Mabou Mines (2009)

Mabou Mines (2009)

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In December of 2008, Sharon Fogarty, Mabou Mines’ co-artistic director and a member of the executive leadership team, sat down at her cramped desk in the crowded 450 feet of space that also housed a 60 seat performance venue, to consider the proposal put forth in her recent meeting with the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA). For almost 40 years the state arts agency had been a major funder of the work created by the collective of theatre artists that made up Mabou Mines. In her recent meeting, a NYSCA program director asked Fogarty if the company had begun to plan for the retirement of the company’s remaining founders. The funding agency had even offered to give Mabou Mines a grant to fund a succession planning process.

Fogarty’s initial reaction to the offer of funding a succession plan had been to say “no thank you.” She knew that the company as a whole would have to decide if they wanted to create a formalized plan for how the company would proceed without its founders. And yet, in the wake of the fall 2008 financial crisis that had toppled Lehman Brothers and sent the stock market on a volatile plunge that had yet to stabilize, Fogarty was nervous about what the company could accomplish on constrained resources.

This was not an entirely new challenge. For the last 40 years, Mabou Mines had reinvented itself countless times, and seemed to be in an almost constant state of transition. The company had always made regular additions and reductions to its roster of artists. This particular evolution, should Breuer, Maleczech, and Frederick Neumann retire, was very similar to one the company dealt with in 1990, when, after twenty years of working together, co-founder JoAnne Akalaitis and three other long time members, Greg Mehrten, Ellen McElduff, and Bill Raymond left Mabou Mines and moved on to careers as individual artists. Amidst a climate of reduced funding and an accumulated deficit that hampered the company’s ability to produce new work, the remaining artists determined to continue their work.

Twenty years later, Fogarty found herself in an equally challenging financial situation and considering a similar set of questions to those that were raised in 1990: Could a younger generation of artists legitimately continue their work under the Mabou Mines banner? To whom did the body of work created by Mabou Mines belong? Would it be enough to simply continue the company’s artistic mission?

Publication Date: 2009-05-15

Suggested Citation: Suzanne Riordan Appel, "Mabou Mines (2009)," Yale Theater Management Knowledge Base Case Study #08-17, May 15, 2009

Keywords: New York City, Leadership Transition, Organizational Culture, Organizational Direction, Small Organization, Succession

Teaching Notes: Yes (contact yaletmknowledgebase@yale.edu)

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This case is from the Theater Management Knowledge Base, a body of arts management material created by Yale School of Drama Theater Management students and faculty, overseen by an editorial board of leading practitioners. For more information or for help in selecting cases suitable for your educational or organizational purposes, please email yaletmknowledgebase@yale.edu.