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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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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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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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TBA Annual Conference Registration Now Open!

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, March 17, 2015




Are you a Bay Area theatre-maker who wants to make some connections?
Discuss the art, craft, and business of making theatre?
Hear some fantastic new ideas?


Come to the TBA Annual Conference!



Theatre-makers of all stripes will gather for the TBA Annual Conference in downtown Berkeley on April 13 to connect, learn, and celebrate. Whether you make your theatrical magic onstage or off, this conference will have something for you!


Registration for the conference is now open - sign up today!


Sign up before April 1 and get the "early bird" discount to attend one of the biggest, most inspiring theatre events of the year!


Sign up more than one person and save even more!

More info is available here, including locations, times, sessions, and lunch options. 


Hope to see you there!

Remember to follow us on Twitter - hashtag #tbacon15!

Tags:  #tbacon15  Annual Conference  Community Events  Intrinsic Impact  volunteer 

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Summer Book Blowout Sale—50% Off!

Posted By TBA Staff, Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Looking for some sexy beach reading? Look no further! To help us meet our fiscal year-end goals, we're having a blowout book sale—50% off our most popular publications! Prices good through July 31, 2014

Summer Book Blowout Publications:

• Actor Training Guide (Available in Print or PDF)
Features a wealth of programs, schools and instructors offering training to actors in the Bay Area. Available in PDF or print format. 

• Counting New Beans: Intrinsic Impact and the Value of Art (Print only; no PDF)
The pioneering study on Intrinsic Impact, released by Theatre Bay Area, represents a nationwide collective effort to measure the true value of art.  
Featuring a foreword by Ben Cameron, arts program officer at Doris Duke Charitable Foundation; 20 interviews with prominent artistic directors across the country; essays by leaders in the field Arlene Goldbard, Clayton Lord, Rebecca Novick and Diane Ragsdale and compelling wordclouds generated from conversations with artistic leaders.

• Sources of Publicity, May 2013 Edition (PDF only)
The premier guide to print, web, radio, television and (with this edition) social media sources of publicity in the Bay Area. Features information on 270 media contacts in the Bay Area. Includes contact info for the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle members, the Glickman Award members, a deadline guide and indexes by alphabetical order and by geographic region. Also includes advice on common publicity mistakes, photography best practices, social media etiquette with journalists and more.

• Preorder Sources of Publicity, Fall 2014 Edition (Print or PDF; same low price!)
We're updating our immensely popular publicity guide this Fall. Order your copy now—preorder customers will be the first to receive it! This edition will include updated information for hundreds of media contacts in the Bay Area, the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle members and the Glickman Award committee members. Also included is a deadline guide and indexes by both alphabetical order and geographic region—plus advice on common publicity mistakes, photography best practices and social media etiquette with journalists. Special foreword to the Fall 2014 edition: "How to Get Me to Come to Your Show" by theatre critic and TBA listings editor Lily Janiak.

• Theatre Bay Area Magazine – Blowout Issues (Print only; no PDF)
TBA magazine is one of our members' favorite benefits of membership—and no wonder! It contains news and feature stories about the topics and people central to the Bay Area theatre community. We're offering discounts on three of our most popular issues—or you can buy the whole set!

January/February 2014: Contains the full text of Octavio Solis' play, Se Llama Cristina!
November/December 2013: Contains popular article "A Whole New Game in Arts Hiring" by Lily Janiak, examining the lack of gender and race diversity in American theatre leadership
July/August 2013: Contains the full text of Christopher Chen's award-winning play, The Hundred Flowers Project!

You can also order all three and save on shipping! 

That's it, folks! Make sure to tell your friends who publishes your sexy beach reading—Theatre Bay Area!


Tags:  Actor Training Guide  Intrinsic Impact  Sale  Sources of Publicity  TBA Magazine 

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TBA Awarded Three Major Grants

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, April 29, 2014

We are thrilled to announce that Theatre Bay Area has recently received three major grants that will support exciting projects benefiting theatre companies, theatre venues, and individual artists alike.

First, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded us an Art Works grant of $25,000 over one year to further our Intrinsic Impact work. Over the 2014-15 season, Theatre Bay Area will partner with different local theatre companies to survey audiences to measure the highly individual, deeply felt personal response—the intrinsic impact—of the work on stage. Participating companies will then meet to share and discuss their survey results and next steps to deepen their work's intrinsic impact. Eventually, we'll share those results publicly so the field as a whole can benefit from the research. Theatre Bay Area executive director Brad Erickson says, "I'm delighted that we have received renewed support from the Endowment to continue our intrinsic impact research, exploring how theatres can better understand and deepen the lasting effect of their work on their audiences." Learn more about Theatre Bay Area's Intrinsic Impact work here.
Second, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation gave us a grant of $75,000 over three years to support the continued development of Bay Area Performing Arts Spaces, a searchable database of 500 local performing arts venues and facilities in 11 Bay Area counties. Theatre Bay Area and Dancers' Group, with whom we're partnering and who has also received a grant from Hewlett, will use the funding to grow the site, in terms of the number of spaces listed, the number of site visitors and the number of searches conducted. We'll also be working on improving existing profiles, especially by encouraging spaces to adopt the now-free Calendar Sync feature. Explore Bay Area Performing Arts Spaces here.

Finally, the Zellerbach Family Foundation awarded us a one-year grant of $20,000 to support the Performing Arts Assistance Program, or PAAP, through which Theatre Bay Area gives consulting support to Zellerbach grantees in the small to midsize range. Find out more about PAAP here.
Many thanks to all our generous donors!

Tags:  BAPAS  Dancers' Group  Grants  Intrinsic Impact  rental  Zellerbach 

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