As 2018 begins, the Minnesota Theater Alliance embarks on its 8th year serving theaters across the state, of all shapes and sizes. It is also a time for us to say a hearty thank you and fond farewell to three of our longstanding Board members. Ben Krywosz, Rick Shiomi, and Sandy Boren-Barrett have all served the maximum three full terms on the Theater Alliance Board of Directors, and provided numerous examples of strategic vision, support to Alliance staff, and dedication of time and expertise for the success of the Minnesota theater community. The Alliance has been so fortunate to have them involved, and is glad to know that they will stay connected as members and community liaisons.

Because of this significant transition, it felt appropriate to ask each of them to share some reflections on their time with the Theater Alliance, and why they feel membership in the Theater Alliance is important. We love to help theaters think about the value of being part of the Theater Alliance, and it is a question that arises periodically as new theaters are created, and new leadership comes to the table in many of our theaters. More than ever, we want to reiterate that this is our Minnesota Theater Alliance, and that means it is your Theater Alliance, too. If you have ideas or want to be involved, we welcome your participation! 

Thank you to Minnesota Playlist for helping the Alliance share this message, both so that we can recognize the leadership these three individuals have brought to our community, and so that we can continue to share the news about the Minnesota Theater Alliance with theater-makers across the state.

- Joanna Schnedler, Executive Director, Minnesota Theater Alliance

 

Ben Krywosz, Artistic Director of Nautilus Music-Theater

Reflections on how the Minnesota Theater Alliance came to be, and why it continues to stay relevant for his company.

The Minnesota Theater Alliance grew out of conversations among artistic directors in the Minnesota theater community in 2006. We had been meeting informally for breakfast once a month, just to network, share information, and help each other. The artistic landscape in the Minnesota theater community had started to change (most visibly in the Twin Cities); the Guthrie Theatre was moving into a new space, the philanthropic climate was changing, the Theater Communications Group was expanding (and planning on holding their annual conference in Minneapolis). It seemed natural to solidify the previously casual and supportive relationships that had knit the theatrical community together.

With financial support from the McKnight Foundation, we engaged a consultant, developed focus groups and task forces, and conducted a feasibility study, which told us that an alliance was both possible and desirable. I served on some of those initial committees, and when it came time to incorporate, I was asked to serve on the board. I readily agreed, as I could see the value in participating in the Alliance.

Certainly, the practical benefits alluded to elsewhere have been great (Nautilus participates in the general liability insurance program, posts announcements in the newsletter, and attends most of the conferences and other convenings). But an additional, real benefit is less tangible but just as valuable -- the sense that we are part of something larger than just our little company. We feel connected to all the other theater artists who are striving to share work with our Minnesota audiences.

It’s a source of comfort knowing that if some issue comes up that needs the attention of the field at large, we have the Alliance to turn to. We are all so busy doing our work that it’s hard to reach out to my colleagues; but because of the Alliance, I have met theater folks that I might never have come into contact with, either at conferences or workshops, or even serving on the board.

As I finally prepare to leave the board, I know that the Alliance will grow even stronger as other theater-makers join, and together our collective effort will increase our resources, strengthen our work, and increase the impact we can have on our communities.

 

Rick Shiomi, Artistic Director of Full Circle Theater

Perspectives on how a Theater Alliance membership can bring value and savings to his theater.

When the issue arises about the value for small theater companies of joining the Theater Alliance, my response is that the positive logic is overwhelming. My first jolt of awareness for myself and Full Circle Theater was the discount you get at Office Max/Office Depot for copying. Since we are still printing scripts (not sure for how long), we easily saved more than double the cost of our membership each year. The cost of printing flyers, scripts, programs, etc. starts to build up—even for small companies—and the savings are significant. Then, of course, there is the invaluable advice and support we get through the Alliance staff, including their general liability program and information regarding workers’ compensation issues.

Besides all the intellectual logic of joining a theater service organization, there are many practical and cost impact reasons. Bottom line, it’s well worth it!

 

Sandy Boren-Barrett, Artistic Director of Stages Theater Company in Hopkins

Reflections on what makes having the Alliance so valuable and why she plans to continue staying engaged.

I joined the board of the Minnesota Theatre Alliance when explorations of “who we are and what we need as a theatre community” were the major source of discussion. There were plenty of ideas around the table, but the main area of consensus was that in a state our size, with one of the most robust arts communities in the country, how could we NOT have a Theatre Alliance?

What I have appreciated the most about the work of those that have come before me on the board and staff, is their commitment to looking outward to the field, listening and responding to those needs through service and opportunity. As I am preparing to leave the board after serving for quite a few years, I believe it is that responsiveness to all of us that keeps the Alliance fresh, relevant, and important to the Minnesota theatre community.

If we were honest with ourselves, I think we would admit that sometimes the “theatre community” feels like a very small one, where you can bump into someone you know at every performance you attend, yet other times it feels difficult to actually feel a part of it. It is through the Alliance that I am able to connect and reconnect with others doing amazing work in their own theatres and learn from them. I have attended sessions at the annual conference (MTASTC) that introduced me to new topics, while allowing me to delve deeper into and celebrate the things I already do know. 

I think what will continue to bring membership and meaningful programs to the Alliance is for leadership, artistic and managerial, of large and not-so-large theatres to jump BACK into the work of the Alliance. If you live and work in this theatre community, you are already invested in its sustainability and relevance; we NEED your voice at the table, on the board, at the conventions and your membership – we are nothing without the members. I plan to stay engaged and invested, and I hope that you will as well.

All of our Minnesota theaters are stronger when we work together. The Alliance welcomes you to learn more at mntheateralliance.org.

Editor's Note: This article is part of an ongoing partnership with The Minnesota Theatre Alliance. Are you interested in having your organization's content posted on Minnesota Playlist? Contact us.