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From the Executive Director: Inclusion—What Is It Good For?

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, March 8, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, March 8, 2016
By Brad Erickson

Earlier this month, the Academy Awards were presented in Hollywood under a cloud of controversy, even anguish. As anyone who hasn’t spent the last year in outer space must know, for the second year in a row, nominees for the Academy’s most high-profile awards were all Caucasian. That announcement set off an immediate and explosive outcry that continues to reverberate.

While the Oscars put Hollywood’s lack of inclusion at the top of the news cycle for weeks, the truth is the film industry has been sorely lacking in diversity for—well—forever. Given the attention that the topic of inclusion has been given within the American theatre sector, some in our community might have been tempted to enjoy a twinge of schadenfreude over the controversy. At least we’re not as bad as they are! 

Maybe we are and maybe we aren’t (though I think it’s arguable theatre is at least a few steps further down the path of inclusion than our big-screen cousins), but the renewed attention to diversity can give everyone in the performing arts an opportunity to reflect, again, on the question: “inclusion—what is it good for?”

Many of the arguments put forward come from a social justice perspective, often framed something like this: Z Group (an underrepresented demographic) make up X percent of the total population of the United States, but only Y percent (an appallingly low number) of the total number of theatre-makers (artists, administrators or leaders, depending on the study). Clearly this is unjust, and something must be done—now—to bring the numbers of Z Group theatre-makers to full parity. As Viola Davis, the first black woman to win an Emmy, put it at that award event last year, “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.” 

The argument is strong and difficult to refute. And rarely does anyone try, at least directly. What might be heard, in terms of pushback, is the need for time, for evolutionary change, for more Z Group theatre-makers in the “pipeline.” But almost no one says that the argument is false, that Z Group theatre-makers shouldn’t be fully represented in the American theatre. We just need a chance to get there, some say. 

There is another argument for inclusion, one that is at least as powerful as inequity in employment, and that is what it means for the audience to see a fully inclusive world on our stages. If the point is raised, it is generally from the perspective of how important it is to recognize ourselves, our own experiences, our own communities on stage. It’s a potent assertion, to be sure. “Social bonding,” as researcher Alan Brown explains in his research on intrinsic impact, is hugely important for us as humans. Personally, I remember what it meant for me to come to San Francisco in the mid-1980’s and see, for the first time, gay and lesbian people portrayed on stage, at Theatre Rhinoceros—the only LGBT venue in town, and one of the only in the nation, at the time. It was transforming. 

An argument we could hear more of is how important it is for all of us, from every demographic and psychographic group, to see on stage the lives of people who are not like ourselves. In an interview last year for Theatre Communications Group, Impact Theatre’s artistic director, Melissa Hillman, was asked by playwright Jacqueline Lawton, “What is the most significant challengeor opportunityfacing the world, and what difference can theatre make?” Hillman replied, “Empathy. Empathy. Empathy. Lack of empathy underlies literally every social ill: racism and bigotry, misogyny, economic oppression, homophobia, transphobia, fatphobia, Islamophobia, you name it. War, income disparity, rapeevery kind of violence, every kind of injustice.” She added that, as theatre-makers, “We run this. Empathy is at the core of what we do as storytellers...and stories create empathy.” Bill English, artistic director of SF Playhouse (producer of this year’s Will Glickman Award-winning play), tells audiences during his curtain speech at the top of every performance that the theatre is an “empathy gym,” affording us all a chance to meet and feel the lives of characters who are very unlike ourselves.

Alan Brown would call this “social bridging,” bringing people from one context closer to people in another. Try Googling “theatre empathy” and see the number of studies (not issued by theatre professionals) that link increased empathy directly to theatre experiences. Some of these studies point to “mirror neurons,” nerve cells that make it possible for us to understand what another person is feeling and intending. When caught up in riveting narrative experience, our mirror neurons are shooting rapid-fire messages to our brains, which respond as if we ourselves were actually involved in the story. Our mirror neurons make the phrase, “I know how you feel,” literally true, and our art form is one that makes that experience possible. 

When asking, “inclusion—what is it good for?” empathy might be the most powerful response of all. 

Brad Erickson is executive director of Theatre Bay Area.

Tags:  diversity  Glickman Award  Intrinsic Impact 

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Updated 2015 "Sources of Publicity" Book on Sale Now!

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Updated: Monday, May 18, 2015


What do you want? Butts in seats. 

How do you get them? Publicity!

Theatre Bay Area proudly presents its newly updated summer 2015 edition of Sources of Publicity, the indispensable guide for reaching (and wooing) the media professionals who can get the word out about your show.  

The updated 2015 Sources of Publicity is the premier guide to print, web, radio, television and, now, social media sources of publicity in the Bay Area, now featuring up-to-date information on almost 300 media contacts in the Bay Area. 

The 2015 Sources of Publicity also includes a wealth of useful information for anyone with a project to share, whether you're an old hand at the publicity game or a bright new star looking for ways to shine!

Additional content includes:

• Contact info for the members of the Glickman Award committee and the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle

• Indexes by alphabetical order and by geographic region

• Advice on avoiding common publicity mistakes

• Tips on photography best practices

• Social media etiquette when contacting journalists

• And even a deadline guide (hooray!)

Don't wait - order your copy today!

Tags:  audience development  Community Events  Glickman Award  journalism  marketing  Sources of Publicity 

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Stuff We Love: 15 Best Tweets from #TBACon15

Posted By TBA Staff, Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, April 15, 2015

We're still tingling from the excitement and energy after TBACon15! Relive the day with these 15 highlights pulled from over 500 #tbacon15-tagged Tweets!

1. On plenary speaker, Jesús Quintero from Tijuana Hace Teatro:

2. On that #tbacon15 livetweeting life:

3. On Mina Morita, artistic director of Crowded Fire Theater Company, another plenary speaker:

4. On Gender Parity:

5. On Triple Play,
a national project led by TBA and Theatre Development Fund reinforcing the relationship between audiences, artists and theatre organizations:

6. More on Gender Parity, behind the glass curtain:


7. On directors/stage managers acting as de facto HR reps:


8. On the lunchtime lull, from an active participant participating remotely:

9. On the Playwrights' Cabaret:


10. On Partnerships:


11. On reacting to #tbacon15!


12. On Sarah Moser, accepting the 2015 RHE Artistic Fellowship!


13. On Marcus Gardley, 2014 Glickman Award recipient, and his moving acceptance speech:


14. One of the many breathless (as far as we can infer) reactions to Marcus Gardley's speech:


15. On letting it all sink in, post-#tbacon15:


Honorable Mention:
Is it tastelessly self-aggrandizing to post one of our own? Nonetheless, one of the most engaged-with Tweets was a quote from Marcus Gardley:


That's all for this year. So many inspiring (and clever!) thoughts, reactions and conversations took place on #tbacon15—and in real life. Thank you for jumping in and speaking up. Say those changes aloud! Let's see what progress we've made next year at #tbacon16.


Tags:  #tbacon15  Annual Conference  audience development  Community Events  Gender Parity  Glickman Award  Marcus Gardley  Mina Morita 

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A Huge #TBACon15 Thank You!

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Updated: Friday, April 17, 2015

Theatre Bay Area would like to say THANK YOU to the many, many people who made the 2015 Annual Conference such a success!

Thank you to all invited speakers, panelists, coordinators and consultants, for sharing your expertise and passion. You inspired literally hundreds of people at this event.

Thank you to all attendees, for being the reason we hold this event. It's amazing to get to spend a whole day together, hearing about what excites, challenges and moves you.

Thank you to all volunteers, for helping to get it all done. Your cheerful assistance reflects our community at its best: generous, collaborative and committed. You are deeply appreciated. 

Thank you to all donors and sponsors, for taking a stand to show your support for the arts, the Bay Area theatre arts community, and a world made better through expanding the public's access to the particular power of theatre. 

Special thanks to these major sponsors:



Musson Theatrical


See you next year at #TBACon16! 

Tags:  #tbacon15  Annual Conference  audience development  Community Events  Gender Parity  Glickman Award  Intrinsic Impact  Marcus Gardley  Mina Morita  RHE Fellowship  Works by Women SF 

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Toast the Toast of the Town at the TBACon Closing Reception!

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, April 7, 2015

By TBA Staff

This year's Annual Conference will close with a very special plenary session, where Theatre Bay Area will be delighted to present two prestigious awards to members of our creative community: the Glickman Award and the RHE Fellowship. And then there will be wine!

The Will Glickman Award for Best Play to Premiere in the Bay Area in 2014, will be presented to playwright (and Bay Area native) Marcus Gardley, for his stirring drama The House that will not Stand. The Glickman award comes with a $4,000 prize, and garners national recognition in the field. Berkeley Repertory Theatre, which produced the world premiere production, will receive the affiliated Horty Glickman Award.



TBA, in partnership with the RHE Foundation, will also be applauding actor Sarah Moser, recipient of the 2015 RHE Fellowship. The fellowship, which comes with a $10,000 grant and a year's worth of professional mentoring, is designed to make a significant investment in an individual artist that allows for learning and experimentation, and enables them to focus on specific areas of learning they otherwise might not have the opportunity to explore.


Directly following the closing plenary, you can toast these talented artists and our community at the complimentary wine reception! We'll close the conference day by gathering for light refreshments and camaraderie in the upstairs Roda lobby.

Go to main TBACon information page

Register for TBACon today!


Tags:  #tbacon15  Annual Conference  Glickman Award  playwright  RHE Fellowship 

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