. If they unsubscribe then you can see that.

Vocabulary training for the board members. Be careful to train the board. Make sure they understand the words internally within the company. Staff appreciation.

If you have an opening night its like your birthday. It should be a well-crafted celebration.

What we do during board orientation: Give a one-page fact sheet. So they understand the relations/ key terms in all the programs.

  • Sponsors and board members can lead you to mentors
    • Instead of asking for a job, ask for advice.


  • Economically/ gender/ relationally
  • Folger: We have a problem with public schools coming to our training
    • Any urban area advice?
  • Richmond: 90% black. Only two of the government schools attended.
    • Get the superintendent involved in the schools. Giving curtain speeches. (NEVADA CITY)
  • San Francisco Shakespeare
    • Community is diverse, the staff is not.
    • Does anyone have a diverse board?
      • No one
      • That is an issue within the STA organization
      • NPR inner city basketball coach
      • Richmond even if I have another teaching artist, racial diversity still doesn’t happen.
      • The Guthrie set up interaction with a local football team. Having workshops with the football players.
      • Tackling Shakespeare (Globe) looking at art v. sport and the cross-pollination of both ideas. Teamwork, ensemble, competition, etc.
      • We are working in authentic environments, performance based. We are sharing common denominators.
        • Authentic environments with honest engagements.
        • Let makes healthy, active human beings (both sports and theater)

If I am going to expect my audience to be diverse the cast and staff must reflect that!

Former military people are another group to recruit. That is where our last touring ethnic performers came out of.

Adopt a school for one year.

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NOTES – Shakespeare Virtually Everywhere: Social Media and the Artistic Mission

Shakespeare Virtually Everywhere: Social Media and the Artistic Mission

Moderator: Rob Barr – Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival
Panelists: Jim Helsinger – Orlando Shakespeare Theater;
Lisa Tromovitch – Livermore Shakespeare Festival;
Lue Douthit – Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Friday, March 2, 2012, 2:50pm-4:00pm

Materials Mentioned: Tech Soup source for free and low-cost software for non-profits:;
Report from the Irvine Foundation on trends in the arts to Participatory Arts:;
PDF from the Irvine Foundation “Getting In On the Act: How arts groups are creating opportunities for active participation

Rob Barr (Bard on the Beach)

  • On using Skype: Trying to have design and pre-production meetings it is helpful. It’s not perfect, but eliminates a couple of flights.
  • GOTO MEETING (offers a one month free trial).

Skype: Invest in large speakers. Allows for a sense of presence and being involved.

Googleplus hangouts: Allows for talking with actors and making an adjustment. Beware of generational gap.

How is social media going to change our art? It hasn’t really come up at all. Technology is still serving the art, but more on the creative side. The fastest way you can age a production is put a computer on stage.

One of the biggest ships (Oregon Shakespeare) is the least tech savvy.
How have we been using interactive technology to make the art?

  • Skype is being used
  • As a dramaturge from the minute the script is announced to the point of rehearsals. Scripts need to be shaped in a timely manner.

Using tech. within the art form itself. It cannot just be in the lighting department now. It needs to be embraced. How do we bring that up to the “big boys table?
Interacting during shows: twittering response during intermission. It can be built into the art form.

Where I sit: The ipad has revolutionized my life. We read plays on ipad. (Allows editing, sharing, etc.) Allows an artistic director to take notes and pass off. Eliminates middleman.

  • How to share scripts in live time:
    • Keeping everyone on the same page. It is a nightmare sharing from computer to computer.

FINAL DRAFT (screenwriter program)
Medea/ Macbeth/ Cinderella all three plays at the same time.

  • The script is in three columns. There is no formatting for that. We invented it. Sharing content and changes.

Change of the art form as a part of communication system in live event:

  • Working with sign interpretation
  • Closed Captioning and the amount of effort

It would be an unbelievable thing to gang up on actor’s equity or SAG to encourage them to share the art with the world.

How is social media going to change our art? It hasn’t really come up at all. Technology is still serving the art, but more on the creative side. The fastest way you can age a production is put a computer on stage.

Tina Packer (Shakespeare & Co) The spiritual part of what we do does not take root. How do we balance the sacred and the profane? We are asking people to go deeper than “I am here.” We need to attend to the sacred part of it. Since when did sacredness not involve drinking wine, having sex. It doesn’t involve the shallow part of your brain and entertaining it.”

Not marketing, but the artistic initiative.

  • Social Media seemed restrictive. Interactive Technologies opened up the discussion.


Two worlds: Artistic Director and professor at UOP

“Getting into the Act” from James Irvin Foundation. NEA website

Younger audiences are looking at interacting with the art form and being participatory. Even co-creating with the audience.

THEATRE BAY AREA: cohort learning initiative. Conference calls centering on teaching one another. A bureaucracy rather than mission and vision statements.

How can you get alignment within your organization?

  • Participatory, Alignment and Hamlet:
  • Baby steps with conversation of social media.
    • Hamlet and audience through social media using wordpress
    • Offer the audience a glass of wine for people who add the Shakespeare Theatre as a friend on Facebook.
    • Experiment with tech. without excluding low-tech users
    • Integrate social media with artistic agenda
    • Allow it to align with core values of the theater

We looked at using SKYPE. Skype uses your computer as screenboard and can be unprotected. Facetime is more secure.

Jim Helsinger:


  • STA was created on GoogleDoc.
  • Live document available for PENN Shakes
  • Helpful for things that are not front door products

How are we marketing with content with using social media?

  • It’s difficult to separate marketing and content.
  • The creation of a show across the Internet

Google Calendar

  • Allow you to book rooms
  • Everyone in staff can share live.
  • Open Source Shakespeare
    • It will give all scenes/ characters/ lines/ queue scripts/ what are the roles I can combine
  • William on Web ?? For rehearsal or cutting standpoint
  • Internet Shakespeare Editions
  • “Doodle” or “Schedule Once” For Scheduling
  • Dropbox – A repository for all information to be shared and there is no lag time.
  • Youtube auditions
    Next day posting and its up
    Do the actor a favor and tell them to make it “unlisted”
  • Content and marketing begin to mix as rehearsals begin
    • We tend to do 3-5 videos in the life of a show
      • Director chat.
      • 2 interesting topics
      • Preview of show
      • Careful with email blasts (twice a month is a good amount)
      • USE facebook and twitter. No money is spent.
    • FLIP CAMERAS extremely user friendly

In rehearsal

  • Now we all have laptops. (Checking rhetoric. Live research in rehearsal hall)

Where is the line in the sand?

  • No laptops, ipads in active rehearsals. For table work we allow laptops.

Content: We send thank-you for every ticket purchased. Allows for survey. Gets feedback from ticket buyer immediately.

  • Suveymonkey.
  • Theater Manager. Most of it is automated.

  • Will give you 100 copies of Microsoft Office for dirt-cheap
  • Even for adobe alone it’s a great price.

Are you putting your content on media screens? (i.e. FATHOM EVENTS)

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NOTES – Breakouts by Budget Size: $500K – $2 Million

Breakouts by Budget Size: $500K – $2 Million

Moderator: Jay Skelton – Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival
Saturday, March 3, 2012, 2:50am-4:00pm

Resources Mentioned: Jerry Huntsinger, Mal Warrick, authors of books.

Session Summary: A number of mid-size theatres discuss problems with their limited budgets and the solutions to the offsetting problems. Risk-taking is necessary.


Current Budget Problems:
-Notre Dame-Being presented with a budget that was not orginnally in the lineup.
-Actor’s Shakespeare(Boston)-Itinerant program, performed in discovered spaces, but they need heat and bathrooms for audience comfort, so they are performing in established spaces, 1.2 million budget; Have to build a theatre everytime they do a show; looking for homebase; Mission: How you inhabit a space to make it a character in the play. 199 seat contract. Looking for permanent rehearsal space
-San Francisco Shakes: What makes this relevant to this community? How far to go outside of San Francisco? Transitory problems: vans breaking down.
-Both Actor’s Shakes and San Fran Shakes LOVE communities, don’t want permanent homes.
-Notre Dame: Subtracted money for materials
-Raising Salaries within a Year: You are here “conditionally”, relationships rather than stipulations.

50,000-100,000 what would you do with it?

Production Budget
Investing in people
American Shakespeare Tavern-Insurance, social security, medicare, unemployment claims

Is production investment an easier sell than adding a development department?

-Labor expenses: Big crews, two weeks, lots of money

Is the investment in something invisible, how do you convince them it moves the art forward?

-Certain expense cuts equal revenue cuts, some don’t.

Is there a difference because of position; i.e. founding member vs. non-founding

-Accuracy with cost structure, if you miss little things, it narrows the margin for error. A long time to repair credibility.
-CREDIBILITY allows you to proceed.
– Recession has raised the game of keeping track of every single dime.
-As a founder, your commitment is known, someone brought in later is a “fixer”, different levels of accountability.
-Slack/Thumb pressure as a founding member.
-Growing companies face pressure.
-Boomers are more easily spooked by the Powers That Be than Gen Xers. Concern with waning subscription sales. Young audiences don’t like the contract. Gen Xers are now becoming board members.
-Growth: Recruit from places that have growth.
-Risks: Artistic, financial, environmental, this budget group has more exposure, things break, contracts, advance ticket sales.
-Being asked to raise money beforehand: How do you do it if you have nothing to show for it?
-Most companies that have closed parrallel the waning middle class.
DIVIDE between “roaming” comapanies and the Big Boys. When times get tough: You get smaller or get bigger. This group is stuck in the middle.
-Staying where you are: stay under 2million dollars. Cost get out of control, if you stay you have to cut departments or people. “Embracing limitations”. Cutting set budgets. Costumes, props, lighting, sound, bringing it back into focus on voice and text.

-Actor’s Shakes: plan to raise 600,000 funds; raise actors’ salaries, above minimum, more than the other middle tier theatres in town, allows flexibility to dip into cash reserve. Building toward something, capital investment. This is in addition to regular fundraising.It’s a one time deal. Next one time deal is still under a cloak. Ask them for money once, and just once.
One-time ask: When is the good time to use it?
-The ask that gets you up to the next level, rather than always being on edge. 450,000 of the 600,000 is raised. The specialness of the ask is part of the attraction. An anniversary.
-People are ok with being surprised with what the money is, rather than a specific purpose.
Anecdote: Four page letter gets more response than a one page letter. When a big check bounced at American Shake Tavern, huge “Pheonix Fund” campaign, WE NEED MONEY NOW, raised 40,000 dollars in less than five days.
OPPORTUNITIES ARISE FROM THESE SITUATIONS: Tapping the nerve of the community.

-What’s going in your companies, particularly?
Baltimore: Marketing/Business/multi-tasker employee has a personal crisis, and she split. Replace with several part time people or just get a full-time person?
More important to find who wants to work with you, and what are their skills, instead of the other way around, create the position around them.
Who is equity policy:
Shakes Tavern: SPT 5, if actor does two shows they move up to SPT 7
Shakes Walla Walla: SPT 8
Notre Dame: Guest artist contract, it’s looser, you can ask actors to teach without paying for it.
Orlando Shakes: If you pay actor more than minimum, you ask them to teach classes.
Baltimore: No set contract.
Right to work states: Minimum of three equity actors, if you don’t have them, offer the Equity contract
Notre Dame: Spend more money to match the level of a new, bigger space.

NOTES – “Shakespeare on the Brink”

“Shakespeare on the Brink”

Moderator: Patrick Flick – Orlando Shakespeare Theater
Nan Barnett – Formerly of Florida Stage;
Lauren Morris – Georgia Shakespeare;
Paige Newmark – Shakespeare WA, Western Australia
Saturday, March 3, 2012, 11:30am-12:40pm

Notes:Lauren Morris (Georgia Shakespeare)Announced save Georgia Shakespeare Sept. 10, 2011. The first wave of the campaign that raised 300k. First Step, deciding to try and save the company. Second, the process of how you go about that. Thirdly, we have all these new donors… how do you still cultivate these new donors? Pivotal period of nurturing those who helped, while turning around the organization.

What were the signs?

Where is the line of living from hand to mouth to no more? This time I had stayed up all-night and thought through every contingency. I thought this is it. It is time to move forward. Hadn’t quite made fundraising and subscription goals were missed. One large donor walked away with a years notice. Facebook and online donations made this possible. We used a lot of videos and tried to make it as personal as possible. We are a non-profit we are a public service. We need to do a good job communicating why we are important.

Three years ago the company chose to go without a managing director. You don’t hit a goal, so you cut more, produce less and continue the cycle. It’s in the mandate to hire a development director.

Nan (Florida Stage)

The Theatre Club of the Palm Beaches originally. Mission was to do new work. We moved to try and be in the center of the community. We wanted to be a part of the growth of the palm beaches. We were a LORT B, almost C. With over 7,000 subscribers. The audience wasn’t happy. They didn’t want to drive the 7miles on the interstate. Subscriber base dropped to 4,000. Bad programming. Cash flow became an issue. No debt. At the end of season one of the move we had a board meeting on Wednesday. In one week we were closed. An executive board meeting the board voted to shut down the theater. After 24years with the organization, there is a lot more to my sad tale of woe, but that’s enough for now.

Palm Beach County was decimated by the Madoff scandal. It allowed the rest of the community to step back from individual giving. We were putting vendors off and asking some employees to wait in cashing any checks. There was a huge loss of faith and there was no one in the room in a position to stop it. It’s a string of missed goals. When times got tough they ran.

It is board leadership. You need to CRAFT who is in the room.

Staffing is paramount. Certainly board structure is important.

Paige Newmark  (Australian Shakes/ Shakes South Africa)

I was running Shakespeare SA. Took over Shakespeare in the Park West Australia. Shakespeare festival was meant to be rooted in Shakespeare. Five point way of cross-fertilization of the Bard. It was an interesting project. In our one season we went through 4 general managers, three left… one went mad. The 1.2 had been spent plus 1.6 had been spent.

I have learned I need to be more cynical. I’m relatively good natured and trusting. Sadly it means I have to change the person I am. I don’t like that. If I am to avoid that type of failure I need to make a change.

Any questions I had should have been put on paper straight away. I shouldered a personal responsibility because I didn’t want it to go under. Paper offers the legal binding rather than the gentleman’s agreement.

We can’t be secretive and closed about our problems. Encourage one another with what is going wrong with our companies.

Questions from audience:

What was the money spent on?

  • Paige: We were doing a full opera and didn’t realize the costs, had already hired singers, full orchestra, finding the space in Tasmania was difficult so we had to develop a space. My vision was quite large, but there were ways to manage it. I never saw the bud

What has changed in your operation?

  • Lauren: Talking about now: Green lighting Process – buzzword. All of these talks about new models, it really means doing the old model well. Transparent to the board, good constructive communication between board and staff. We restructured the staff, restructuring programs for more profitability. Green lighting comes down to creating a dashboard of financial metrics so that can easily communicate with/to financial managers to have a standardized way of communications. We have balance sheets, etc, but those can be murky. And it’s a month later so you may not be getting the full picture. Trying to create straightforward ways to talk about it.

How do you rebuild trust and staff within the community?

  • Lauren: Community not as hard. Understanding in the world about where we live—theatres are going under. People seem to get that. Letter from the board conveyed what we were going to do differently. Pages and pages if the community wanted it. Staff is a totally different question. I have not ben there for that fatigue that led up to this point. Trying to create a culture where we can focus on the future: Michael Kaiser’s FOCUS ON THE FUTURE. He emphasizes – don’t be a hater. I didn’t come in and restructure the staff. That happened on its own. And it’s a good thing. People aren’t leaving in bitterness, they are ready to move on. In some ways its about building a new structure with the people who are willing, and if you’re not. Thank you for your service.

Do you feel that if you had trip wires in place, and how would you see those manifested?

  • Nan: I put those in place. But there were still people on the board who had no idea what was happening. That’s not acceptable. They were getting those reports, but still couldn’t believe the money had gone away. Directives were given to the board but it didn’t happen. I thoroughly believe in those trip wires, but I also believe that if you’re not surrounded by people for whom those bear importance and have impact, then that’s a bigger problem. We had more money committed than had even been committed before, it was just so short sighted, yet at the same time, anyone could saw ‘we didn’t know.” We knew. We knew going into it. There was a lot of head in the sand sort of things. I would love to know why or how that cold have been fixed.

What’s going well?

  • Paige – Took over Shakespeare in the Park, failing enterprise, rebranded, moved from one play to three. We’re going ahead while the companies around us are dropping. That’s a positive spin on where we’re at in a failing
  • Nan – I have a beautiful garden. Getting to go around the country to have these conversations. Thrilled to not be working 80 hours a week. Learning a set of skills I didn’t know I had. I can serve the new play field at a different level. I’m enjoying figuring out what I want to be when I grow up. The world’s my oyster. I’d be more than happy to talk with any of you if this information can be helpful
  • Lauren – we’re fully re-energized. Board grew by about 10 members. Incredible co-chairs and exec committee. We’re rebranding. Reimagining Shakes in the park, our gala. I’ve never run so fast in my life but it feels good. I think it’s going to work. It’s a very hopeful time.

NOTES – Breakouts by Budget Size: Over $2 Million

Breakouts by Budget Size: Over $2 Million

Moderator: R. Scott Philips – Utah Shakespeare Festival
Saturday, March 3, 2012, 2:50am-4:00pm

Session Summary: We’ve all faced some economic hardship but are optimistic about the future and diligent in our commitment to sustainability and fiscal responsibility.

We need to change the relationship we have with audience members in order to create permanent patrons out of younger audience members.


  • What are the ramifications of your organizational and executive leadership structure?
  • What are your artistic and budgetary struggles and triumphs? Share your best practices with fundraising and major donor cultivation/relationship management.
  • How are you engaging with your audience beyond the performances on your stage?

Phillips: How do you struggle with artistic challenges and artistic ramifications of productions?

PSF: We have little reserve saved up. We have meetings months early. E.g., Sweeney Todd went through three designs to get within budget

APT: It’s an ongoing struggle throughout the winter with designs.

PSF (Mulcahy): We went through multiple designs of Hamlet . The budgets are real and we have to deal with that.

APT: Our rule – If you don’t stay on budget, then no one can stay on budget.

Bard on the Beach – You can be as creative as you want, but you must be creative within those bounds.

PSF: If somebody comes up with something that is just so good that is propelling your mission forward, then we can find what extra donations we need.

Stratford : How do you the plays? The aesthetic of bare and simple vs. audiences who want to see a lot of effects, “ smoke and mirrors, ” etc. How do you balance that?

Philips: When something special comes in, and you have already established a budget, and you find a donor, but you are no longer able to put enough into contributed income, what do you do

APT: The over and above has to come from our contributed income goals.

Shakes & Co.: If it ’ s over a certain amount, then I get a finance committee to get on it. Then we get bossy.

APT: If you have a $25,000 windfall on unemployment, that doesn’t give us mandate to spend it in a different line in our budget. It goes to our budget review group at that point.

Philips: Where are we in climbing out of the recession?

Shakes & Co.: MA wasn ’ t as devastated as the rest of the country. Both us and American Rep have special circumstances. Both are doing amazing artistic work and on task with sustainability, but wrestling with how you maintain net income. Shakes & Co. is climbing out of debt. American Rep is putting in more disciplined business practices.

Globe: I can ’ t really contribute.

Shakes NJ: We ’ re digging out. We had attendance issues, but last season was terrific. Our highest sale ever was … Mockingbird last summer. To be a viable moneymaker, we ’ re working on adjusting the outdoor space. We lost 14 performances for weather.

PSF: We ’ re in good shape. 2 of our best years in the last 3 yrs. We have showed the board a chart without a particular board member ’ s donation, and their jaws dropped. We have since stabilized the bottom line for us. The university has put 1M into our endowment. The President is putting that money into us because he is retiring in about 5 years.

APT: Our latest strategic mandate was let ’ s take a breath — a great choice. We had record attendance and record giving last year. This season seems a little tougher, but we ’ re good, very good.

Orlando Shakes: We ’ re good. We lost a lot of corporate support in 2008, including our golf tournament, which brought in $60,000. We’ve downsized casts significantly. I want my big show back. We ’ re in the black, though. There is progress.

Shakes & Co.: We’ve also gone down to smaller cast sizes. It ’ s tough. We’ve all had to adapt. We ’ re working to change the model.

STA Member: Contributed income has held steady. Corporate giving is near non-existent. Looking to broaden our donor base.

Oregon Shakes: We faced a big crisis with a beam breaking. Insurance is helping. Reserves, reserves, reserves. Without them I wouldn’t be sitting here. Social media is great as faster word of mouth. We lost a lot of momentum. We have a very exciting artistic season, and financially. $32M is not sustainable. Chasing after grants will drive programming. As a membership organization, we ’ ll have to head into a contributed gift donation.

Bard on the Beach: We had a significant deficit this year for the first time in our history. Thankfully we had an accumulated surplus in our reserves. A big problem is board panic. It ’ s hard to do much about it. We replaced our mainstage tent. We increased 520 to 740 for seating. It was more than we budgeted. Our numbers were sluggish. It ’ s hard to put a finger on it. Our new space was opened with a poorly reviewed show, so we never had that word of mouth. We don ’ t know what to fix because we only have one year of date. Changing pricing structures. Increasing weekend afternoon while keeping evening prices the same. It will take a few years to see where we ’ re at because so much changed in one year.

Stratford: Steady decrease in attendance over the last few years. Managed to avoid a deficit, but only just. A government program that helped that was just terminated. We started doing last-minute discount. Backfired with patrons waiting and not buying in advance. The average ticket price is a bit higher, so we ’ re surviving, but the number of audience members is worrying. Our artistic director doesn’t believe in pulling back the work on the stage. We can ’ t tell with any assurance in terms of programming what kind of choice is going to have what kind of effect. Some well-reviewed stuff is drawing no crowds and audiences are fickle.

Brazil: Very common to plan idea and keep with it. After 2010, our strategy now is getting sponsors to contribute to community-benefitting programming. Cirque du soleil got $5M from Brazilian sponsors. Our board and strategy is okay.

ASC: In 2008, we laid off 40% of our staff. We didn’t see ticket sales drop. Now sales are increasing, we ’ re hiring people back. It ’ s amazing what happens when you have a marketing director and a great development director. Education is sticking to mission. Cast numbers have decreased and we ’ ve lost almost all guest director spots. Looking at increasing numbers in both. We have a very positive but realistic managing director now. Our morale is beyond rainbow-colored. Our staff is so delighted to be there. We ’ re doing great.

Utah Shakes: 2010 and 2011 were very strong for us. Overall attendance, ticket sales, and contributed income are doing very well. We have a lot of surplus and we have thus a very ambitious budget. Nevada patrons stopped coming with the housing crisis for a while.

Phil ips: What are you seeing happening with programming? What are audience members expecting? Have the expectations changed? What are we doing about it?

Stratford: How do you tell what they want? We thought once we started doing Andre Lloyd Weber, our audiences would start to complain, but the sales have gone through the roof. Shakespeare represents about 30% of our playbill. We do 2 mainstage Shakespeares. They ’ re likely going to be in our smaller space. We’ve only got 3 Shakes plays in our 60 th season. In our 50 th we did 7.

Philips: Do we change things based on economics or audiences?

Orlando Shakes: Both. I ’ m trying to reach into more obscure plays and that is hard to do in this economy. A new possible trend we found last year was that we thought Pride & Prejudice would do fairly well but it did phenomenally. Audiences used to say “I saw 1 of the Shakespeare’s  in the rep,” and then not come to the other one, but they came to both P&P and Midsummer,  so we are pairing a Shakes with a non-Shakes and then moving the more obscure Shakes into a smaller space. We are partially a destination theater, but most of our audience is local.

APT: We tripled our audiences in the ‘ 90s. People don ’ t want to see Much Ado for a third time. There have been a number of surprise hits. We ’ re looking at bringing other classics and Shakes plays that haven ’ t been done in 8-10 years.

Stratford: We’ve deliberately gone after our younger audiences. We ’ ve been quite successful in getting them to come once and not coming back.

Oregon: There ’ s 74M baby boomers and there ’ s 70M Gen X. The production Is not the end, it ’ s a means to an end. They want to be involved. It ’ s about making a severe invitation. To me, it ’ s about how to make it less sacred. I get it. However, popular culture is not a bad thing. Let ’ s take away some rules and meet in the middle. Compromise is not a dirty word. What were audiences doing 400 years ago?

Bard on the Beach: We moved from general admission to reserved seating. The long lines were a huge problem. Here ’ s the thing. There is a culture in that line-up. Getting there early and having a two-hour conversation was special. How do we create a sincere, new opportunity for connection and dialogue that makes a new experience? I will not take away popcorn. People will come back if they can be there in jeans and a t-shirt and eat popcorn and see phenomenal theatre.

APT: We do the same thing with our space. We make them walk through the woods and up a hill to get there and they love it as a sanctuary.

Orlando Shakes: I’m tempted to follow the Tweet Seats idea. You don’t want tweeters next to the person who hates it, but maybe a section in the back where that’s okay might be useful.

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