Keep your radio tuned and your ears open to your local NPR station for the next month or so, especially if you are a theatre professional. The network is doing a series over the next five weeks about the 75th anniversary of the regional theatre movement. In a piece that aired this morning, they provide a little bit of a preview of the topics they are going to hit on from the impact of Covid, to economic concerns, regional theatres as a feeder to Broadway and diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
The short piece mentions many of the conversations and activities which have unfolded over the last few years, from the mass resignations at Victory Gardens Theatre; the “We See You White American Theater” statement; the viability of subscription model and questions about the utility of the non-profit governance structure:
Theaters also started rethinking subscription plans that prioritize well-off people who can purchase a season’s worth of prime seats in advance, while leaving everyone else scrambling for leftovers. And they began reconsidering the current, frustrating governance model at most non-profits, where theater artists must answer to a volunteer board of directors, often with little theater expertise, which has all of the authority and none of the accountability.
It may be useful to have these topics discussed by an outlet outside of the usual theatre channels. Being able to point to NPR stories may end up being like the consultant effect where an outside “expert” repeats everything internal staff has been saying resulting in decisions to mobilize to achieve important goals.
Most board members and patrons don’t read American Theatre and related information sources, but many do listen to NPR and find it a credible information source. The NPR series can provide an entree for conversation or simply raise awareness among the greater community involved with arts and cultural entities around the country.