Monday, May 9, 2011

Breaking Down Barriers

Sitting down for breakfast with Leslie Tamaribuchi, Associate Dean of School of Theatre at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) opened us up to a non-traditional approach of arts management.

CalArts has three management tracks in their program: Producing, Stage Management, and Production Management. The two most closely aligned with some of the other programs we are exploring would be the producing and production management strands. Each program has specific goals, but essentially they focus on the basics of management including budgeting, marketing, public relations, fundraising, and analyzing a script critically.

Students work on many hands-on projects throughout their time at CalArts in order to provide them a sampling of the type of work they would potentially be doing out in their careers. CalArts considers project management experience vital to their management students. CalArts believes in giving students the right general skills and tools, but also wants students to be able to develop their own specific focus. Each student in their fifth semester has a required internship. Often CalArts students are placed in for-profit settings. They have worked with a wide range of organizations such as amusements parks, in film or television. Leslie posed very valid questions for us to consider along our discovery journey: The theatre world is very expansive. Could our program be bigger by incorporating different businesses or by partnering with different types of institutions?

•How do we not set up barriers but rather support a fluid professional exchange between commercial businesses and non-profits? Why is there a commercial and non-profit divide?

•How do we change the perspective/image of our field? How can we broaden the discussion on where theatre management skills can be applied?

I have an intern here in our Education Department this semester named Elena Muslar and she just recently was accepted into the CalArts family and had this to say about what makes CalArts so uniquely exciting:
“I am immensely excited to attend CalArts after talking with students and faculty, sitting in on classes, and seeing theatrical performances! I know that I will be immersed into a mixing bowl filled with ingredients of expression, guidance, and creativity. From the start, The School of Theatre’s MFA Management program specifically has enticed me because of the personal attention CalArts provides for each student, respect for the student’s individual ideas to be cultivated, and the quick immersion into the theatre department through the Producing track. I am eager to be going into a program where I will get my feet wet right off the bat, producing shows and working on management issues so that I can attack them as an arts manager of the future!”


  1. In the process of exploring and investigating a new opportunity for Theater Management students through an internship process, CTG could benefit from the CalArts model of tailor-made education.

    This past Friday, May 20th I graduated from CalArts with an MFA in Theater Producing and only now as I have embarked into the “real” professional world that I can truly appreciate the experience that CalArts offers through its Producing Program which is distinctly NOT a theater management program. After, being accept to arguably what is consider to be the Top School in the country for theater management – I choose CalArts. It is the individualized approach to educating each student and providing the needs that will advance this student to be the artistic producing leader he/she needs to be.

    In creating an internship that would be deeply meaningful for a student will be what makes the program different from any other theater management/administrative internship in the country.

    Graduating from the Producing Program this year; the roster of the students endeavors range vastly. I work for Cornerstone Theater Company in Los Angeles, CA with hopes to being an Executive Producing Manager at a theater. Michael Vanderbilt works for Dick Clark Productions and has future goals to work as a scripted TV/film producer while Laura Kay Swanson is the producing director of her newly found avant-garde opera company, The Industry. Needless to say, during our program we each had very specific needs and desires for different opportunities and the Producing Program at CalArts made it possible to explore each of these avenues while maintaining the skeletal core curriculum, but with understanding that flexibility of the program; students gain more.
    As a leader in the field, CTG strives to create an internship that will propel the student into an environment of excellence in hopes that it will continue through their career. When building an internship that will support this mission as well benefit the Los Angeles theater community- a core program structure with room for flexibility will make for a rich experience that will be meaningful for the host organization and the student.

  2. I could not agree more with Ashley. I was blessed to go to CalArts as well where there were general requirements for MFA Producing students. However, Carol Bixler (the head of MFA Producing at CalArts) specifically tells students when they are applying for the program that it is designed for students to "make their own art" and whatever that means to that individual. CalArts gave me a blank canvas where I could experiment in new and different forms of theater, opera and film and advance where my interests and skills exist.

    At the same time, CalArts has a strong network. Both the talented faculty and alumni were a strong draw to CalArts. During my tenure, I had the opportunity to meet, collaborate and network with major influencers in the entertainment industry.

    Both of these points would be absolutely key in any internship. Students want to learn the basics of how a company works and how they and their departments fit into the company. Yes, this is learned in the classroom, but it is experienced during an internship. Students also want the chance to advance in areas of special interest. Giving students the opportunity to excel in a special area of interest will benefit the student and the host company. Finally, entertainment and many business models rely on an individual's network. Relationships are key. It is crucial for an intern to have the opportunity to meet and get to know their colleagues and the influencers at their host company. Establishing these relationships are likely to advance both the intern and the company.

  3. I am so glad to join the student focus groups to discuss about internship program model for theater management. I have to say there is very big difference between school and real world for a theater manager, much bigger than designers. Even CalArts is try our best to make an environment like a real world but it is still not. We can learn a lot from school but like budget, marketing, public relations and so on, we still need to learn in real world. A good internship is so important for management before we work as full time in the real world. We learn what we can’t learn in school, know what kind of manager the organizations want to hire and use to the transfer from a student to a manager.
    Thank you CTG for the valuable opportunity to talk to you and many management students from other schools.

  4. What I think is the most important element of any internship, theater management program or producing program is the ability to mold the program to fit the student and not the other way around. Show business, both non-profit and for-profit, provides an incredibly vast array of opportunities for someone seeking to be behind the scenes and the more you can focus on someone's assets and interests, while at the same time allowing them to develop new skills, the more motivated and successful that person is going to be. Pursuing partnerships with for-profit entertainment companies will create opportunities for students with unconventional ideas and excellent training to influence the future of mass media, and we can all benefit from that.