Network of Ensemble Theaters (2009)

Network of Ensemble Theaters (2009)

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Small theaters conceptually are fully as complex as large-scale theater organizations, and they face the same array of sophisticated challenges. They often spend all of their resources on art works, and just as often they have little left over for management of finances, human resources, and external relationships. Their artists often have to divert time and talent away from the art works to the minimum necessary level of management work, risking burnout and feelings of dissatisfaction on both fronts. The theaters exist in a continuing state of imbalance between the sophistication of their artistry and the sophistication of their management, limiting the extent to which the artistry can develop further, receive more generous support, and be more widely seen.

This phenomenon is widely recognized across the country. Among other possible solutions, many observers think the concept of a number of theaters sharing management resources holds significant potential advantages, including the ability to devote more dedicated time to management activities, attract more skilled managers, reduce the diversion of artists’ time away from artistic work, and expand each organization’s capacity to define success, plan for its realization, and put questions of sustainability into proper context.

Despite these clear potential advantages, the concept of shared management resources has not been adopted widely. But Network of Ensemble Theaters National Coordinator Mark Valdez thought the time and circumstances might be right for a group of member theaters located in New Orleans to consider the idea. The continuing focus on rebuilding the city after the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina is a receptive environment for new ideas that promise to bring effective results in the effort to solve very difficult problems.

The leaders of four theaters agreed with Valdez to study the idea: John O’Neal and Terry Scott on behalf of Junebug Productions, Kathy Randels and Sean LaRocca on behalf of ArtSpot Productions, Nick Slie and Bruce France on behalf of Mondo Bizarro, and Andrew Larimer on behalf of The NOLA Project. All of these people knew that cooperation among independent organizations is generally difficult, and that the discussions eventually could raise feelings of potential loss of independence and control. But they thought the potential advantages—and the severity of New Orleans’s reconstruction needs—were too important to overlook.

Publication Date: 2010-05-15

Suggested Citation: Martha Jurczak, "Network of Ensemble Theaters (2009)," Yale Theater Management Knowledge Base Case Study #09-28, May 15, 2010

Keywords: New Orleans, Leadership, Organizational Direction, Partnerships, Competition

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

About the Theater Management Knowledge Base

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.