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Welcome to Backstage: The TBA Blog! This is the place for Theatre Bay Area announcements, info on upcoming events, grant deadlines, ticket giveaways, shout-outs and special profiles of featured members. Visit early and often!


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Backstage at the TBA General Auditions

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, February 2, 2016

By Connery Morano

This past weekend marked yet another successful round of Theatre Bay Area’s General Auditions in San Francisco. One of the keystone events of our organization, it’s an essential tool for Bay Area actors and theatre companies alike. With nearly 100 auditors in attendance this year, actors had the unique opportunity to show off their favorite pieces in front of casting directors from all around the bay and beyond; auditors had the opportunity to see and take note of a wide sample of actors to call in for auditions throughout their seasons. 

The TBA General Auditions weekend is the biggest event of its kind in Northern California, drawing even Los Angeles-based actors to attend. This year, the auditions drew auditors representing the nationally recognized California Shakespeare Theater and the prestigious American Conservatory Theater, as well as San Francisco Playhouse, Aurora Theatre and many other well-respected companies. They were joined too by casting directors and independent directors.

The first two days, Jan. 30 and 31, consisted of the auditions of qualified Theatre Bay Area members, selected by lottery; on Feb. 1, the auditors saw members of Actors’ Equity Association. Throughout the process, actors participating in our Advanced Training Leading Artists to Success (ATLAS) program began their training by receiving invaluable, detailed feedback from all the auditors present at their auditions. 

On Actors’ Equity members’ day, I arrived in the morning, excited to see what these professional actors had prepared. Auditors began arriving, chatting and snacking. After two long days of watching actors give it all they had, the atmosphere was buzzing. TBA staff worked with my fellow volunteers to keep all the moving parts of this chaotic and exciting day running smoothly. 

As the actors arrived and checked in—some running through their monologues and songs one last time—the volunteers’ work had already begun. We arranged over 80 head shots and resumes per person into packets for the auditors in the theatre; every 15 minutes, in between sets of auditions, we would fan out into the theatre, distributing packets of photos to the auditors. TBA staffers James Nelson and Laura Ng led actors up and down the flights of stairs from the check-in to the green room dozens of times throughout the morning.  

I was able to watch several rounds of the auditions, and the actors were formidable. One actress’s portrait of a drunken woman begging a man to marry her had me nearly in tears. I was struck with envy every time an auditioner perfectly struck a note with our pianist, and happy to laugh along with the auditors whenever someone collectively tickled us. 

On one of our breaks, I had a chance to talk to auditor Jon Rosen from Landmark Musicals, who told me how pleased he’d been with the audition process. He told me he’d found plenty of people to contact for Landmark’s upcoming auditions for Boy from Oz and that he’d been impressed by the level of talent he’d seen all weekend. After all I’d just seen, I can’t say I was surprised to hear it!

After a long morning, I was exhausted, and as a new group of volunteers, excited to take on the afternoon, began arriving, I made my exit. I’m glad to have gotten the opportunity to see the General Auditions this year. I’d been too intimidated to apply to audition myself, but after seeing the upbeat, positive, atmosphere and feeling the excitement from everyone around me, I’ve already started to think about what monologue I might want to bring in next year. 

Connery Morano is an intern at Theatre Bay Area, focusing on arts administration; he's also a Theatre Arts major at SF State with his degree expected May 2016.


Tags:  Acting  actor  ATLAS Program  Auditions  auditor  casting  casting director  TBA general auditions  training 

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From the Executive Director: ‘Tis the Season

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, February 2, 2016
By Brad Erickson

With acacias and fruit trees already coming into bloom, spring arrives early in Northern California. With the flowers and the showers comes a flurry of activity in the area of arts advocacy. Government bodies from cities to the feds are setting their budgets for the coming year, and legislative and election cycles are revving into high gear. As the season unfolds, Theatre Bay Area will be representing the interests of Bay Area artists and arts organizations before policy makers at every level. Here’s what to watch—and where to get involved—this spring: 

As with every year, the number-one goal at the federal level is increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Last year saw a $2 million rise, bringing the total to $149 million. This year, advocates will be asking for another boost. While it’s likely that any increase during this electoral year will be modest, advocates are setting their long-term sights on doubling the Endowment’s funding to $300 million, or nearly one dollar per person. This might seem wildly ambitious, but that figure would only bring the Endowment back to its 1990 level of funding, in inflation-adjusted dollars; 1995 was the year the agency, a victim of the culture wars, saw its funding cut in half in the furor over the “NEA Four.” Americans for the Arts (AFTA)—the national leader in arts advocacy—has publicly set the goal of one dollar per capita, and AFTA leaders report that powerful lawmakers are not pushing back—at least not yet. 

The NEA is particularly important to California and the Bay Area. In most areas of federal spending, California is a “donor state,” meaning we pay Washington more in taxes than we get back in investments. The National Endowment for the Arts is one of the few federal agencies that funds California with investments (nearly) proportionate to our population. Californians make up one out of every eight Americans, and the NEA funds California arts groups with one out of every nine grant dollars (we’ll call it even). Bay Area arts groups fare especially well in the NEA portfolio, and as any managing director will attest, NEA dollars are famously useful for attracting contributed income from other sources—individual donors as well as foundations and public agencies. 

As the Presidential campaign unfolds, AFTA is again using this election season to educate the candidates and press each of them for their policy positions on the arts. Some are responding, others are not; but in any event, the arts are being put before the candidates of both parties as a vital component of our civic life. 

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Theatre Bay Area, but also of the California Arts Council (CAC). This milestone was honored last week at an event in Sacramento with Governor Brown, the agency’s founder, headlining the commemoration. The CAC’s first director, Bay Area actor Peter Coyote, reminded the assembly of the Council’s early successes—quickly winning $20 million in appropriations and funding a raft of programs that supported artists and art-making across the state. The agency’s funding ultimately grew to $30 million in 2000 (reaching the national median for state investment in the arts of one dollar per person), but was slashed in 2003 to a paltry $1 million—where it was stuck for more than a decade. In the past several years, arts advocates have won significant victories, raising the CAC’s appropriations by a whopping 800 percent. This sounds spectacular until one realizes that, with a population of 38 million, California’s investment in the arts (about 25 cents per person) is still far below the national average, and behind even red-state rivals like Florida and Texas. Arts advocates will return to Sacramento this spring to press for further increases, citing the vast areas of the state—such as inner cities, suburbs and the inland counties—still starved for access to the arts. 

Exciting news for arts education advocates (and theatre and dance folks) across the state is a new bill introduced by Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), that would reestablish subject-specific teaching credentials for theatre and dance. As it is, California is only one of two states in the nation lacking accreditation for theatre and dance (teachers must be certified in all other academic subjects); currently, anyone wanting to teach theatre or dance in a California public school must be certified in English (theatre) or Physical Education (dance). Senator Allen’s bill, SB 916, “The Theatre and Dance Act,” would ensure that theatre and dance teachers are adequately trained by establishing specific credentials for both subjects. The bill has both Republican and Democratic coauthors and is widely supported by the arts advocacy community. Joe Landon, executive director of the California Alliance for Arts Eduction (CAAE) says, “This is an opportunity for all advocates to come together with one voice to give dance and theatre teachers what is long overdue—dignity, equality, and a credential!”

On the local front, cities and counties across our region are crafting their budgets for the coming fiscal year. In San Francisco, Arts for a Better Bay Area (ABBA) is once again convening advocates around the budget for the city’s two arts agencies (SF Arts Commission and SF Grants for the Arts), looking to follow last year’s boost of $2 million with further increases. ABBA has also convened a working group to focus on the urgent issues of displacement and soaring rental rates for both arts spaces and housing. A third group (including theatre reps Tony Kelly, Jonathan Moscone and myself) is exploring a possible ballot initiative that would lock in increased support for the arts by reconnecting arts funding with the city’s hotel tax.  

As your service organization’s executive director, I represent Theatre Bay Area artists and companies in a number of advocacy settings: as AFTA’s state captain for California, leading the state’s delegation to Washington, D.C. for AFTA’s annual Arts Advocacy Day (March 7-8 this year); as treasurer and past president of Californians for the Arts; and as a steward of ABBA. While Theatre Bay Area is deeply committed to our work in this arena, advocacy is not an effort that can be outsourced. Each of us—as citizens, as artists, as representatives of arts organizations—must add our voices to the chorus calling for fully adequate and fully equitable arts funding. Join us this spring! 

Brad Erickson is executive director of Theatre Bay Area.

Tags:  advocacy  Americans for the Arts  arts advocacy day  arts for a better bay area  californians for the arts 

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Want to present your work in the Playwright Cabaret? Submit your script today!

Posted By TBA Staff, Thursday, January 28, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Playwright Cabaret
 is a place at the TBA Annual Conference for writers to have their work read and seen by colleagues. See below for how to submit your work for consideration.

Photo: "Playing with fire" by Matthias Weinberger on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.  


The Playwright Cabaret “Lucky Thirteen” (i.e., how it all works):

1. Membership. Playwrights must be TBA individual members in good standing through March 31, 2016 to present their work at the conference. (Join here!) Monthly membership holders are eligible. Playwrights who present their work at the Playwright Cabaret will receive half off their conference registration, as will their team members.

2. Selection process. Playwright Cabaret slots will be filled by lottery, with a short waiting list in the event of cancellations, lapsed memberships, etc. Scripts must be received by by 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 19, 2016. The selected and waitlisted writers will be notified via email by 5 p.m. that same day. Specific time slots cannot be guaranteed, but cabaret playwrights may trade spots with one another.

3. Venue and length. The Playwright Cabaret will be held in the Berkeley Rep bar. The stage space is tiny. Each slot is 15 minutes long, including setup, reading, and clearing the stage for the next team.

4. Timeliness. A playwright’s team must arrive on time, begin the reading on time, and clear the stage for the next team on time, or become ineligible for the following year’s Playwright Cabaret.

5. Writer participation. Playwrights are not to act in their own plays, read their own stage directions, or participate in any technical or logistical capacity. The whole point is to be free to experience the audience’s reaction. 

6. Stage directions. TBA will provide a production assistant (PA) to read stage directions. Please bring a PA script with desired text already highlighted. The TBA PA will not be available to rehearse the script on the day of the reading, so if your stage directions have complex vocabulary or timing, you will want to rehearse and bring your own PA.

7. Teams. Maximum team size is six: the playwright plus up to five team members (actors, outside PAs, directors, etc.). Playwrights are responsible for assembling their teams, furnishing them with scripts, and ensuring that they register for and arrive at the conference. All Playwright Cabaret team members receive half off their conference registration. We encourage writers to share actors, in order to reduce the danger of "no-shows." (This has happened; it was an incredible drag for the playwright.)

8. Stuff on Stage. Music stands and chairs will be provided. That’s pretty much it. Props are heartily discouraged; the space is tiny

9. Sound. Microphones and sound equipment will not be available (nope, not even a CD player). Simplicity in presentation is best.

10. Choice of material. You must present the same script you send to TBA. You may send more than one script to TBA, but no writer will get more than one slot. Script format may be whatever you like: one short play, several very short plays, or an excerpt from a longer piece. It can obviously address any topic in any style. TBA will not censor, edit, or even correct the spelling in scripts we receive, unless and until the script is published. About that...

11. Publication. Cabaret playwrights may be offered the opportunity to have their short play published on the TBA website and promoted via TBA’s social media channels. This is totally optional; playwrights may absolutely choose to decline. TBA may also decline to publish a script if we have concerns about super disturbing content, but only after a conversation about these concerns with the playwright.

12. Promotion. The Playwright Cabaret readings will be promoted in the conference program, likely as an insert. Please feel free to do your own promotion outside of the conference (email, social media, postcards) to invite people. There will be no room for postcards at the conference registration table, which is the most hectic spot at the entire event. Postcards left there, even accidentally, will be cleared and probably recycled.

13. Share the Love. Please cross-promote and watch the other playwrights’ readings! Support them the way you’d like them to support you.


Tags:  Annual Conference 

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Featured Member: Carl Jordan

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Interview by Laura Ng 

From directing drama and technical theatre to choreography, multiple SFBATCC Award- and TBA Award-winning theatre-maker Carl Jordan talks about transforming a spark of fear into stage pictures, and how a collaborative environment can challenge artists to push their visions of possibility. 

TBA featured member Carl Jordan. Photo: Sarah Nelson


Your CV includes work as director, choreographer and technical director—multiple facets for which you’ve received a number of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards, plus two TBA Awards just this past season. Does one part of your brain tend to jump first when cracking open a new project? 

I love the collaborative aspect of theatre. My background includes training in dance, drama and technical theatre, and having extensive knowledge in all of these areas gives me the ability to communicate well with the technicians and artists I am working with, and to visualize stage pictures. What gets my juices flowing is a great story—that’s what jumpstarts my brain and informs my choices. I know that I should go ahead with a project when my imagination is sparked, and also when I encounter challenges that provoke a little fear. Fear can be a great motivator!  

Favorite play or production that you were part of or inspired by? 

My favorite production is usually whatever I am currently working on, which right now is One Man, Two Guvnors, which just opened at the 6th Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa. But I also love directing shows that people say could never work. I was told Return to the Forbidden Planet—a mashup of rock and roll, sci-fi and Shakespeare—was just too weird, and had too many difficult technical elements. It had a great story, though, and I used the naysaying to deeply challenge me. It went on to win Best Overall Production and Best Director at last year’s SFBATCC Awards. Clybourne Park has very intense and painful themes that have to be balanced with humor, plus incredibly difficult set design demands. The script is brilliant—incredibly profound and challenging. This play pushed me hard to bring my "A" game to rehearsals. Luckily, I also had a brilliant and receptive cast to work with. The show won Best Overall Production, Best Director and Best Ensemble at this year’s TBA Awards. The key to making both of these productions work was doing a lot of homework and casting fearless and honest actors.

I’m inspired by artists that push the limits of what’s possible: Bill Irwin’s reinvention of physical comedy, the smartness of William Ball’s directing at A.C.T. and how he approached each piece with a unique vision, Lin-Manuel Miranda and how he is creating new forms of musical theatre.

What do you like about the Bay Area theatre scene, and being a TBA member?

The Bay Area is rich with amazing and fantastic theatre companies. I’m a freelance director, which gives me the ability to work anywhere—and I would love to work with even more companies, so contact me!

TBA is a great resource for me on many levels. I’m a TBA Awards adjudicator, which gives me the chance to see great work at so many different theatres. I’ve used the Talent Bank and I attend General Auditions when I’m casting shows; I love networking at events like the TBA Awards and connecting with other theatre professionals.

What advice would you give an emerging theatre professional (or an earlier you)?

Here’s what works for me: follow what sparks you and don’t be afraid to ruffle feathers when exploring your take on a project. Start with a great story, hire great artists and approach each production as if it is the last one you will ever do. It’s really important to listen to actors, and I like when they bring ideas to the table. The actor is living the part and brings a unique vision, and guiding that vision inspires me. Also, never yell, and always treat others with patience, respect and grace. At the end of a show, I tell my companies that if they’ve enjoyed working in a positive and kind environment, pay it forward in their next production.

Anything coming up soon that you are excited about? 

After One Man, Two Guvnors, next up is Venus in Fur, with TBA Awards finalist for Best Actress Melissa Claire and Scott Coopwood, who’s currently in Macbeth at Berkeley Rep. It’s being produced by Marin Onstage in May and moving to the Sonoma Theatre Alliance in June. Then, The Comedy of Errors with the Curtain Theatre in August. It is so much fun to do Shakespeare in a fantastic redwood grove—Old Mill Park, Mill Valley. 


Theatre Bay Area members: Creative. Committed. Community. 

Tags:  Featured Member 

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Program Director's Note: Last-Minute Audition Tips

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Updated: Friday, January 22, 2016

By Dale Albright


The 2016 Theatre Bay Area General Auditions are coming up soon! Below is a list of last-minute tips for those of you attending the auditions—and lots of them are applicable for any audition. Of course, there are no black-and-white answers to any casting question; ask 10 different people the same question and you will get 10 different answers. This is the general consensus of my interaction with casting directors, and is not meant to be an “instruction”—these are truly “tips.”

 TBA program director Dale Albright.

1. Plan on using less than your allotted time.

For example, non-Equity actors are allotted two minutes at the Generals—why not do two 45-second pieces? Equity actors (who get three minutes at the Generals)—why not do two one-minute pieces? By using less than the allotted time, you succeed in several important things:

You ensure that you will avoid that dreaded call of “Time!” This is especially useful if you are doing a comic piece—who can time for the laughter you might get? And who knows what else might happen that might put you over the allotted time? Why take the chance? (By the way, if they do call “time” on you, it is not the end of the world. Be gracious and always close with a “thank you.”)

You leave the auditors wanting more. If you plant the seed that you are an interesting actor and “tease” them with your piece(s), then they might be more inclined to call you back.

You show that you have an understanding of the general audition casting process. This solidifies your standing as a professional actor who knows how much you need to give the casting director in order for them to make a callback decision. (Casting directors can often make their decisions on this in the first 10 seconds of an audition!) It also shows that you understand that the General Auditions are not only grueling for the actors, but for the auditors, who have three days of back-to-back auditions, which is surprisingly draining. 

2. Be prepared for the space you are going into.
Will you see the auditors, or will they be hidden in a dark house? (At the Generals, you will see the auditors—but do not let this lull you into a sense of intimacy that might lead to a loss of vocal projection. Marines’ Memorial is a large theatre.)

Where do you need to go when you get there? (At the Generals, the path to the backstage area leads up and down stairs. You will have time to do any last-minute makeup/hair adjustments when you arrive at the dressing rooms backstage.)

Will you have access to a chair on the stage if you need it? (At the Generals, you will.)

What is the traffic flow? (At the Generals, all actors enter and exit at stage left—the same side as the piano.)

3. Arrive in a timely manner, ready for your audition.
Please, please check out the traffic/transit/parking situation in advance. (For the Generals, the link for parking information is
• Arrive no later than 30 minutes before your scheduled time.
• Arrive warmed up.
• Arrive ready to give us your headshots/resumes: 100 for non-Equity, 60 for Equity. (While we’re on the subject, check out these thoughts from actor and career coach Velina Brown about headshots: “The Business of Show Biz: Help with Headshot Hype.”)
• Do not leave the waiting area once you check in—you will potentially affect all five to seven other people in your audition group if audition staff cannot find you.
• Bring anything you think you need: pencil, pen, business cards if you have them, snacks, comfortable shoes, breath mints and—most importantly—water!
• Don’t bring anything you don’t need; we will not have space to store personal items and they won’t be “guarded.”
• If you will be singing, be sure that your music is prepared so that it’s easy for the accompanist to use: no plastic sheets (to prevent glare), etc.
• If you are in the final group of the day (4:45 p.m.), it is vital that you arrive on time—the auditors could be going home if you check in late!

Here are some further thoughts from Velina Brown on day-of audition preparation and self-care: “The Business of Show Biz: The Highly Sensitive Actor.”

4. Have realistic expectations for the audition.
One of the most difficult messages to get through to actors is that the General Auditions are the equivalent of a casting handshake. The purpose of the Generals is to get a callback. Callbacks are not part of the TBA Generals, but casting directors interested in your work will save your headshot/resume and call you back at a later time.

If a company or casting director wants to call you back, when should you expect to hear back from them? At the Generals, you could hear from them anytime from immediately after the audition to years down the road—yes, literally, years. So if a month goes by and you haven’t heard anything, it does not mean you “blew it.” This is an investment.

And remember—the companies in attendance come with a variety of different casting scenarios. Some are casting for a particular season; some are just on the hunt for who’s in town for future needs. Many of the factors in their decisions are just plain out of your control. Do you fill a need for something on their list that they are looking for? Does your resume show something of interest to them? There’s no way to know, so that’s basically one thing you can cross off your worry list, if you have one. Come to the auditions, do your best and then go treat yourself to the treat of your choice (no judgment here on what that is!).

5. Let someone know if you aren’t going to make it to a scheduled audition.
Always. For the Generals, call (415) 430-1140, ext. 20 (never call the Marines’ Memorial) to notify TBA staff if you are not able to make your audition slot. This number will be checked during all three days of the auditions, so even if no one is in the office, your message will be received. Note: If the TBA staff doesn’t hear from you at all, your name will still appear on the schedule, all of the auditors will know that you are a no-show and you will be excluded from next year’s Generals.

6. Have fun.
Yes, there are a lot of things to think about and remember...whatever! Ultimately, have fun!


Dale Albright is program director for Theatre Bay Area, as well as an actor and freelance director. 


Tags:  Acting  actor  ActorTBA general auditions  Atlas  Auditions  auditor  TBA general auditions  volunteer 

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Audition Tips for Actors—Most Popular Features

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Photo: "spotlight (cc)" by Martin Fisch on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.


Dear members,

We know that actors work hard—especially at auditions, when they strive to show their range (emotional and vocal), professionalism and skilled command of their instrument, all in about two minutes, to what can sometimes be a roomful of strangers. Such courage!

With the TBA Generals on the horizon, we’ve collected our most popular features on preparing for auditions—from what to sing to what not to wear (loud bangle bracelets!) to writing the perfect actor resume. Break a leg, everyone!

General Auditions Dos and Don’ts” by Melissa Hillman 

10 Tips for Choosing Your Audition Monologue” by Melissa Hillman

Top 10 Tips for Musical Auditions” compiled by Kim Cohan

Actor Resumes: Pro Tips from the Pros” compiled by Laura Brueckner

What (Not) to Wear to Auditions” compiled by Laura Brueckner

and finally: 

The General Auditions Are Over—Now What?” by Dale Albright and Beverly Butler

Break a leg, everyone!


Tags:  audit  TBA general auditions 

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From the Executive Director: Bulls-Eye

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, January 12, 2016
By Brad Erickson

“Free Beer Fridays.” Parties every night—on stage, with the actors in costume. These were a couple of the eye-popping audience engagement techniques that kept a packed breakout room of 130 attendees of the recent National Arts Marketing Project (NAMP) Conference scribbling in their electronic notepads. Holding the room on the edge of its seat were the featured speakers on the panel I was moderating: Lisa Mallette, producing artistic director of City Lights Theater Company of San Jose (also chair of TBA’s Theatre Services Committee and a Theatre Bay Area board member) and Cathleen O’Malley, director of audience engagement and media relations at the Cleveland Public Theatre. 

It wasn’t just that Lisa and Cathleen are dynamic speakers (they are), or that the strategies they’ve launched at their companies are working (they are); it was more the subtle yet radical philosophical shift these two theatres have executed that so captivated the NAMP attendees. City Lights and Cleveland Public have made a decisive commitment to put audience engagement at the center of mission and strategy, and that change is remaking their audiences—and their companies. 

As Cathleen, Lisa and I prepared for our session (entitled “Flipping the Audience Engagement Paradigm: Transforming your Arts Organization”), I was struck by how similar the tactics are that these two theatres have developed. Hailing from opposite sides of the country, City Lights and Cleveland Public have articulated an identical goal: to more deeply engage more people from their communities in what they view as the life-changing work on their stages. With this new measure of success, City Lights and Cleveland Public have invented analogous rafts of strategies to meet their objective. 

Both theatres have realized that “audience engagement” is not an activity that can be assigned to one wing of the company: namely, the marketing department. Rather they have embraced the idea that audience engagement is the whole point and that the entire organization—from the board to the artistic director to the artists to the concessions staff (and, oh, yes, the marketers)—must be working together to broaden and deepen the impact of the art on the stage. 

Second, both companies have strategically fostered relationships with community partners, enlisting their help in reaching new communities—and, crucially, recognizing the need and the benefit of returning the favor by supporting their partners in reaching their own objectives.

Both organizations understand that they are in the business of, as Cleveland Public puts it, “brokering meaningful relationships between art, artists and audiences.” Artists and audiences are strategically brought together to connect around the work. This is the point of City Lights’ after-show (that is, after every single show) parties: to offer the artists and the audience a chance to organically bond by sharing a glass of wine and diving into conversation around the work. Cleveland Public successfully lures artists not onstage back to the theatre through $10 tickets and (on Fridays) free beer, and audiences are delighted to recognize artists from previous shows sitting next to them, both groups ready to share their experience of that night’s performance—not in a formal “talk-back”—but in the buzzy lobby after the show. 

City Lights and Cleveland Public are constantly inventing new ways of connecting with the people of their communities. Some of the innovations work, some fail. But the clear focus on audiences has not only increased attendance and enlarged their budgets, it has created a new sense of purpose shared by their artists, staffs and boards, and it has deepened the impact of these two theatres on their communities. And, through venues like NAMP, a strategic emphasis on engaging audiences has helped make these companies models for their peers around the country. 

Brad Erickson is executive director of Theatre Bay Area.

Tags:  audience development  executive director  marketing 

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Titan Award Winners Announced

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Updated: Monday, January 11, 2016

Happy 2016! TBA is delighted to announce the winners of TBA’s Titan Awards!

About the Titan Awards

The Titan Awards honor individual artists in the Bay Area who have completed Theatre Bay Area’s ATLAS program, during which they received 17 hours of training on the business side of their careers. The participating artists then submitted a personalized career map where they outlined their goals for the coming year and beyond. Based on this career map, each of the following artists was selected by a review panel of theatre professionals to receive a $1,000 grant for the implementation of this map, as well as a yearlong mentorship. 

Titan Award Director

Ariel Craft, Albany
Ariel has a BFA in theatre from New York University/Tisch School of the Arts and is the founding artistic director of the Breadbox here in San Francisco. Her directing credits in the Bay Area include Breadbox, Cutting Ball Theater, Wily West Productions, Impact Theatre, San Francisco Olympians Festival and others. She is currently directing Of Serpents and Sea Spray for Custom Made Theatre Co. 

Titan Award for
: Training costs
Mentor: Mina Morita

Titan Award Playwrights

E.H. Benedict, Muir Beach
E.H. has had plays performed as part of Bay Area Playwrights Foundation’s FlashPlays, as well as at Z Space, UWAC 36 Hour Playfest, Golden Thread, Lark Play Development Center and the SF Fringe Festival. E.H. has a BA in speech and drama from American University and is a member of the Dramatists Guild and Actors’ Equity Association. 

Titan Award for: Writing time and training
Mentor: Elizabeth Spreen

Barry Eitel, Oakland
Since arriving in the Bay Area in 2011, Barry has self-produced plays in bars; been published in play anthologies; participated in the SJREAL program at San Jose Rep and become the head writer for Boxcar Theatre’s The Speakeasy, a 3.5-hour immersive theatre experience. His plays have also been produced with Arabian Shakespeare Festival, San Francisco Theater Pub and San Leandro Players, among others. Barry has a BA in theatre and philosophy from Loyola University Chicago.

Titan Award for: Writing time
Mentor: Peter Sinn Nachtrieb

Austin Zumbro, Oakland
Austin’s commission for Bay Area Children’s Theatre, Lemony Snicket’s Lump of Coal, is currently in preproduction. BATC was the producer for his previous work, The Day the Crayons Quit, the Musical, which was a TBA Awards Finalist. Austin has also had work presented with Contra Costa Civic Theatre.

Titan Award for: Software costs, workshop costs
Mentor: TBD 


In addition to the Titan winners noted above, the panel would like to acknowledge the following three finalists, each of whom also receives a mentorship. 

Emma Nicholls (Mentor: Evren Odcikin)

Bridgette Dutta Portman (Mentor: Anthony Clarvoe) 
Noelle Viñas (Mentor: Mark Jackson)

Tags:  ATLAS Program  Director  playwright  Titan Award 

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Theatre Bay Area Names Rachel Fink as New Managing Director

Posted By TBA Staff, Monday, January 11, 2016

Theatre Bay Area is delighted to announce Rachel Fink as the organization’s new managing director. Ms. Fink, who currently serves as the director of Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s School of Theatre, will assume her position as managing director at Theatre Bay Area on Monday, February 1, 2016. 

Theatre Bay Area's new managing director, Rachel Fink.


Theatre Bay Area executive director Brad Erickson says, “I couldn’t be happier or more excited to welcome Rachel as the managing director of Theatre Bay Area. She has been a tremendous asset to our organization in the past, having served on our Board of Directors and as a member of the Theatre Services Committee. Her commitment to leadership in theatre in the Bay Area—and internationally—has proven to be invaluable over many years. I am thrilled that she is joining our organization in this, our 40th anniversary year—a time when we’re taking great strides in executing our new strategic plan. I am honored to be able to work alongside someone so smart, so talented, and so dedicated to and well connected with the field—both here in the Bay Area and across the country.”

Ms. Fink has led educational programming at Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s School of Theatre since its inception 15 years ago. Today, the School of Theatre’s programs serve over 23,000 students (ages five to adult) annually in nine counties throughout Northern California. In addition to residencies in over 100 schools, programs fostered by Ms. Fink include tuition-based arts training; a nationally recognized engagement initiative, the Teen Council; “claimyourARTS,” a teen-driven arts advocacy campaign; a highly competitive fellowship training program; and ongoing staff development and audience engagement programs. 

A strong advocate of arts leadership development and cultural policy, Ms. Fink was chosen to be the first U.S. delegate for the British Council’s Cultural Leadership International Programme and selected for the inaugural class of the American Express/Aspen Institute Fellowship for Emerging Nonprofit Leaders. She has served on the board of Theatre Bay Area, chaired Theatre Bay Area’s Theatre Services Committee and planned numerous professional development convenings for emerging arts leaders. She has spoken on conference panels for Theatre Communications Group (TCG) and Theatre Bay Area and served on grant review panels for the National Endowment for the Arts and TCG. She was also recognized for her regional work as a “Faces of Theatre Bay Area” honoree in 2013. Prior to moving to the Bay Area, Ms. Fink was the managing director of the Yale Cabaret and has worked at theatres across the United States including Yale Repertory Theatre, International Festival of Arts & Ideas, Long Wharf Theatre and the Cleveland Play House. Ms. Fink has taught at Berkeley Rep, Case Western Reserve University and the Cain Park School of the Arts. Ms. Fink received her BA in theatre arts from Case Western Reserve University and her MFA in theatre management from Yale School of Drama. 

Since its founding, over 250,000 people have participated in the School of Theatre’s arts programming, which has averaged a 10% growth in income annually. During this time, Ms. Fink created Teen Council, a groundbreaking peer-led teen theatre leadership and advocacy group that has been replicated by 14 theatres around the nation, earning recognition from the White House’s Young Americans, Americans for the Arts and Theatre Bay Area. She has also produced 118 original plays created by youth and teen students; and mentored 225 young professionals through the School’s Fellowship program, many of whom are now working as theatre artists throughout the Bay Area.

“I’m thrilled to be joining Theatre Bay Area, an organization whose values so closely mirror my own,” says Ms. Fink, “I look forward to working with Brad and the dedicated staff as we continue to support and strengthen our vibrant, diverse theatre ecosystem here in the Bay Area.”

Tags:  arts education  Rachel Fink 

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Featured Member: Cathleen Riddley

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Interview by Laura Ng 

Appearing to national audiences in the feature film LA Mission and PBS’ Trauma, Cathleen Riddley is ever committed to the arts and welfare of the Bay Area community. This PlayGround company member and associate artist with AlterTheater also moves crowds with her spirited vocals in local bands Sweetie Pie and the Doughboys and Burnsy’s Sugar Shack as well as working to foster goodwill with San Quentin Prison’s No More Tears and Healing Circle programs. This past November, Riddley added two TBA Awards to an already dazzling roster of accomplishments.

TBA featured member Cathleen Riddley.


You've worked in a wide array of mediastage, film, television, voiceover and singing in bands. What are some aspects you consider when choosing a project?

When a movie, TV show, voiceover, or commercial is presented, one often needs to go with what one’s agent chooses. That being said, I did turn down, without a second thought, a well-paying voiceover that took a religious stand against gay marriage. I realized that it would deeply hurt my heart and wound so many people I loved if I stood for something–even if not as anything but a voice–that I know is wrong.

When considering a project in the theatre, which is where about 90 percent of my work is, I look at the role, the director, the text itself, and why is it important that this play be done at this time. It matters so very much to me what the play is addressing in the tumultuous times that we are living in now. I must admit that I also am excited to work on projects that challenge me beyond what I have ever done before, and that will grow me as an artist and a collaborator.

Parenthood can be a challenge for theatre professionals. When a company like AlterTheater—where you are an associate artist—invites actors to bring their children into the rehearsal process, it generates interest. How has having a daughter impacted your perspective on the field?

There is nothing more immediate than the needs of one’s children, and if an ensemble like AlterTheater can not only accommodate but embrace the sometimes fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants reality that is having children in the process, there is amazing beauty and messiness and collaboration and group parenting that happens nowhere else on earth. In a piece that is all about the African American church like The Amen Corner, it would be inconceivable that this church would exist without children: crying babies who are passed between whoever was available to rock and cradle and feed them (often the teens in the church), kids who palmed their quarters given them to put in the collection plate so they could buy candy after church... Having children in the theatre helps it to reflect real life.

Because I thought that the worst thing that could happen was that someone could say “No,” I started asking to bring my daughter to rehearsals from the time she was four years old. I was shocked to find that often I was the first person who had ever done that, and pleased to be told that she would be welcome almost all of the time. Consequently, she is an awesome theatregoer, critic, supporter, positive energy bringer, fan, and well-rounded 13-year-old. And she made her theatre debut in The Amen Corner, which thrilled her mama to no end. Let’s assume that the answer will be “Yes,” and ask to bring our children into our world of theatre.

Congratulations on your 2015 TBA Awards for both Outstanding Performance in a Principal Role in a Play and Direction of a Play Score for The Amen Corner! What it like to shift between two roles on the same production? 

First, the awards were a great honor. Thank you. It was an adventure to be doing a scene where I had a major event take place for my character, where I really had to be in the moment, but at the same time be thinking, “This song is too loud for this part of the play,” or “The tempo of this song is so fast that it’s going to finish before the end of the scene." The great blessing of this play was that I had the most amazing people to work with. Their musicality was awesome, their ability to learn a part by ear in a short time and sing it in four-part harmony was something miraculous, and their support of me in my dual role was so amazing that I realize now I never would have been able to do it without this exact group of ensemble-minded, heart-driven, musically-inclined, risk-taking precious souls.

How else has being a Theatre Bay Area member impacted your career?

Theatre Bay Area provides me with so much that I can’t get anywhere else. I look to it for auditions; for what I should go see; for artists to keep an eye out for; to enlighten me about aspects of the theatre that I know very little about, like puppetry, sound design, and stage combat; and to provide me with fabulous full scripts of current plays. And I cannot tell you how many times I have had questions in my mind about the business and Velina’s column, “The Business of Show Biz,” provided answers and insight.

Tell us about your involvement with the violence prevention program No More Tears/Healing Circle.

No More Tears is a program in San Quentin State Prison whose mission is “[t]o curb violence and detrimental behaviors within targeted communities by utilizing the specialized knowledge and experience of former perpetrators of violence and crime. These former perpetrators hold themselves accountable to bring solutions to the communities where they once contributed to the problem.” The Healing Circle actually brings together family members (mostly mothers) who have lost children to violence to meet with former perpetrators of violence, in order to begin the healing and forgiveness process that is vital to all involved. 

It’s no surprise that I came to [these programs] through theatre. An incarcerated man wrote a play about a hardened young man, starting from when he committed the murder that got him into prison, through the healing process brought about through No More Tears/Healing Circle.

I performed in this play in San Quentin, and after it was over, shared my desire to support this organization. These incarcerated men, having heard this from many who had come inside their walls, were naturally skeptical, as so many had vowed to support their organization and were never seen again. I took their challenge and started working as a sponsor for them. I am more than proud to be a part of this healing.

Any other exciting happenings on the horizon you’d like to share with our TBA readers?

I am thrilled/terrified to be a part of Shotgun’s upcoming season, where I’ll be performing in Hamlet Roulette, where every night we’ll pick from Yorick’s skull which character we’ll be playing on that particular night. Shaking with fear, tingling with excitement. I’ll also have the pleasure of performing in a gem of a show called Grand Concourse in the season, where I’ll get to stretch my muscles by playing a nun. Challenges await–the lifeblood of the theatre!


Theatre Bay Area members: Creative. Committed. Community. 

Tags:  Featured Member  TBA Awards 

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