Where Do You Fit In?

By Robyn Linden

Boston is wonderfully saturated with arts organizations, as well as with diverse and dedicated students across many theatre arts collegiate programs. From Cambridge to Jamaica Plain, our town is buzzing with productions, events and education. As a recent graduate of Emerson (December 2008), I have felt continuously inspired and exhilarated by the sheer amount of theatre happening around me. However, I have found the chasm between being a student in a theatre program and being a graduate and new member of the professional community to be quite wide. Many of Boston’s local theatre companies have had years to grow and take shape and, for a new young professional, the experience of encountering these lauded organizations can feel much like standing at the entrance to the Prudential Center looking up, up, up. A flood of questions arises: How do I get in? Where do I start? Will they even notice me? Where do I fit in amongst these established organizations?

Happily, the small theatre scene is largely comprised of young professionals volunteering time and talents to produce, produce, produce. Doing Marketing work with 11:11 Theatre Company and the Small Theatre Alliance of Boston has allowed me to play an active part in the presence and energy of small theatre all over town. Busy as we fringe companies may be, though, it’s hard to ignore the divide between our work and that of the bigger companies’. We hope they’re aware of what we’re up to, but we have a hard time actually connecting to them without applying what little time we have left to volunteer as interns and ushers.
Enter: the Boston Theatre Conference. In years past the conference has been held in August a little ways out of town. This year, though, the conference will be held in February right beside Boston Common, making the event more highly accessible. The conference committee’s efforts to begin the conversation months ahead of time through the Boston Theatre Conference blog represents an open invitation for practitioners of all backgrounds and levels of experience to share in the exploration of home grown theatre. I know I’ll be attending the event to listen, learn, and count myself in as a member of our lively, local community. I do hope to see other students and young professionals participate as well. We may not have years of experience producing professional theatre, but what better way to continue a theatre education than to explore the growth of our community alongside those who have steered it for many decades? Unless, of course, the conversation stops there.

While I look forward to the event, I hope it won’t be the only catalyst for deepening the relationship between companies of all sizes and individual artists of varying levels of experience. Can we use the momentum of the conference to create opportunities beyond February to partner and learn from one another? SpeakEasy is printing their history piece by piece throughout their programs this season, illustrating their evolution over time and proving that fledgling Boston artists can cross the great divide to achieve professional standing. How can we smaller groups learn more from the trials and tribulations of our larger, more seasoned colleagues? By attending open rehearsals and seeing how their productions are born? By taking seminars on budgeting and scaling up logistically?  By inviting the movers and shapers to our industry night performances (hoping they have the time to come) and asking for constructive feedback?

I hope the upcoming conversations about our home grown theatre scene will lead to new opportunities for communication and discovery. I hope to see the possibility of mentor/mentee relationships between the folks who have fought hard for seasons and those of use who are desperate for the chance. If we’re truly home grown, we have to work together to sow and nurture the seeds of our art.

About Robyn Linden:

Robyn will be directing the upcoming world premiere of Her Red Umbrella for 11:11 Theatre Company.  You can follow Robyn’s blog at, Arts Marketing A-Musings.

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  1. #1 by John J King on October 30, 2010 - 11:08 am

    as a “small” theatre artist myself and staffer who’s helped with previous conferences, I also really hope some of the younger and smaller companies and artists turn out. There’s absolutely a need to have that representation, and it’s a great opportunity to get in on the conversation.

    I think finding ways to establish a mentor/mentee relationship with more established companies is brilliant and important, and the conference is an ideal place to get momentum on such a relationship. Given some of the things happening in town right now (Shirley Vt. fest, anyone?) I think it’s clear that the time is ripe for that kind of crossover and that people who are open to it can make it happen!

  2. #2 by Anita Lauricella on November 2, 2010 - 12:50 pm

    I am so glad to be seeing this conversation. I think the conference is just the place for conversations about how the theatre community welcomes and engages broader participation. The current plan includes workshops that will address some specifics about building a local carreer; transitioning from the university scene, or producing local talent. Let us know what other workshop ideas might be helfpful.

  3. #3 by robynlinden on November 3, 2010 - 10:57 am

    Those workshops sound great! I’d love to learn about logistically programming a theatre season, too. Naturally we all have our own artistic visions (the beauty of having so many companies and artists) but the learning curve of actually executing our visions from an operations standpoint is a big one.

  4. #4 by John J King on November 6, 2010 - 3:42 pm

    I think conversations around programming a season would be excellent, and I wonder if such a conversation needs to include a bird’s eye view of the community as a whole. The three big epic productions this fall (Shirley, VT Fest, Nicholas Nickelby, and Henry IV) have brought a lot of excitement and discussion in the community, but I also wonder what consequences there might have been by all three of these huge events opening within a week or so of each other. It was a whole lot of epic all at once. As an audience member, each project by itself is a huge commitment and undertaking…to visit all three in such a short span of time is tremendously hard.

  1. Boston Theatre: Where Do You Fit In? « Arts Marketing A-Musings

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