What a joy to see our small but mighty staff jump into the chaos that marks the beginning of change at Lakewood Playhouse. We have a lot to celebrate, starting with our new board and the new energized purpose they bring to the organization. We have Wendy Huber making sense of things and getting our most critical work done. We just held successful performances with LIT students. We have a community of patrons that stay with us through thick and thin. We have money in the bank, despite the challenges presented by COVID. I have more clarity about the overall challenges we face and a newly expressed mission that compels us to “Build Community Through Theatre.” This mission does not take away from our ongoing purpose of creating great theatre. Rather, the creation of great theatre, process over product, intrinsically informs a more focused vision of creating a diverse community of artists.
The end of December marks my first three months leading this historic organization. I am humbled by the progress that has been made, and better understand the challenges we must meet. Before naming those challenges, I want to name six values that have the potential to change and empower the artistic community we serve: Empathy, Accountability, Collaboration, Respect, Resilience, and Joy. While this is not a complete list of the values we share, I feel it is a good start to our ongoing collaboration.
Empathy drives theatre experiences and needs to drive our professional and community interactions. Our world needs more empathy and theatre is a perfect tool to teach it. Theatre is not a mirror that reflects one's limited human experience, rather it is a lens upon which we can see the experience of others and feel our shared humanity.
Theatre is a collaborative art in which individual artists can work toward a greater goal. As an organization, collaboration is facilitated through simplified processes, cross-training, and a shared nurturing of individual talents.
Being accountable means that the safety of each individual depends on the accountability of every person engaged in our mission. It means teaching our community about the kinds of behavior that cannot be tolerated. Accountability is an essential part of theatrical collaboration. Each individual artist must be accountable for their contribution to the greater purpose of creation, be it onstage or within the context of building community. Accountability as an organization begins with clear policy and transparent communication.
One cannot collaborate without understanding the importance of open-mindedness and respect. As members and leaders in our artistic community we must foster a culture of respect, fueled by open-mindedness, for all the theatre artists we serve: Audience Members, Donors, Actors, Designers, Technicians, Carpenters, Stage Managers, Directors, and Playwrights. We must demonstrate respect in everything we do and celebrate the diverse artists in our greater community.
We must learn greater resilience. We are creating theatre in a turbulent world filled with mistruths, digital interactions, political polarization, and infectious disease. Our response to this turbulence requires empathy, collaboration, accountability, respect, and appropriate planning. Organizationally, we need to prepare for a new era of theatrical engagement – one that requires all of us to hold the entire artistic community accountable and understand the value of our greater mission and of each person’s relationship to that mission. As a staff, resilience begins with everyone understanding the role of each collaborator, nurturing the talents we share with each other, cross-training for a more resilient team, and developing strategies and financial resources we need to navigate the turbulence and find greater joy
Joy nurtures self-esteem, authentic artistic expression, and a stronger community.
The core values expressed above are the essential elements we need to bring joy to the artistic community we serve.
Naming the Challenges
The way forward has many challenges. We need to do a better job of managing the threat that COVID, and other infectious diseases, have on our mission and our ability to create. We need to build trust with artists who reflect the global majority. We need to build trust with the many artists in our community for whom trust has been betrayed. We must acknowledge the trauma that has been allowed to fester for years. Perhaps our biggest challenge will be communicating this new vision to the artistic community we serve.
While our technical stage infrastructure is quite excellent, the interior and exterior of the playhouse is in need of some strategic upgrading:
We are setting up the theatre to do more with fewer expenses. Being in the round with an effective Repertory Lighting Plot reduces the need for ongoing lighting technicians and reduces the need for expensive scenic builds. With the right staff and the right processes, Lakewood Playhouse can keep staffing limited to a handful of mostly part time employees, work study students, and interns.
Here is my recommendation for moving forward at this time.
We need to hire an Office Manager
This position could foster the development of our mission with staff and volunteers, pick-up mail, answer the phone during the day, and generally collaborate with the box-office and the general public. The Office Manager can help create, with the help of staff members, simplified operational systems and processes, work with bookkeeping to facilitate financial compliance, provide orientation and training to new volunteers and staff members. The Office Manager can serve as a company manager for the stage artists that fuel our mission. The Office Manager can help foster a safe and efficient workplace by enabling successful compliance with organizational policy and the Chicago Theatre Standards. Finally, the office manager will assist with a myriad of assigned tasks through delegation and collaboration. The Office Manager will report directly to the Artistic Director.
Scott Campbell (He, Him, His)
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