Staging Change: What’s up in Detroit

Next week our EmcArts team will head back to Detroit for the final gathering in our Staging Change | Detroit workshops with a cohort of theatre groups that always delight us with their willingness to upend the status quo. We last left the Motor City in October as the teams prepared to carry out a series of “small experiments with radical intent (SERIs).”

We figured the work must be going pretty well when our friends at The Hinterlands sent us a snapshot from a recent staff meeting — with everyone in costume! The performance company, known for creating genre-defying multidisciplinary works that redefine the relationship between spectator and performer, told us that dressing up as alien creatures was their way of infusing a sense of play into the decidedly dull administrative side of their jobs. That is, after all, what theatre people do best, right?

Funded by the Knight Foundation and the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan, our time in Detroit has provided a unique opportunity for us to work alongside organizations within a single sector. Although we thought competition might be a bit of a roadblock at first, we’ve found the opposite to be true: The teams are quite collaborative and supportive of each another. Kudos to not only The Hinterlands but also to Shakespeare in Detroit, Matrix Theatre Company, Plowshares Theatre Company, Planet Ant Theatre, Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit, Detroit Public Theatre, Carrie Morris Arts Production, Black and Brown Theatre, and A Host of People for their willingness to test innovative new strategies that reflect a seismic shift in fundamental assumptions and current practices. Each team that completes the workshop series will receive a grant of $10,000.

This series of six workshops usually is offered as part of our New Pathways for the Arts program. But not all organizations have the time or financial resources to devote two years to New Pathways. Recognizing the relevance and unique value of this work, we’ve now tailored the shorter set of workshops for groups in cities across the U.S. And every time, we are blown away by how much the participants learn in such a short period of time.

Top of mind for the teams in Detroit is staying relevant and vital performing arts organizations in the rapidly changing nonprofit sector. It’s a unique, complex challenge that requires a radical new vision to frame their future. And that requires the ability to adapt and innovate.

We can’t wait to see what Detroit has in store when we reconvene Dec. 3-4.

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