The TCG conference
Christina and I were in Los Angeles last week for the TCG conference. It was beyond illuminating. I learned a ton about the field, myself and what we need to do to move forward (well, that might be getting a little over zealous) . Here are somethings I thought about:
1. Inclusion. We all need to be more welcoming (like, everyone). A few specifics: the non-digitally-engaged (non-DE) and the digitally-engaged (DE) crowds, young leaders and established leaders in theatre. Young leaders are sometimes/often complaining that the established leaders are not involving them enough. The DE is often complaining that the non-DE crowd does not understand how they work, nor give them enough weight. The non-DE is trying to pretend that this DE crowd is not creating a massive shift in the world (some using preservationism as an argument).
Forget about creating sides, in this digital world it is no longer an us vs. them anymore. Since I am a young leader and DE – I will talk to my choir. Engage those outside-the-loop in what you are learning in the digital world. Engage those outside-the-loop in your vision for a more digitally engaged future. Engage those outside the loop in how you use it, share awesome tweets that come through your feed, copy blog posts into emails, engage everyone in the conversation, don’t make it about who is or isn’t at the table. It goes in the other direction as well. Worried that the leaders of your organization are not involving you in the conversation? Get involved, ask to be a part, share your thoughts, join the table, give an opinion, not just technologically but in-person. Let the digital, the physical, the business, the artistic, the fill-in-the-blank world know that you want to be a part of it all.
2. Fear (related to inclusion, above). Divide and conquer. The British used this principal to colonize a good portion of the world. The effects of that divide continue to permeate how we see the way the world is arranged (good vs. evil; right vs. wrong; left vs. right) and our theatre mentality (new vs. old; tradition vs. experimental; nonprofit vs. commerical; regional vs. nyc). I saw so much of this at the conference. The first Whatifesto had a very distinct theme: generosity and community. Theatre needs both of these. A wave is coming – and the question at the heart of this wave is: How do we maintain the legacy and tradition of theatre but adapt to the techno-engaged-world that has shifted the way the world interacts with everything? Generosity, community (within the theatre family), transparency, participation, active collaboration with the world outside theatre… a few thoughts.
We all know that something is about to change. Instead of running from it, let’s keep the glass half-full. Look at the ways this is exciting. Yes, we have an amazing legacy and tradition, but look at the opportunity to explore the uncharted. We are the arts, have we not been paving the way for generations? Let’s keep it up.
3. Money. Almost every conversation comes back to money. Always. Christina and I have decided to move away from it. So I choose not to discuss.
4. Dream big. We are not dreaming big enough anymore. Well, that is a lie – some people are. I cannot help but be inspired by the big dreams of PunchDrunk (Sleep No More is currently running in NYC). They do not limit themselves by $. How did Julie Taymor get to the top? She dreamed very big and worked her tail off to make sure her vision was seen (as was the theme of her entire talk – she did not box herself in). I work in ArtsEd and I often feel that we do not dream big enough anymore. We limit ourselves because of the barriers in the world of education (bureaucracy), the obstacles of the financial, the box of our spaces and the limits of our own self. Of course, you must address reality, money is tight – but remember to allow yourself as an administrator to be a imaginator, a creative, a visionary.
5. Millennials and Digital Natives and Gen Y and Baby Boomers. Director, Executive Director, Managing Director, Regional Theatre, Experimental… so many labels. Often those lead to so many generalizations. I just got into an argument with a colleague about the restricting nature of labels. True. Can we have a conversation without those labels? Do labels restrict the conversation? Christina and I did not have labels on our name-tags at TCG and made many friends as others tried to figure out our label. I could not help but ponder this idea of Millennials. Why are we so special? What do we have the Gen Y did not have? Sure it is a little bit about technology. But others have engaged with us along the way. Does that make them less involved? Should we add more labels: Digital-engagers and Non-digitally-engaged? Labels allow the conversation to happen, but sometimes narrows the conversation purview. Are labels a necessary evil? Or are they even evil?
6. Panels are tiring. I was bored. The panelists were bored (that is my assumption). We are a theatrical crowd. Why can we not get more creative with our conferences. Since I heard a lot of griping from the marketers: bring in a piece of theatre, we see it the evening before. We get to meet the marketing team, the production team and the artists – we hear how amazingly they worked together. We get to see (video tape it) meetings, choices, how intense the process was. We share more of our process. I am all about it. Open up the process. Invite commentary of peers, invite questions, if you failed invite brainstorming on how to make it better. Share. Share. Share.