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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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Bay Area Stares Down White Supremacists

Posted By TBA Staff, Friday, August 25, 2017
Updated: Friday, August 25, 2017

Even as it appears that we have stared down the racist rallies this weekend, we urge you to speak up and stand up for the values that define us as a theatre community.
Brad Erickson, Rachel Fink
And Theatre Bay Area Staff

Read our full letter here.
Please Note: In light of the cancellation of both the Patriot Prayer rally and the No-to-Marxism event in Berkeley, the event times and locations listed below are subject to change. We recommend you follow the Facebook event or the organization sponsoring the offering directly for updates.

This is not a full list of offerings. Visit these sites for more info and details on all the activities this weekend:

KQED - One Right-Wing Rally Canceled as Bay Area Officials Push Back Against Fringe-Right Rallies

SFist - Here Are All The Counter-Demonstrations Planned During Saturday's Alt-Right Rally In SF

KPFA - Counter-Protests Planned for the Bay Area

SF Chronicle - Bay Area political events: SF, Berkeley rallies, counter protests


5:30 PM – 9:00 PM  San Francisco Interfaith Council ~ Interfaith Gathering Against Hate
Congregation Emanu-El, 2 Lake Street, San Francisco

7:00 PM  Anti-Hate Digital Light Vigil
Crissy Field, San Francisco


10:00 AM - 6:00 PM  March Against Hate
Starting at Marina Green, Crissy Field, San Francisco

12:00 Noon - 2:00 PM  Come Together – Juanita More
Speeches – Music – Art – No Politicians – Grass Roots
Harvey Milk Plaza, San Francisco

12:00 PM – 5:00 PM  Peace, Love and Understanding
Hosted by Michael Franti and Spearhead
Civic Center Plaza, San Francisco


11:00 AM  Resist Racist Violence & Hate in Berkeley with SURJ Bay Area
Ohlone Park – Meet at Hearst and Martin Luther King Blvd and march to Berkeley City Hall

12:00 Noon  Protest the White Supremacist Rally: Communities Against Racism & Fascism
Civic Center Park, Berkeley

12:00 PM – 5:00 PM  Bay Area Rally Against Hate
Crescent Lawn, UC Berkeley, near Addison & Oxford Streets, Berkeley

Tags:  advocacy  Community Events 

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2016 Annual Conference Perspectives and Photos

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Building an event as large as the Annual Conference takes all kinds of input. In establishing a theme, determining the highest-priority topics facing our community and the field, engaging special guests with relevant expertise and planning (not to mention scheduling!) each individual breakout session, program director Dale Albright consults with TBA’s two advisory committees—the Theatre Services Committee (TSC) and Individual Services Committee (ISC)—as well as welcoming ideas, suggestions and requests from all TBA members.

A record-breaking number of attendees filled the 2016 TBA Annual Conference,
held at Berkeley Repertory Theatre on March 28. Photo: Cheshire Isaacs 

This year, the results were phenomenal. Not only did registration numbers easily top previous years, with 425 enthusiastic theatre-makers in attendance, but kudos have been rolling in from all sides. This year’s conference was, we are realizing, something very special for a lot of people—some of whom wrote to us to tell us so: 

“Congratulations on one of the best TBA Conferences of recent years.
The conversation was rich and the stakes were high. It felt really
important to be there and I learned a lot from the experience.
I'm proud to be a member of TBA. Here is to the next 40 years!”
—Torange Yeghiazarian, founding artistic director, Golden Thread Productions


Greg Reiner (director of theatre and musical theatre, National Endowment for the Arts),
Diane Rodriguez (associate artistic director, Center Theatre Group) and Teresa Eyring
(executive director, Theatre Communications Group) at the 2016 TBA Annual Conference.
Photo: Cheshire Isaacs 

TBA staffers are still putting the finishing touches on the video that was taken the day of the conference, but we want to share with you the amazing photos that capture the spirit of the day. So please visit the 2016 Annual Conference album on TBA’s Facebook page to see the whole day in pictures! 

2015 conference plenary speaker Mina Morita (artistic director, Crowded Fire Theater) and
Erica Chong Shuch (artistic director, Erica Chong Shuch Performance Project) at the 2016
TBA Annual Conference. Photo: Cheshire Isaacs 

And, as always, we love to hear what you think. If you have feedback on this year’s conference, or suggestions for next year, we welcome you to send them to Thanks!


Tags:  advocacy  Annual Conference 

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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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From the Executive Director: About to Bust in the Boom

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, October 20, 2015

By Brad Erickson


For years now—decades, even—arts advocacy has primarily meant beseeching government bodies (local, state and federal) to appropriate more money to their arts agencies, bureaucratic departments whose primary purpose was to dispense grants to artists and arts organizations. For advocates, the “ask” was simple: give more money to the arts. Why? So artists and arts organizations could better serve the constituents of the lawmakers by producing more art and art education programs in their communities.

It was easy to unite arts advocates around campaigns when the task was simply to wrest more public dollars for the arts from government coffers. When infighting broke out (and it did), the disputes were typically around where public dollars should be targeted: large-budget organizations or small? Multicultural groups or mainstream institutions? Urban or rural? Arts education or arts programming? Professional or community-based arts? Scarcity could make the debates desperately heated—and often worked to undermine the entire advocacy effort. When victories came, it was most often when the arts advocates themselves could lay aside the internecine disputes and speak with one voice—as we were able to do earlier this year in both Sacramento and San Francisco’s City Hall.

Today, as the Bay Area experiences a new tech-based economic boom, the issues facing the arts—and arts advocates—are more complex than simply seeking more money for public granting bodies. We’ll need plenty more of that, too, but the biggest challenge lies beyond the purview and the capacity of arts agencies.

The gravest threat to theatre and all the arts across the Bay Area is the skyrocketing cost of living and making art in this superheated economy. It is not news to report that artists and arts organizations are being forced out of their homes. But it bears repeating that in San Francisco the average rental rate for an apartment and the median price of a home have very nearly doubled in just five years. Prices in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties aren’t far behind. San Francisco now ranks as one of the top five most expensive cities in the world for commercial rents—right up with (if not surpassing) London, Tokyo and New York. And the ripple effects of those astronomical statistics are felt all around the region, as we saw when Uber announced the purchase of Oakland’s Sears Building and commercial rents in that neighborhood jumped by double-digit percentages in one afternoon.

Our public arts agencies cannot grant the arts out of this crisis. But something must be done. Activists have generated a welter of options, seeming at times to be following a strategy of throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. Initiatives are on the November ballot to build more housing—both market-rate and affordable—while others seek a moratorium on new housing in targeted neighborhoods, in an effort to cool down the market and create space for crafting long-range plans to manage development. Meanwhile, opponents say that curtailing construction will only exacerbate the problem—and both sides point to conflicting studies to back up their arguments. Other initiatives and new legislation seek to limit (or open up) short-term rental options (à la Airbnb), expand rent control, legalize alternative living spaces (mother-in-law units), strengthen “legacy” small businesses, establish “cultural districts” or “arts corridors,” open neighborhoods to megadevelopment, change zoning laws and increase set-asides for affordable housing, to name just some of the approaches being proposed.

For many of us arts advocates, navigating this new reality will mean boning up on unfamiliar and often complicated issues. It will mean finding new allies and participating in novel meetings and hearings. It will mean expanding our advocacy vocabulary and our minds.

Just this past week, I was impressed to learn what one Theatre Bay Area member, Peter Papadopoulos, and members of his company, Mojo Theatre, are doing in their Mission District neighborhood: rolling up their sleeves to understand arcane zoning codes; engaging with the city Planning Department; and meeting with City Hall staff to discuss potential legislation that could protect theatre companies, other arts groups and individual artists at risk of losing their work and living spaces. This kind of activism is not easy work. It’s certainly not sexy work. But it’s the kind of work in which all of us, as arts advocates, are going to need to engage if we’re going effectively confront today’s biggest threat to the arts in the Bay Area. 

Brad Erickson is executive director of Theatre Bay Area.

Tags:  advocacy  Executive Director's Note 

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Arts Advocacy Victory

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The new and improved appropriation for the California Arts Council (CAC) passed both Houses yesterday, and was included in the budget sent to the Governor's desk, with $7 million from the State's General Fund for the CAC, which the Governor's office says will serve as the new "base line" for future years (the base line has been at just $1 million since the huge cuts of 2003; the increases of the past two years were one-time-only). 

The CAC receives additional funds from other sources as well, including the NEA and sales of arts license plates. With the new $7M appropriation, the total estimated budget for the CAC will reach more than $11 million for FY16.   

Tags:  advocacy 

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Gender Parity Events at the 2015 TBA Conference

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Bay Area theatre community is leading the way on the important issue of gender parity, both onstage and off, thanks to proactive theatre-makers and awareness-raising groups like "Yeah, I Said Feminist," Counting Actors, and the TBA Gender Parity Advisory Committee.

The 2015 TBA Annual Conference is delighted to host a number of gender parity-related events for all theatre-makers who want to know more about this movement and how it's transforming Bay Area theatre.



Photo: "Bildung für Alle" by rosmary on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.



Gender Parity Events at the 2015 TBA Conference



Who's Got Next? – Gender and the Season Planning Process

Time: 10:45 a.m.-11:45 p.m.
Type: Breakout session (roundtable)
Location: Bakery Room, Berkeley Rep School of Theatre


Moderator: Christine Young (Professor, University of San Francisco)
Confirmed panelists: Patrick Dooley, artistic director; Liz Lisle, managing director; Joanie McBrien, development director; Fontana Butterfield, actor

In this roundtable discussion, Shotgun Players' artistic leaders and company members will reflect on the process of planning their 2015 all-female playwrights season and will consider how their company values and season-planning methods have been transformed. 


Equal Opportunity Obstacles Overcome – Successful Strategies

Time: 12:00-1:00 p.m.
Type: Breakout session (roundtable)
Location: Bakery Room, Berkeley Rep School of Theatre

Moderator: Rebecca Ennals (Artistic director, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival

This roundtable discussion will feature artistic leaders sharing their successful strategies for diversifying audiences, overcoming casting obstacles, and integrating artistic and social values in the season planning process. 

Negotiation for the Individual Artist

Time: 1:00-2:00 p.m.
Type: Lunchtime session (informal discussion)
Location: Bakery Room, Berkeley Rep School of Theatre


Velina Brown (Actor, Theatre Bay Area columnist and career consultant, The Business of Show Biz)
Valerie Weak (Actor and creator of the Counting Actors Project

Bring your lunch and talk with fellow artists about negotiation, a crucial part of securing work. Whether it's financial compensation, scheduling, childcare or something else entirely, individual artists have the opportunity to negotiate as part of accepting any role, job, or gig. We'll share stories about successes and challenges, and offer peer support to those with upcoming negotiations.


While everyone is welcome to attend, we recognize that women may face unique challenges relating to confidence and negotiation which we hope to address as part of this session.

See you at the Annual Conference! Registration is open now!

Remember to tweet #TBACon15! 


Tags:  #tbacon15  advocacy  casting  Gender Parity 

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Apply for an NEA Grant: Arts and the National Parks

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, January 6, 2015
Updated: Monday, January 5, 2015


NEA ALERT: Upcoming grant funding to celebrate the arts and National Parks
"Imagine Your Parks" is a new grant initiative created in partnership by the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Park Service to celebrate the intersections between the two agencies in honor of the NEA's 50th anniversary in 2015 and the National Park Service's centennial in 2016. "Imagine Your Parks" will provide an anticipated $1 million in funding through the NEA Art Works grant category to projects that use the arts to connect people with memorable places and landscapes of the National Park System.
"Imagine Your Parks" will support art projects that encourage the creation of and greater public engagement with art around the National Park System. The National Park System includes not only National Parks, but also national historic sites, trails, rivers, seashores, landmarks and national monuments, heritage areas, preserves, battlefields, recreation areas, and more.
Funding will encourage partnerships with park areas or programs and will also support projects that promote public engagement in urban environments, or that engage younger generations with the National Park System. Projects may take place at and around the National Park System, or may take place elsewhere in the United States with a focus on the work and mission of the National Park Service.
"Imagine Your Parks" is funded through the NEA Art Works grant category. Art Works grant guidelines are available at Projects in all art disciplines are eligible for consideration for the "Imagine Your Parks" funding. Prospective grantees can join a webinar on January 21 to learn about Art Works applications and guidelines, including the "Imagine Your Parks" opportunity. 

Tags:  advocacy  Grants  site-specific 

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Grill Your Future Mayor about the Arts in Oakland!

Posted By TBA Staff, Saturday, September 27, 2014
Updated: Friday, September 26, 2014

Photo: "Audience at Humanities Theatre" by Mohammad Jangda on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license. 



What, if anything, do the various candidates for mayor of Oakland intend to do for the arts? Ask them!


Several mayoral candidates will be put in the hot seat at the Oakland Mayoral Candidate Forum on Community & Cultural Development on October 9, answering questions put to them by you - the voters. Come out and grill your candidates on the issues of public funding for the arts, arts education, and arts as a major component for economic growth in Oakland. Make your voice heard!

Confirmed participants include Jean Quan, Jason Anderson, Rebecca Kaplan, Courtney Ruby, Saied Karamooz, Libby Schaaf, Patrick McCullough, Dan Siegel, Bryan Parker and Charles Williams.

When: Thursday, October 9, 6-8 p.m. 
Where: Pro Arts, 150 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Oakland

Please RSVP to attend. We'd love to see you there!
See the Facebook event for more information


Organizing Partners: Pro Arts, East Bay Housing Organizations, League of Women's Voters and Youth Uprising. 

Community Partners: Oakland Art Murmur, Oakland Asian Cultural Center, Oakland East Bay Symphony and Satellite Affordable Housing Associates.

There will be an open community planning meeting on the arts in preparation for the forum: Thursday, October 2, 6 p.m. at Pro Arts.


The world belongs to those who show up. Show up for art. 


Tags:  advocacy  arts education  Community Events  elected officials  Oakland 

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