By Brad Erickson
I’m writing this column while riding one of the famous bullet trains of Europe, in this case Spain’s AVE, traveling from Barcelona in the north of the country to Seville in the south. We’ve reached 300 kilometers an hour (more than 185 mph), and the trip crossing this nation the size of Texas will take just five hours. The train is not only super fast, it’s super modern, super clean and super punctual.
Jerry Brown dreams of a similar transport zooming between the north and south of California. Some deride it as the “crazy train,” pointing to the project’s enormous engineering challenges, the enormous cost and the state’s enormous number of competing priorities. The critics may be right, but it is the Governor who owns a vision.
A year and a half ago, Theatre Bay Area began a visioning process as part of crafting a new strategic plan. In it, we were challenged to create a view of the future that was compelling and that could be accomplished. A train that could be both imagined—and built.
We knew that TBA needed to be transformed as thoroughly as the bullet trains have transformed rail travel in Europe (and China, and Japan...). We also sensed that, like Spain’s AVE lines, our fundamental purpose would not change. The bullet trains have the same mission as their slower, chugging antecedents: to move people from one place to another. They just do it faster and more comfortably. At the end of our planning process, Theatre Bay Area’s purpose has remained unchanged: to advance theatre and theatre makers in the Bay Area—we hope, in a way that will be more streamlined and more effective. The vision is to take a nearly forty-year-old institution and transform it into a model service organization for the 21st century. To be both here—truly of the Bay Area—and now—truly of this time.
With our completed plan, we have the blueprints for this reinvented organization. In building the new Theatre Bay Area, we will concentrate our efforts in three major areas: equipping theatre makers for success, recognizing achievement, and bringing more people to connect more deeply with theatre. Our ultimate goal is to see theatre become an integral part of individual lives and diverse communities throughout the Bay Area. To bring what we call “the particular power of theatre” to everyone in this region.
That has always been our destination. Our vision for the new Theatre Bay Area is to get us there more quickly, more effectively and in a way that meets the needs of the 21st century Bay Area theatre community. Call it a vision for a bullet train TBA. All aboard!