Theater For The Future

The Art in the Business of Theater – Collaboration Tools and Technology and the Storefront Theater Movement


July 15, 2010 By: Nick Keenan Category: Chicago Theater, Community Building, In a Perfect World

I’m in the middle of my eighth summer teaching at this place, so I’m teching – no joke – 10 shows right now, but I wanted to take a moment to draw some attention to some folks.

So this whole Chase grant thing is complete. And Chicago theatres made their mark, and in several of the 15 cases landed in the top 200 of companies (thus receiving a $20,000) in creative ways that didn’t buy into Chase’s marketing mechanism. That’s $300,000 that Chase just dumped on typically small-to-mid-sized Chicago theatres. I find that fact to be awesome. However, I’ve also been a fairly vocal opponent of the community messaging behaviors that the grant tends to encourage, so the folks that I did end up voting for demonstrated some capacity for making the ask for votes their own.

The Neo-futurists first prompted me to support them by leveraging their campaign during the run of a show that directly and ingeniously interrogated the links and points of contact between arts, corporate structures and marketing (check out their “word from our sponsor” videos). In addition, they focused their requests for votes to facebook-ready laptops available in their lobby, rather than impersonal, overwhelming and disconnecting e-mail blasts.

Another group, Will Act For Food, outlined the specific uses they intend for the funds which included benefits beyond production value and replacing other grants such as Illinois Arts Council funding that have dried up or been delayed. Essentially, they added some transparency to the ask, which in turn makes them somewhat accountable as beneficiaries of the grant to achieve some measurable results out of their windfall. I hope that all companies who get funds from a community-voted grant demonstrate the same level of accountability to that community who votes for them, just as you would file a grant report to a granting association. That structure, I think, helps young non-profits with loose infrastructures gather some long-term support in times like these.

But all that’s just my opinion. It was a hard decision, and not one done without some hand-wringing, but my company New Leaf decided not to participate in the campaign because the methods we’d have to employ to win such a grant at this stage didn’t fit our vision of how we want to cultivate relationships with the community.

But let me tell you what does fit our vision: 84 People voted for us anyway despite the fact that we didn’t ask for their votes. And I’d like to thank them personally now. I don’t have access to the entire list (I’m curious to know if winners / administrators DO have access) but I’ll make do with what I can.

Thank you, Rebecca Zellar, for casting the first vote for New Leaf.

Thanks to Sally LaRowe, Jonathan Baude and the Theatre Seven folks who were one of the 15 theatres who won the grant, Ziza Bonszabrié, Emjoy Gavino, and Andrew Wilder who runs this great blog about making cheese.

Thank you @loehrbrarian.

Thank you Jenn Gibson, Amanda Bobbitt, Mary-Arrchie Theatre, and our board member Anne Sheridan Smith who is a part of Foiled Again.

Thanks to Joshua Aaron Weinstein of Livewire, Michael Pacas of Backstage, and Nicolle Iverson Van Dyke of GreyZelda.

Thank you to Pat Fries. Thank you to Nate Burger (a.k.a Monday). Thank you to Camden Peterson, one of my NHSI students who’s now all matriculated and ME’d for us on a show. Thank you to my intern Sarah Ramos who just moved to Chicago and is now a kick ass sound designer who you’re about to hear about.

Thank you to Lindsay Bartlett, John Taflan, Brenda Kelly and Katie Genualdi.

Thank you to blogger / playwright / tastemaker Rob Kozlowski.

Thank you to Lee Keenan, who is not related to me except through our love of theatrical design.

And thank you to everyone else who spoke up for us while we focused our energy elsewhere.

Your ongoing relationship and in many cases partnership with us is worth more than $20,000. A lot more. And I just wanted to say that.

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1 Comments to “Relationships”

  1. Some really great thoughts to chew on, Nick. I recently applied for Bailiwick to be eligible for the next round of Chase giving, and this gives my marketing and development teams a lot to think about before we move forward with participating. Oh, and p.s. Sarah Ramos rules!


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