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Shelter from the Malestrom

Originally Posted: Jul 31st, 2012 by PatrickWalsh. No comments yet [Edit]

I have officially closed all my shows here. MACBETH, THE EMPTY OCEAN, and DISH AND SPOON have all gone by the wayside. They have been shuttered. I’ve got some great memories/lessons and a handful of photographs to show people what my time at the Hangar was like…….but I also have two weeks left here….This time will be spent producing STARRING ELIZABETH TAYLOR. I’m throwing my all into it. I want this show to be amazingly well attended, but I must admit that I am a bit sad to no longer be working as an artist here. It has been a hard thing for me to come to terms with, until I realized that as an artistic director this is some of the greatest time in one’s year. I have the opportunity to build the organization and work to make someone else’s art happen in the best way humanly possible. In all honesty, how awesome is that?This also got e to thinking about how “bogged down” artistic directors can become. What happens if they have to direct/produce/grow an organization all at the same time? How is that conducive to a healthy lifestyle and what can organizations do to help their leaders have time to focus on their personal art at points and have time to grow an institution when they are not directly working on a production? The fact of the matter is that at some point the needs of a producer can contradict the needs of an artist who directs. Imaginations can become constricted when there is too much of an emphasis placed on product. So what can be done to combat these issues?

I personally believe that there needs to be separate, out of the office time given to an artistic director for reflection and reading time. Also, when an AD is in production it is important to have a separate schedule and expectations for him. Lastly, giving this person more advance time to plan projects in collaboration with other artists is HIGHLY prized at an institutional level. Also, a sabbatical, based on the university model, isn;t a horrible idea to prevent burnout.

Isolation also seems to be an issue. The regional theatre movement of the 50′s was an amazing step forward in terms of the decentralization of the arts out of NYC, but directing is a lonely art and can become even more so when at the head of an organization with a complex structure. We need to stay informed about the work that is happening all over the country so that we can better understand the national identity of who we are as a group of theater artists, but also be aware of different work being done and how we can help facilitate that work even from afar or bring it to your community. We can also try to grow our artistic offices so that there are peers around us to help with all burdens; artistic and otherwise.

There are so many things that can be done to ensure stability in an organization and the best way to do that is to keep the leadership at your theatre happy and challenged. What better thing can an institution do then continue to allow an artistic leader to nourish an individual artistic identity within a theatrical organization.

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