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TBA Online: News & Features: November 2013

Editor’s Note November/December 2013: Back to School

Friday, November 1, 2013  
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By Sam Hurwitt



It’s funny how themes above and beyond the designated one seem to arise for individual issues of the magazine. September/October’s season preview issue focused a lot on theatre company leadership, with articles on artistic director succession plans and the job description of managing directors as well as long-range season planning and theatre companies born out of the San Francisco Fringe Festival. The November/December issue is geared much more toward individual artists.



Photo: "Local School Children” (1940) by Harwich & Dovercourt on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.

That’s only natural for the academic training issue, which focuses on MFA and collegiate theatre programs. This has been the focus of our last issue of the year for years, but this year we feature the triumphant return of our Survey of Academic Training for the first time since 2009, listing theatre programs from member schools all over the region. Jean Schiffman takes a look at how theatre company internships have helped people in all lines of theatre work get started in their careers, and Emily Wilson explores the evergreen question of whether or not to get an MFA, talking to actors who have taken that route and to others who have worked their way up without it.

When I say "evergreen,” I don’t just mean that we as a theatre magazine revisit this from time to time because there’s always someone grappling with the question of MFA or nay. It comes up remarkably often just in day-to-day conversation. Just last week a busy local director asked me if I knew of other directors who had gone away to grad school and then came back here to work again. Heck, at various points over the years I myself have revisited the question of whether to put things on hold to go back to school, only to have my reverie interrupted by the next phase of my journalism career making itself evident instead. The road not taken seems to loop back around every once in a while, tempting one anew during the inevitable slow patches for anyone who works freelance, and sometimes even in the busy times. And the ill-kept secret is that these coulda-woulda questions keep coming up whether people went the academic route or not. The best any of us can do is just research our options and try to make the best-informed leap of faith we can.

One big question for anyone starting out in theatre is what kind of opportunities are really out there for them after they’ve paid their dues and worked their way up. There’s a conspicuous lack of diversity at the upper levels of theatre leadership in this country, so much so that at least some of the problem has to come back to bias in arts hiring, unconscious or otherwise. Our listings editor Lily Janiak contributes an in-depth examination of the problem, talking to theatre leaders around the country about whether something like the Rooney Rule—a National Football League rule that at least one applicant of color must be interviewed for every general manager or head coach position, whether or not they’re hired—would or should work in theatre. This is a piece that Lily was originally working on for our website, but it developed into such a meaty piece of journalism that I’m proud to present it in the magazine.

One thing that’s been much in the news this fall has been the Affordable Care Act and the last-ditch congressional attempt to hobble it by shutting down the government and demanding that the law be withdrawn. Obamacare went into effect as scheduled, however, and Lisa Drostova helps break down the myriad options for healthcare available to individual artists, whether preexisting or part of the new system.

And of course, ’tis the season for holiday shows—or for shows that are in the conspicuous and potentially lucrative holiday slot in the season but may not be themed around any particular holiday at all. Chad Jones takes a look at the latter phenomenon, talking to theatres that opt to keep the ho-ho-hos and holly out of the holiday season. There are any number of ways to ring out the old year and ring in the new, and I’m glad to say you can find an awfully wide variety of them around the Bay Area theatre scene if you know where to look.

Sam Hurwitt is editor-in-chief for Theatre Bay Area. He is also the author of The Idiolect, a blog about theatre, movies, comics, media and the decline and fall of Western civilization. E-mail