A community is a social unit of any size that shares common values, or that is situated in a given geographical area (e.g. a village or town). It is a group of people who are connected by durable relations that extend beyond immediate genealogical ties, and who usually define that relationship as important to their social identity and practice.
Why do we come together to create this art we call theatre?
The easy answer is that we couldn’t do it alone, but I think there is more to it than that.
When I look back at the experiences I have had in the many productions I have been a part of over the last 25 years, there is a pretty clear delineation between those I would call successful and those I would put in the category of “learning experiences”. It has almost nothing to do with how many tickets were sold or what the critics thought of it.
It really comes down to this:
a) Did I enjoy the process?
b) Was my involvement with the production valued?
c) Did I feel connected to my fellow cast/crew members?
For the productions I can answer yes to all 3 of those questions, I would place all of them at the top of my list for the best shows I have ever been a part of and they are associated with the most fond memories. There are people from these productions that I have not seen in over a decade (though some I still interact with on social media) who I would still consider very close friends and I would jump at the chance to work with them again.
This is what I hope Strollers volunteers will take away from all of our productions. Is that a lofty goal? Yes. Will there still be times when we don’t live up to it? Probably, but we can always improve. The key here is not to achieve perfection, but to identify exactly what success looks like for us so we can focus our efforts and development strategies to give us the best possible chance to achieve that success.
How will success in this one area help the company continue to grow and thrive as a non-profit business in the Madison arts community?
As we have learned, for the company to survive, we need to succeed in these key areas:
a) As a membership organization, we need regular and enthusiastic participation from our membership/volunteers.
b) The number of members needs to be maintained, and hopefully grow over the years.
c) We need to provide a quality theatrical experience that will keep our audiences coming back and growing to include new and expanded demographics.
d) We need to recruit strong, experienced leadership for the board and provide them with the tools and support necessary to maintain and grow the business side of our organization.
e) We need to solicit and collect charitable donations to help meet our budgetary needs while keeping our ticket prices as affordable as possible.
I am in no way suggesting that providing a sense of community within each of our productions will be the silver bullet that will guarantee success in all of these areas, but I do believe that without it, no amount of hard work and dedication by the core volunteers we now have will ever be enough to sustain us for another 60 years. What Community does provide is a baseline of good will, and volunteers and members come away with a feeling of inclusion in a worthwhile enterprise. It also improves individual productions by creating a working environment where actors and designers feel safe enough to explore and take risks, knowing their cast mates and crew are supporting them.
Next time: What steps can we take right now to help promote this sense of community in each of our productions, and within our organization as a whole?
contributed by Matt Korda