Friday, January 28, 2011

Are Organizations Ready For This?

We had a very interesting discussion with project advisor Terence McFarland, Executive Director of LA Stage Alliance.

LA Stage Alliance is the go to resource for local theatres and thus is a great partner for us on this project to discover more about how we might identify and partner with other local Los Angeles theatre companies to provide “real world” professional training experiences for graduate theatre management students. Since LA Stage is a service organization they often work with a whole variety of theatres on a range of issues and opportunities.

Terence proved to be an invaluable resource as expected, offering to facilitate our talking with selected theatres directly and also asking lots of great questions about our idea. We got into a really meaningful conversation about “organizational readiness” to serve as a host for a graduate student: What infrastructure and capacity does any organization need to create a meaning and mutually beneficial opportunity for both the theatre and the student? Our initial thinking was to pair students with “small theatres” imagining that smaller theatres would have the most need and create the most opportunity for substantive work. But, Terence encouraged us to not just consider size (what did we mean by “small” anyways – number of staff, number of productions per year, budget size, size of facility) but to also think about things like – the presence of a leader at the organization who could serve as a management mentor, the theatres ability to offer an advanced learning environment, and their interest in nurturing new leaders not just having some extra hands to help.

Terence also offered an idea for further exploration: LA Stage Alliance has partnered with the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles to establish a prototype Hollywood Art Retention Project (HARP) that seeks to assist arts and cultural organizations to remain in Hollywood, and to bring organizations back to the area. The CRA/LA retained the services of LA Stage Alliance as the lead consultant to conduct in-depth facility and organizational needs assessments. Terence suggested that this project might be of particularly interesting to graduate students as it looks at involved theatres from a strategic vantage point, considering core organizational aspects such as long-range planning, budgeting, and organizational leadership. Could CTG place graduates as support staff in the CRA/LA projects? Would this type of internship be interesting to people studying arts management?

LA Stage Alliance is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization empowering artists and engaging audiences since 1975, is dedicated to building awareness, appreciation and support for the performing arts in Greater Los Angeles strengthening the sector through audience engagement, community building, collaborative marketing, professional development and advocacy. LA STAGE serves over 500 arts organizations annually, 300+ dues-paying member organizations comprised of professional, educational and community-based producing and presenting performing arts organizations, with the remaining groups coming from the broader arts and culture community.
-Patricia and Leslie


  1. I think Terrance's comment related to the size of an organization or its amount of staff is one worth noting. I agree with his opinion in this matter.

    The responses of the graduate student panel that you've listed on this blog shows a clear interest in high caliber mentorship... and that word seems to come up more often than even compensation surprisingly.

    In my opinion, the likelihood of finding a fantastic mentor is fairly equal if one were to look at quality organizations with solid reputations in both the large and small arenas.

    The issue here, after all, is passion and intent. Most everyone working in theatre wants to be working in the theatre. I imagine it highly rare that people without any interest in theatre-making would end up working in a theatre... unlike say a really high-paying legal position or something, where someone might be seduced (in a good way, I guess) into the field by compensation, benefits, bonuses, what-have-you. However, in this field, most of us are driven by a passion.

    So... regarding this internship program... to me the question is whether mentorship is part of a leader's passion, and of course, whether their leadership position allows for time carved out to effectively mentor the intern.

    My small theater, for example, would not pay competitively in the industry, however if I were to look at feedback from past interns, I think one could assume that we would offer a solid internship in the category of mentorship. I wonder if there is a way to rate organizations based on the expected level of mentorship that an organization would provide. This could be done perhaps by looking at or interviewing past interns/volunteers and coming up with a ‘score’ or ‘rating’?