Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Data Management at Small(ish) Arts Orgs - Part 1

Disclaimer: This series is based solely on my personal experiences. I'd love to hear about yours!

@BushCatMarley approves of digital data management.
At each of my internships, one of the first questions I ask myself is "How are they managing their data?" Since the beginning my professional life, I've had a nerdy interest in data management and a compulsion to bring data together and organize it in an accessible, efficient way.

Some arts and culture organizations embrace these ideas with open arms and encourage employees to make time in their day to work on process improvements. At others, employees are under so much pressure to complete the tasks required to fund, produce, and market their art that they do not feel they have the luxury of taking any time away to improve the technology and processes that will help them better manage and engage with their data. Suggestions to do so are at best put in the lowest priority queue and at worst ignored. On one hand, I get it: making art is the most important goal and with a limited budget and staff, there's a lot to do just to get the show on stage, make sure it's funded, and let people know about it. But based on my experience at non-arts non-profits and for-profit enterprises, I firmly believe that investing time and resources in data management provides an extraordinarily high ROI, including a less-stressed, more productive staff!

So where do we go from here? How can arts organizations, especially small ones with limited staff and budgets, tackle data management challenges?

There's another important question to ask, before making any recommendations: What sorts of data do arts organizations need to manage? Any organization looking to evaluate and improve data management, needs to first take an inventory of the types of data they want to store, analyze, and track.

A Quick and Dirty Example: Data at a Small Non-Profit Theatre 

Audience: Contact info, ticket purchases, donations, attendance patterns, demographics, personal notes (on potential donors, loyal attendees, allergies, seating preferences, etc.)

Artists: Contact info, contracts, agency info, program participation, career tracking

Support staff: Documents created by in-house staff. Everything from meeting notes, to grant applications, and play scripts.

Marketing: E-mail blasts, website management, social media, logos, print media designs

Paper files also provide excellent kitty seats.
@Bush_Cat_Pirate, keeping the Bush's
files under control.
Financial: Managing the organization's budget. Accounting and taxes aren't really my specialties, so I won't go into it here, but it is worth mentioning. Note that I consider this separate from tracking fundraising prospects and donations.

Paper: You know, from back in the day before computers. And press reviews, and letters received from foundations and other supporters. It will be awhile before any theatre goes paperless, simply because other organizations we work with require it (many, many grants still ask for paper applications with a postmark date deadline). So a good old-fashioned paper filing system is absolutely necessary. Or a really quick scanner. Or a slow one and an intern. (kidding...mostly.)

It's also important to keep in mind that managing data doesn't just mean storing it. It also means organizing data in a meaningful way, so that it can be accessed and analyzed to provide powerful information about how audiences, donors, and artists are responding to the organization's programming, marketing, and fundraising efforts. That's the kind of information that helps arts organizations build audiences.

Coming up in Parts 2 & 3...

  • How do these organizations manage their data?
  • What challenges are they facing?
  • What can small arts organizations do to organize their data in a more meaningful (and sustainable) way?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tube Tuesday: MADArt Creative's Morphing Me

For this week's Tube Tuesday, I thought I'd share a taste of what the folks I'm working with over at MADArt Creative are up to with these highlights from the May premiere of Morphing Me, choreographed by MADArt co-founder, Lauren Camp.

Since I missed the premiere, I was stoked to be able to catch the second iteration of this unique piece this past Saturday at  the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council's Community Room. As an added bonus, I also got to see two truly lovely pieces by Megan Bascom & Dancers, Latch and A Round.

My favorite part of the performance though, was definitely these three aspiring young dancers:

Photo by Santino Lo, MADArt co-founder. Follow Santino on Instagram.

As the lights went dark just before Morphing Me, they left their chairs to sit on the floor in the front, huddled close together, and whispered excitedly throughout. When the trombone quartet, The Guidonian Hand began to play and the first dancer stepped into the water installation, I heard an excited "This is my favorite part!" and then silence as all three girls focused on the dancer's movements.

It was great to witness their excitement and enthusiasm. They are really what MADArt Creative's mission is all about. Engaging and inspiring audiences by bringing innovative arts programming and events into their communities.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tube Tuesday: Kevin Spacey MacTaggart Lecture

Welcome to my new bi-weekly feature, Tube Tuesday. I noticed that I spend a significant amount of time these days watching YouTube. From literary adaptations and history lessons to funny guys playing video games, I watch as much YouTube as "actual" TV (via Netflix and Hulu, of course). The ArtsTechHubs, an avid gamer, watches even more.

I'm starting this feature to dig deeper into the arts on YouTube. What's being said about our industry? How are arts organizations using it? What innovative new content are artists creating and how is YouTube helping them launch their careers?

This Week's Video

First up, the video that inspired this feature, Kevin Spacey's James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture from this year's Edinburgh International Television Festival. The video below is the full 45-minute speech. While I highly recommend watching in its entirety (it's well worth it), you can watch this one for 5 minutes of highlights.

My Musings

As I was listening, I couldn't help asking myself how the changes he was talking about are affecting the live arts, and more importantly, how can we respond more like Netflix and less like the network executives who insist on sticking to the old ways?

Here are my thoughts on a few of the quotes that grabbed my attention and got me thinking:

"Netflix was the only network that said, 'We believe in you'. We've run our data and it tells us that our audience would watch the series."

Musing the 1st: What is it about Netflix that led to a positive and supportive reaction to taking on the risk of two full seasons of an untested show?

First of all, Netflix isn't a network so they aren't tied to the network's usual way of doing things. Looking at the pilot system from outside the television industry, especially given the astronomical costs that Spacey outlines, it seems like a big waste of resources. One of those systems a business analyst looks at and says "There has got to be a better way!" So, when Netflix was approached by a group of creatives, with solid reputations behind them, who said that the best way for their art to thrive was to create it all at once and share it all at once, they decided to trust their expertise and take a risk with them.

Of course, they also had ample data about viewing habits for 27 million of their streaming subscribers, and folks on staff who knew how to analyze it. So, they knew going in that it was actually a pretty safe bet. For more on the how's and why's, check out David Carr's article from the New York Times.

Netflix isn't always so brilliant. Remember this epic fail
back in 2011? Image is from the linked blog.
It also struck me that this is one of the ways that technologists and artists understand each other: in both industries, big successes require big risks. Sometimes you land on something great, like the iPod or the iPhone, but sometimes  even Apple's products flop. In the world of technology, failures are an accepted part of the business plan and they're not as scared of flops as the TV network execs seem to be. As Netflix has shown, technology companies can be supportive and innovative artistic producers.

I think stronger relationships between technologists and artists can benefit the live arts too. Artists and organizations looking for commercial support should consider looking to technology companies (and techie friends!) as one of their first asks. These folks have the potential to provide technical as well as financial support (especially useful for mixed-media and live tweeted performances) and they understand intuitively that every show won't be a riveting success, meaning they will likely be one of the more stable and supportive patrons for an artistic cause.

 "The success of the Netflix model - releasing the entire season of House of Cards at once - proved one thing: the audience wants the control. They want the freedom. If they want to binge like they've been doing on House of Cards and lots of other shows, we should let them binge."

Musing the 2nd: Audiences today are used to consuming media, when, where, and how they want it. Given that live arts are tied to a specific time and location, how can we give the audience more control over the experience, without sacrificing artistic vision?
A growing number of orchestras are giving their audience a say.
The Fort Wayne Phil polled its audience for a concert and
also made it a game, giving season tickets to the person who
correctly guessed the choices in a basketball-esque bracket.

Ask for audience feedback, input, and participation. For example, orchestra concerts that allow the audience to choose some of the work performed can help make classical music more accessible, engaging, and fun for audience members used to the freedom of choice provided by digital media. The choices don't need to be absolute - for me, and I'm sure a number of others who aren't intimately familiar with the genre, a choice of whatever classical piece I'd like to hear from the history of music is more overwhelming than fun. But I would love to have the opportunity to shape my experience by selecting between a number of offerings, any of which the ensemble would be happy to perform.

The obvious second question: How can the live arts let our audiences binge? How can we create binge-able, binge-worthy content? I'll admit I was a bit stuck on this one, and my wheels are still turning, but the next quote helped.

"The audience have spoken. They want stories. They're dying for them. They're rooting for us to give them the right thing. And they will talk about it, binge on it, carry it with them on the bus and to the hairdresser, force it on their friends, tweet, blog, facebook, make fan pages, silly gifs and god knows what else about it. Engage with it with a passion and an intimacy that a blockbuster movie could only dream of. All we have to do is give it to them."

Musing the 3rd: Theatre is storytelling. Stories are one thing that we can give our audiences in spades. But after we give them an amazing performance of an engaging play with a rich story, how do we make the experience last? How do we enable our audience to continue to engage with our art after they leave?

We have to take a hint from the Emmy-Award Winning YouTube series, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and create more accessible, engaging, lasting content surrounding the primary performance, and encourage the audience to get creative too.

Audience discussions after the show are great, but bringing them online allows interested audience members who couldn't attend or don't like speaking in public to participate too. In 2011, Woolly Mammoth in Washington, DC, created a blog for their production of Clybourne Park. The play, a continuation of A Raisin in the Sun, focuses on race and communities, a topic very relevant in DC where a number of neighborhoods are undergoing gentrification.  The blog posed the question “Is your neighborhood like Clybourne Park?” Then each week, WM staff wrote about a different DC community, giving residents an opportunity to comment. Creating a forum for theatre-goers to share how the performance affected them and related to them personally kept them thinking and talking about it long after the curtain closed.

Of course, you don't need a dedicated blog to start interesting discussions. When I was working on the marketing for Josephine and I at the Bush, this was our most popular tweet:

We got loads of responses and back and forth conversations with followers who were excited to talk about their icons and connect with Cush and the show on a new level. 

Finally, audience-created tie-in art should be encouraged and shared. I think that theatre frequently doesn't inspire the kind of Lizzie Bennett and House of Cards-style engagement Spacey is talking about because arts institutions frequently enforce the line between "professional" and "amateur" art. A line that is actually getting really blurry. To quote my academic advisor and Professor Brann Wry: 

"It gives lightness to our being to consider everything 'art.'"

Maybe a theatre could hold a contest to create a painting or drawing that will adorn the set of an upcoming show. Or if the production features a popular celebrity or iconic character or location, consider soliciting fan art and featuring the best selections in the lobby and the website. If an audience member likes a show enough to create a silly gif, share it and ask for more! 

After all, inspiring someone else to create is one of the highest compliments and best gifts the artistic community can share.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Back in the U.S.A!

That's right folks, I'm home! 

Well, I've actually been home for about 3 weeks. I dove head first into wrapping up academic stuff for London, prepping for the fall semester, and applying for internships here pretty much immediately upon landing.

I know the blog has been radio silent for awhile. I realized about half-way through the summer that I needed to jump in and fully experience London and the Bush first, then take some time to think about the experience as a whole before I could write about it effectively.

Also, as fun, exciting, amazing, and incredible as it is, living in a country that is not your own, away from family and friends is exhausting. Getting homesick is one thing, I knew it would happen and it did. What I didn't anticipate was just how intensely draining it can be to complete simple tasks, even in a country as culturally similar to the US as the UK. I didn't realize how much more mental effort it takes to buy peanut butter and crackers when you're not sure what aisle the peanut butter is in, what anything should cost, and are both cookies and crackers really called biscuits? Thanks for that, England.

It's not the experience of buying said peanut butter and crackers on its own that's so exhausting, it's being barraged with moments like these every day that can cause pretty severe ego depletion. There's actually a name for it, and you don't need to leave home to feel it. It's called Decision-Making Fatigue, and The New York Times wrote an interesting piece on it awhile ago. Let's just say it was a good thing I wasn't sitting on any parole boards while I was abroad.

But now that I've had some post-London R&R, it is indeed past time to start writing again. Some of you might be looking for some more insight into my internship experience at the Bush, and to you I say never fear, I shall not disappoint.

Looking ahead, I'm really excited for the fall. I'm nerdily excited about all of my classes, and  my work experience for this semester will hopefully inspire thoughtful and interesting posts. Here's the low-down on what I'm up to:


Marketing the Arts - Professor Wende Persons not only has an impressive marketing background, but she's also a fun and engaging teacher. She's structured the class around real-world projects and papers that I'm actually looking forward to working on, and that will add to my marketable marketing skills. 

Artist Management - This class is a part of the Music Business program at NYU Steinhardt and I'm taking it as an elective. Since I volunteered to serve as the business manager for my acapella group, I thought it might be wise to learn exactly what that means. Since right now other than herding cats to rehearsals and performances, I really don't know. I think that I'll get what I'm looking for out of this course, especially since the final project involves helping an actual artist or artist manager with something they're trying to do - either work through a particular problem or meet a goal. 

Digital Marketing - I haven't actually gone to this one yet, since the business school doesn't start up until the end of the month. Also an elective, I wanted to take it because it's about how to increase shareholder value through digital media so it will focus heavily on new technologies and how to make the most of them. Definitely up my alley. ;-)


Despite having fewer classes this semester, I'll still be keeping myself busy helping out two pretty awesome arts organizations. 

I started at PAGE 73 this week as the Development Fellow. It's a small organization whose mission is to nurture and develop the work of new and emerging playwrights. If you're noticing a common theme with NYTW and the Bush, it's not a coincidence. New plays are the future of the theatre, I want to help them thrive. 

P73 is transitioning from an outside team of development consultants, and as the Fellow I'm taking on primary responsibility for managing grant applications, donations, and fundraising events. The first grant application is due Friday, so I'm definitely jumping right into the thick of things.

I've also volunteered to help a classmate with marketing for his company, MADArt Creative. MADArt is a multi-disciplinary performing arts company that focuses on engaging under-served communities in the arts. Like TimeWave, a number of MADArts upcoming productions will integrate technology into performance in new and innovative ways and I'm excited to help get other people excited about their work!

Next Up...

A post on the Bush will be coming your way soon. In the meantime, leave a comment and let me know if there's anything you're dying to know about my experience in London! 

Are you considering interning abroad yourself and you want the no-holds-barred inside scoop? Do you want to hear amusing tales of cultural difference and the resulting social foibles? Or would you rather see some more photos with punny captions? I'll do my best to accommodate audience requests and inquiries. ;-)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Theatre: The Good, the Bad, and the Innovative

The Good: Disgraced

There have been rave reviews of the Bush's production of this Pulitzer Prize-winning play all over the Internets, so rather than rave about how amazing it was myself, I thought I would curate a few of my favorite responses for you and focus my discussion more on the how and why of my own reaction.

Madani Younis, the Artistic Director for the Bush, wrote an eloquent response to the play in the form of a letter to the playwright that provides testimony to the show's relevance for the times in which we live.

It's a show that pulls its weight as a piece of art. It makes its audience think and reanalyze their assumptions, sparking new dialogues, and imho, making the world a more connected place in the process. One of the best things about art is its ability to help us step into another person's shoes, characters whose background/ culture/ values/ lifestyle/ personality is different our own.

In theatre, the cushion of fiction allows a unique freedom for open questioning and honest discussion. Then the actors bring it to life. I love reading, but something about live performance forges a deeper, more immediate connection between me and the characters onstage than can be gained from words on a page.

Disgraced left me feeling profoundly uncomfortable, only partially due to a scene of intense domestic violence. I learned about a character quite different from myself, but I always want to believe the best in people (even fictional ones) (yes, I'm a liberal), and I felt almost guilty for what the playwright showed me. I had to remind myself that he wrote a character who came from his own culture, a commentary that he feels the world needs to hear.
This tweet was sent early in the show's run. It DID sell out.
Truthfully, I'm still chewing on this show. I will take any opportunity to talk about it with anyone who is interested because I'm hungry for other perspectives and reactions to help me dig deeper. And to me, that is the quintessential mark of "good" art.

The Bad: Viva Forever a.k.a. The Spice Girls Musical

Before the curtain went up, I had no idea 
that "Viva" was actually the name of a 
character in the show.
"The Bad" is an over-simplistic classification for any performance, and Viva Forever had it's good points, especially for me and other girls who were tweens/teens in the '90s. But on the whole, it was the lowest caliber show I've seen in a long time. Off-key singing, a story that plain didn't make sense, and characters I just couldn't make myself care about. After seeing a balding, chubby, middle-aged man sing "2 Become 1" I don't think I will ever be able to listen to that song again without criggling, which is a word I just made up that means  "cringing and giggling in a state of simultaneous repulsion and amusement."

That said, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I laughed my ass off. Granted, it was frequently at times when I wasn't really supposed to be laughing, but what does that matter? I didn't go to the theatre with my friends that night to see great art, I went to relive my teenage years, to experience a sentimental burst of nostalgia. And I didn't even need to feel guilty for singing along because 1) Everyone else was too and 2) I was on-pitch.

When the montage of the Spice Girls greatest hits started during the curtain call, I was the first of my friends to get up and start dancing. Not because the show deserved a standing ovation, but because I wanted to dance. The others eventually followed and we wound up really enjoying ourselves at the end.

There is one intellectual component that the feminist in me will give the musical props for: It passed The Bechdel Test with flying colors. I won't go into too much detail about it here; the Feminist Frequency video and description at the link above provides a great, detailed introduction. Here's my quick and dirty summary:

The test is designed to evaluate the active presence of women, typically in film, but I find it very relevant to theatre is well. It has three simple components:

1. It has to have at least two [named] women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man

You'd think just about every movie ever does that, right? Alas, no. If you ever want to have some Feminist Fun with Friends, select a bunch of movies from various genres to watch for whether or not they pass the Bechdel Test. Note, I will not take the blame for any faith in humanity and/or the film industry that you might lose in the process.

Viva, at it's core was about a young woman's coming of age and focused largely on her relationships with her mother, her (female) mentor, and her girlfriends. Yes, there's a love story, but it's definitely secondary. Interestingly enough, Disgraced only passes the test by technicality: the two (named) female characters only speak to each other directly to talk about the food for their dinner party.  In its case, I don't think the lack takes away from the quality or value of the piece, but I think it is still worthwhile to note that in-depth meaningful interaction between the two leading ladies was conspicuously absent from this otherwise emotionally intelligent play.

The Innovative: TimeWave Festival

I stumbled across TimeWave not long after arriving in London and immediately purchased a ticket. Rarely does an event align so perfectly with my interests. TimeWave was "an International festival that fuse[d] technology and theatre to explore the theme of 'Transformation' in the 21st Century.'"

In general, I was really impressed. A number of the performances used technology in innovative and inspiring ways to enhance the audience’s experience - adding new dimensions to  relationships, characters’ roles, and advancing the plot. I particularly enjoyed The Echo Effect, a 20-minute 2-person play with one performer live in London and the other in New York City. It's about an elderly Englishman and a young American n'er-do-well  who falls through the older man's ceiling after he's been secretly living in his attic for days. The production employed video streaming  to emphasize the distance between the characters’ perspectives. By the end of the piece, I felt the growing bond between the characters so powerfully that I nearly forgot that the actors were not actually in the same room! The technology had added a new level of depth that could not have easily been achieved without it.
The set for Sex, Flap, and Jazz, based on an
 F. Scott Fitzgerald story, written and directed by J. Dakota Powell.
 Actors in both London and NYC were projected across the pond.

The event was not without a few technical kinks - live-streaming and video calls have come a long way, but video quality and connectivity are still frequently inconsistent, depending upon the parties' connection speeds and hardware. However, my biggest gripe was the lack of publicity and the small audience that inevitably resulted. I only found out about TimeWave when perusing, London in a moment of boredom and loneliness. On the day of, when I walked in to Innovation Warehouse, I was surprised not to see any TimeWave signs. There were approximately 20 people in the audience the night I attended, and at least 4 were actors taking part in one of the performances. Granted, there were audiences watching in Madrid and New York City too, but I really wished that more people could have had the chance to experience this adventurous and engaging work.

And there you have it folks, my long-awaited first theatrical reviews. I don't know if I'll do many more of these. On one level it's fun to write about art that interests and inspires me, but on the other, it's kind of stressful to think about the citizens of the Internets reading (and judging) my artistic opinions.

On that note, feel free to disagree with my thoughts in the comments below (dialogues about art, ftw!), but please, be kind. :-)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Neil Gaiman & Zen Pencils: Make Good Art

Thanks for the reminder, Neil Gaiman. I definitely needed it today, so I thought I would share it with all of you.

Theatre review post (finally) coming tomorrow! And then I'll spend the rest of the weekend Making. Good. Art.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Living and Working in London, Week 1: "Is that what they call a vocation?"

Some thoughts on touristing...

When I tell people that it's my first time in London, they seem a bit surprised that I'd choose such a lengthy trip as my introduction. In fairness, I've watched enough BBC that I should have a map of the city in my head by now, but anyway. From a tourist perspective, I've found that it's actually ideal. Whenever I go to a new place, the farther away it is and the less likely I am to go back, the more pressure I feel to:

Thank you for the fabulous meme, Hyperbole and a Half.
When you're visiting for a weekend, or a week, or even two, there's this sense of urgency and an imperative to make every day count. To see or do something amazing that you wouldn't be able to enjoy at home. 

But on an 11-week trip, even with a full-time work schedule, I know I'll have plenty of time to see and do as much as I'd like. It means that I don't feel like I'm wasting precious exploration time if I spend a rainy day in my studio doing chores, watching TV, and writing my blog. (Read: My Saturday.) 

and more thoughts on working...

I love it. And I'm not just saying that because both of my supervisors have the link to my blog. Working at a local theatre will teach me much more about life in London than I could learn from any tour or well-planned trip (or even watching BBC! ;-). If I want to know how locals really spend their weekends, all I need to do is ask my co-workers. Moreover, I get to learn about the arts community by helping it from the inside, rather than simply seeing shows and trying to get my courage up enough to approach the artists for a few insightful conversations.

Everyone I've met at the Bush so far has been very warm and welcoming. The Marketing and Development teams brought me right into the mix from the moment I arrived. 

After the grand tour and a little bit of paperwork, I was told that going forward, I'd be leading the social media marketing efforts for the next production, Josephine and I My first assignment: research Josephine Baker and start creating content for Twitter, Facebook, and the Bush Post (the theatre's blog).

I'll admit, I didn't know who Josephine Baker was before I began my research, but I'm really happy I've had the opportunity to learn about her. She was a fascinating 20th century lady: A boundary-breaking and incredibly talented entertainer, war hero, spy, activist, American ex-pat, adoptive mother of 12 children from around the world with a complicated personal life that included love affairs with both men and women and 5 marriages. She even had a pet cheetah (jealous), which she enjoyed taking for walks down the Champs Elysee. Truly a character who led an amazingly full life - I definitely will not be short on content. 

I also had a chance to see Disgraced, the hit show currently running on the Bush's main stage. At some point, I might talk about it more in depth, but in truth I'm still chewing it over. It is one of those shows that stays with you for a long while, turning about in the back of your mind.

Later in the week, I had orientations with each of my supervisors where I learned a bit about the history and the current climate of the Bush. The move into the old library and a change of artistic leadership two years ago altered the direction of the theatre and enmeshed it more deeply in its surrounding community. The Bush remains focused on new plays, as it has throughout its 42-year history, but now it provides a stage for a wider range of voices, bringing in artists from diverse backgrounds with a variety of unique experiences and stories to tell. 

One of the challenges the marketing team faces is how to appeal to new theatre-goers and a diverse audience from the local community without alienating the loyal supporters who have been with them since the earliest years in their previous location, a small space above a pub on Shepherd's Bush Green.

I was nerdily excited to discover that I'd begin working on a technical project during my first week. On Thursday, the team met with a representative from Spektrix, the Bush's box office management software vendor, about implementing their new Development module. I dusted off my business analyst and project management hats and interviewed my colleagues to create a rough requirements document in preparation for the meeting. I had way too much fun. Really. Tech nerd. I know. 

It was great to see the new module in action and to get to ask the rep a bit about how it operated compared to the Association Management Systems I've worked with in the past. On the whole, I was pretty impressed. It met most of our requirements, and even the reporting tools seemed surprisingly user-friendly. It made sense later when a colleague explained that most of the Spektrix team had worked in the arts industry before founding the company and building the software. It's a lot easier to understand your users when you've professionally walked in their shoes.

The next step for me is to clean up the Development data currently floating around in Spektrix so that we can start using the module immediately after it's released to us. Hopefully, that will be at the end of this month, if their week-long beta test goes well. From previous experience, a week seems kind of optimistic for a beta test, but we shall see.

Later Thursday evening, I attended a two-part Development Council meeting. The first half was specifically focused on cultivating relationships with corporate sponsors and the second was a general Council meeting where members and staff discussed upcoming projects and progress towards financial goals. It was really interesting to hear cultivation strategies and action plans like those I've discussed in class being weighed, measured, and applied to an actual theatre.

By keeping fairly quiet and watching people interact as I was taking the minutes, I also learned about the social dynamics of the group - between Council members and with the staff. It was like a more actively engaged (and productive) sort of people watching. 

To sum up all the previous ramblings: So far, so good. :-)

"Is that what they call a vocation, what you do with joy as if you had fire in your heart, the devil in your body?" Josephine Baker 

Josephine doing what she loved: dancing her heart out! Thanks to poppins-me on tumblr for the .gif! 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Pictorial Introduction to My Life in London

I've been in London for 10 days, and I still haven't decided if the time is passing quickly or slowly. I worked a lot this week and expect that trend to continue for awhile, especially when I don't have guests visiting. 

Even with long work days and lots of touristing, I've still had a good bit of down time to chill in my lovely studio, and this is how I've spent it: 
Once you get into it, Mad Men can be very addicting indeed.

The rest of my week went something like this: 

Jumping from one tourist attraction...
I really will use any excuse for a pun.

to another...
The London Eye sees all...
and having a grand ol' time with fellow interns from NYU and BUNAC's Intern in Britain Programme.
At The Shakespeare Pub in Victoria, just southwest of the center of London.

Or diving into the action at my 10-6 weekday home, the Bush Theatre...
This Bush moved into this historic building only two years ago. It was built in 1895 and served as the Shepherd's Bush Public Library for 115 years.
where the restroom walls are lined with play scripts...
I need to be careful that I don't get sucked reading the scripts for too long.
and there's a cozy migraine-recovery chair in the attic...

I wound up here on Friday. I kept thinking that it was the sort of room where one would expect to see a ghost in a 118-year-old building. I think at one point I even said out loud "Hey ghost, come say hello!" I'd like to blame it on the headache making me delusional, but...
and adorable kitty cats roam the halls!

...but are not pictured because like all cats, they are fickle little buggers who will pose only at the time of their choosing. Until I persuade them that me and my camera are worthy, you can check out Marley and Pirate's Bush Theatre staff bios here (scroll to the bottom).

Thoughts on my London experience so far and many more photos coming soon!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Allons-y, Alonzo!

I was going to attempt a John Green-esque video from the airport to talk about the excitement and trepidation of a trip like this. But, this is JFK and even at this hour, it's crowded. So I will share this part silly and part overwhelmed picture from the terminal instead.

I always get a bit nervous when I travel. The hassle of security, anxiously going over the items I've packed to make sure I haven't forgotten anything. I've never been the most relaxed flyer, especially when traveling alone. And of course, I miss my husband already.

But if ever a trip was worth enduring travel sans TARDIS, before the invention of teleportation, it's this one. I'm going to a city that I've always wanted to explore, to learn about the field I love in a new context. In my head, along with the travel anxiety and thoughts of the home I'll miss, is wonder at the fun and interesting experiences that lie ahead. There's also the beginning of what I'm sure will be a lengthy list of questions for my new colleagues about how theatre is created and supported in the UK, and where technology fits in.

It's almost time to get on that jet plane, and as it gets closer, the excitement is slowly overcoming trepidation. Til next time, from across the pond!


Friday, May 31, 2013

London Calling

Thanks to the BBC, I associate Doctor Who 
with London and English culture. TARDIS landing 
documented by me at The Way Station in Brooklyn. 

Next Wednesday "morning," (I use the term loosely, since I'll be leaving the house at 4AM...) I'll be getting on a plane for London! I'm heading there for a 10-week internship at Bush Theatre through the Global Programs Office at NYU. I'll mainly be working with Marketing and Development, but since it's such a small staff and I'm going to be the only intern, I should have the opportunity to assist other departments too.

Some folks have asked why I want to go to London for an internship, when I'm studying in NYC with amazing institutions here at my fingertips.* The short answer is that I want to know what an arts manager in training from the US can learn from a theatre in the UK and vice versa.

Located in Shepherd's Bush, the Bush is an Off-West End theatre, similar in size, mission, and reputation to NYTW. Both focus on the production of new plays. The on-paper similarities of these two institutions present me with a unique opportunity to compare and contrast how they operate. I hope to gain insight into how the differing levels of public investment (both the monetary kind and the attitudes that influence levels of fiscal commitment) affect the decisions arts administrators make, specifically in regards to technology.

I know that I will be able to observe at least one technology-related decision-making process first-hand during my internship at the Bush. While I'm there, the staff will be investigating options to upgrade a collaborative online forum. I'm stoked that I'll have the chance to dust off my business analyst hat and help with the project!

I'm also a total BBC nerd. Doctor Who, Sherlock, Downton Abbey, Top Gear, and Coupling, to name a few of my favorite programs. And after seeing London represented so many times, I really want to experience it for myself. 

Given the quality of (at least some) of their television programming, I'm very excited to see the live art being produced there now. I know that Bush Theatre's current production, Disgraced, started here at LCT3 and Once just recently hopped across the pond in that direction too. I'd like to learn more about the new contemporary and experimental theatre that is being originally written and produced in England today. What are some common characteristics between productions that make the jump to our side of the Atlantic? And what are we missing out on in those that don't?

Since I'm going into my last year of graduate school, now is also the time for me to begin seriously thinking about where I want to start my career in arts management: Where geographically? At what type of organization? What role would I like to play? My hope is that working abroad, challenging myself to leave my comfort zone (and my friends and family) to navigate a different culture on my own will help me learn more about the sort of work experience I'd like to pursue after graduation, and more importantly, the sort of arts manager/artist/human being I'd like to be.

So, that's what you can expect to read about here over the course of the summer. And yes, there will be fun touristy posts too. It's this American girl's first time in London. How could I not? ;-)

Have suggestions about theatre I should see, people I should connect with, or fun things I should do in the UK? Leave a comment below, tweet me with the hashtag #summerinlondon, or send me an email.

*For some great thoughts on the increasing importance of international training for arts managers as technology brings the world ever closer together, check out Joshua Midgett's post Crossing Cultures: A New Necessity? on ArtsBlog. For a more personal story of one theatrical director's decision to move abroad, have a look at Amy Clare Tasker's blog post, Moving to London.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Arts Intern-tips

See what I did there? If you'd like to learn a bit more about me, aside from my undying love of puns, before diving into content, please check out my background.

Through this blog, I hope that by sharing my thoughts on the performing arts, technology, and what these fields can learn from one another, that I can encourage discussion with colleagues and friends, brainstorm new ideas, and experiment with some of the better ones in the field.

Before I get into the tips, here's a sneak peek at some upcoming topics:
  • What the live arts can learn from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries 
  • Millennials donate, but not the same way their parents do
  • Tales of an American theatre intern in London (a summer series)
  • Adventures in acappella with my group, Ladies and Tramps (social media links coming soon!)
  • Thoughts on performances I really fall in (or out) of love with #artschick
  • Occasionally nifty gadgets #techchick
  •  And fashion #chick, and feminism #chick
Without further ado, the tips!

The list below is the result of informal interviews (ie. cornering them in the hallway, or on the subway, or after class...) with fellow arts interns and arts management graduate students. I've added in a few tips of my own too, based on my first internship experience at New York Theatre Workshop.

During the internship hunt...
  • Take the time to make a list of 5 things you'd like to work on during the internship. These can be skills or experiences. Do you want to plan a gala? Solicit donations? Use social media to market a production? Be as specific as you can.
  •  Small or large organization? It depends on the work environment you're looking for, and the challenges you'd like to tackle. At a smaller organization, you might be given greater responsibility, but they might have limited resources to allow you to pursue new ideas or approaches to problems. At a larger organization, they might have the resources, but they might also have enough permanent staff to handle the most interesting work.
  • Look up the organization on GuideStar and check out their recent 990 forms. The organization's financial situation will affect your experience.
  • Cookie-cutter cover letters don't cut it! (I did warn you about the puns). Tailored cover letters are a MUST. Mention specific programs and don't be afraid to share your opinions honestly.
  • Ask questions in the interview about the organization and the specific position you're applying for. This will show the interviewer that you're really interested and will help you determine if it's the right opportunity for you. Take a look back at your list of desired skills and experiences to help you create questions. 
  • Don't automatically jump on the first internship you're offered. Take a few days to consider the experience they're offering against other options. 
While you're working...
  • Keep an open mind about what you can get out of it, you may be surprised by what you learn. Ask questions. Pitch ideas. 
  • Ask for what you want. An internship should be an equal exchange. Remember you're not getting paid! To put it another way, you're being paid only in the knowledge you gain through the experience. If you're not learning enough, speak up.
  • Request a weekly or bi-weekly check-in meeting with your supervisor. Everyone's busy, and it can be difficult to find time to follow through on the previous tip. Dedicating 20 minutes to honestly discussing your needs as in intern and theirs as your supervisor/sponsoring organization, can make the difference between a great experience and a mediocre one.
Have a tip to share? Post them in the comments below, tweet them to @artstechchick with the hashtag #interntips, or email them to me and I'll post them for you, anonymously.