Thursday, June 11, 2009

Woolly Mammoth: If at First...

As we all know, things don’t always go according to plan, no matter how perfect an idea seems. Washington, D.C.’s Woolly Mammoth has been working hard on sending staff members out on their Aha! sabbaticals, which has proven to be more challenging than anticipated. Woolly’s Aaron Heinsman goes into detail…

At Woolly, literally everyone can have an impact on the art. So it seemed a no-brainer for us to send each of our full-time staff members out into the wider world to do a working sabbatical to glean new ideas and pick-up best practice insights at operations perhaps outside the regular purview of our theatrical network.

Easier said than done! It's proved especially challenging for us to arrange our sabbaticals, as we're attempting to reach out to new companies and organizations where we don't necessarily already have a relationship. But sadly opening these doors has not been as easy as we hoped. While there is enthusiasm for the program's concept, not everyone is willing or able to house one of our staffers. But the Woolly spirit is to keep trying until we figure it out!

And now the good news: we've gotten our first placement secured! Development Director Tim Plant is going back to school, and in this case he'll be in some pretty good company at DC's Sidwell Friends School. He'll glean some ideas and best practices for keeping alumni and their families connected to an organization long after the immediate relationship ends. This is particularly compelling for the Washington arts scene as the District frequently has a sizable residential turnover with each majority swing. Can a modestly sized theater -- where so much of the connection of patrons involves them actually experiencing our plays -- keep donor relationships going once they're not attending regularly or even still in the region? An intriguing question, and one we hope we'll soon be able to successfully answer affirmatively.

As for the rest of the staff, people are FIRED UP to get out there this summer, particularly as our colossal Season 30 will be soon upon us! Our props master wants to get her hands dirty at an FX house, our operations/company manager wants to see how the talent is managed at the D.C. United football club, and I am hoping to observe corporate philanthropy in action at the Whole Foods Foundation in Austin. Fingers crossed!

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