Share Your Ideas with Theatre Bay Area


Our adaptive challenge

Because individual membership in our organization is down, Theatre Bay Area (TBA) will effectively communicate the value we provide to the community and build engagement in our work by focusing our messaging on the overall health of the theatre and dance ecosystem. We will also enlist individuals in our community as impassioned participants in our cause and joint owners in our work through the implementation of the public radio model of membership.

Read more about the big thinking, deep questioning, and visions for the future in Theatre Bay Area’s project.

We ask the crowd:

  1. Membership and motivation: What organizations, clubs or groups do you belong to and what has motivated you to join them? (For example, “AAA because of their free towing service,” or “My church because it gives me a sense of community and provides insights for my life.”)
  2. Citizenship and engagement: Are the concepts of “citizenship” and “the common good” in the arts community meaningful to you? How could you imagine a service organization like Theatre Bay Area supporting your arts citizenship and common good?

How will your responses help us move forward in tackling our adaptive challenge?

We will use your responses to these questions to examine field-wide assumptions around memberships and subscriptions and envision how we might recast our membership model. They will also help us think about how we might promote the concept of citizenship in the arts community and engagement with the common good. We also plan to share our findings and our evolving thinking with others, and hope that our work and the ideas that emerge out of this phase will spark a larger conversation among other service organizations across the country.

Share your responses with us (or “up-vote” ideas you like) in the comments section below.


Founded in 1976, Theatre Bay Area is the largest regional theatre service organization in North America, serving theatre artists and companies with programs such as our general and regional auditions, annual conference, granting programs, and career building workshops. TBA builds consensus around the idea that the performing arts are critical to a democratic society.

  • Caroline

    1. I belong to a sailing co-op because without it, I wouldn’t
    be able to sail. In exchange for paying a 3-month membership fee or doing a
    certain number of work hours around the co-op, members get unlimited sailing
    lessons. Once you are able to demonstrate a certain level of proficiency, you
    can then take out boats as often as you want and give lessons yourself. Giving
    lessons counts as work hours, so many members “pay” for their membership by
    giving lessons, which in turn enables the next group of newbies to become
    proficient, continuing the cycle. In addition to providing the boat, which I
    wouldn’t be able to afford on my own, and the means to learn how to sail the
    boat, the co-op provides a fun community. It’s a place where people with a
    shared love often just hang out, sometimes teaching each other new things and
    enjoying each other’s company.

    2. I’m having a hard time understanding this question. Can you explain more what you mean?

    • Theatre Bay Area

      Hi Caroline…Dale Albright, director of field services at Theatre Bay Area here. I can’t help but get more than a little excited about the co-op model that you mention here. In so many ways there are a lot of new (to us) and interesting ways that we could learn from that. I wonder what thoughts you have about how it could relate to the arts community? I have some, but wonder what yours are.
      In regards to question #2, I think what we are trying to get at is: to what degree is contributing to the field at large important to you (contrasted perhaps with a desire to be a better actor, or a desire to get a theatre job for example). Then, if contributing to the field is important to you, in what ways can Theatre Bay Area/an arts service organization help you do that? One way to look at it (and this is just one as there are many ways to look at it) is asking if the advocacy work that an arts service organization can do (to local, state and national leaders) important to you? How important? How do you see your role in that work as a member of the field, if at all? Does that help?

  • I am a life member at the freight and salvage because of the wide range of music. I am a member of gold star because of the great deals and choices.
    I generally join a group because i enjoy being a part.

    • Theatre Bay Area

      Hi, Larry. Dale Albright, director of field services here. I applaud your membership with Freight and Salvage, for what its worth.And you bring up an interesting thing for me that I wonder if you have any thoughts on. I think F&S rocks. I think they are an inspiration in a lot of ways to non profits everywhere and I often attend shows there (maybe we should connect next time we are both there…LOL)…but yet I am not a member. Was there a tipping point for you in deciding to join them when you did? Folks don’t have to be a member to attend their offerings (but I imagine it is a bit cheaper if you are). Was there anything specifically that made you “join”?

  • Wendy W. Gilmore

    1. I am a member of AARP because I’ve reached that tender age (not telling how long ago) after 30+ years in Bay Area Theater. They seem to be addressing the issues that are vital to the over 50 community. One very important issue is ageism; it has crept into all aspects of society and it is only getting more rampant. Especially in the non-profit arts community here in the Bay Area. After been downsized and then replaced by a 20 something right out of school for half my original salary (which was not really very much especially given the Bay Area’s cost of living) I have not been able to get back into my field of choice.

    I also belong to a textile guild which provides a very strong sense of “tribal” unity – something else we don’t have in the Bay Area Performing Arts Scene. We are very good at competing for audience and grants, etc, but not at forming lasting community bonds. Why is that? Not enough money? or time (which is money) to spend on just creative bonding, much less on the creative process? I’ve had to retool and re-frame my need to create, and now I get much more out of textile arts then performing arts.

    2. Perhaps tba could provide more open gatherings with a focus on creative interaction and introspection, rather than on how to ace that next film audition, or how to incorporate high tech into your low tech budget shows. . . . . And perhaps tba could begin to address the ageism and the pathetic “grow the business” attitudes that are now prevailant among non-profit boards of directors. That is what is driving the low salaries and low risk shows that are inundating the Bay Area. The only theater we do now is in the suburbs, and that’s as a hobbyist. So sad.

    • Theatre Bay Area

      Hi Wendy! Dale Albright, director of field services at Theatre Bay Area here. I’m curious what you mean by “creative interaction and introspection”? I have some ideas but wouldn’t want to assume. And I take it, then, that you think these are parts of common good and citizenship? I love to hear in what ways you think so!

  • Anna

    I volunteer at the 826 Michigan branch in Ann Arbor. It gives me the chance to be a teacher, which isn’t something that I get to do in my daily work. In my opinion 826 is successful in creating a volunteer community because the overall mission is compelling, but also because there’s room to be creative with exactly how one contributes. Here’s a video of a talk given by director Amanda Uhle, on the power of harnessing volunteer power:

    • Theatre Bay Area

      TBA assoc editor Laura B. here. This is a great response, Anna, thank you. You’re right! I barely have time to blink sometimes (it feels like) and yet I volunteer for several orgs because I believe in them. We’re hearing a lot that flexible times, choice of task, and sense of how the assignment fits into the overall mission are important. Let us know what other factors make a volunteer task.position meaningful for you! And I’ll be sure to check out that video. Thanks!

  • Arts Lover

    I’m a church member as it is the focal point of this life, in my worldview. It’s spiritual as well as social community. Wevolunteered for many years s a family, teaching kids. My wife was eventually offered a job there and ministered for 11 years before going back to school to become a hospice nurse due to my failing health. I was an electrical engineer, but am now disabled. I am finding the disabled population to be largely underserved by the arts community. I also volunteer in the recovery community. In Goldstar, Theatre Bay Area, AARP and AAA, I find value in products and services offered.

    I believe your organization can demonstrate citizenship in these communities by sponsoring a night of entertainment that brings together like-minded or situated persons in these categories. Group or individual discounts and incorporation of speakers or performers that demonstrate that the arts community commitment, inclusion or financial support of these communities. Perhaps donating a percentage of the evenings proceeds to a group that would resonate with these communities.

    • Theatre Bay Area

      Hi, Arts Lover! Dale Albright, director of field services at TBA here. I really love that you articulate the multiple levels and layers of engagement as a member of your church. And your comments about the disabled community and the arts ring so close to my heart. I could go on and on about this (and participated in a rather lengthy Facebook discussion on the topic not so long ago). When you say “underserved by the arts community here”, do you mean as a patron? As an artist? What do you find to be the barriers? Do you find barriers in Theatre Bay Area as an organization specifically? I think that I have some thoughts as to what you might be thinking/experiencing, but don’t want to assume what your experience is.

  • Caroline

    It sounds like, from Anna’s comment below and my own, that having members contribute through work rather than money could be powerful for TBA. Co-ops build a sense of community because everyone takes some ownership in the organization, rather than paying for a service. I know from having worked in the Bay Area theatre community and now for TBA that a lot of what draws people to the organization is the sense of community that it creates. Having members contribute by helping to carry out the functions of the organization rather than paying money would capitalize on that. In addition, most of our members, who are artists, don’t have a lot of money, and so even if they do believe strongly in our mission, they simply can’t contribute very much monetarily.

    I want to acknowledge that TBA does offer volunteer opportunities, most often as an option in place of an admission fee for events we have such as the Annual Conference or Faces of TBA, and members often do take advantage of these opportunities, which is one reason I believe offering work instead of money in exchange for membership could be successful. What I am proposing is work in place of, or perhaps supplementing, a membership fee–not in exchange for admission to an event.

  • Susannah Wood

    1) I joined a church for spiritual support, guidance and inspiration. I do service projects through church. I also joined an improv company in order to create and learn. I love taking classes in many different things. For community, I rely on talking /meeting with friends. Three times a year, I meet with a small group of women in a reader/writer group. As for TBA, I like hearing what’s going on, opportunities and news in the field. Perhaps more folks might join TBA if there were organized ways to get together and collaborate — create or incubate pieces, share audition monologues, be audience for each other, or other projects tbd. The dues are a factor because we’re all struggling financially.
    2) Theater and the arts create common good by definition. I believe the best way to engage with the common good as artists is to create and/ or share art. How to do this when audiences can’t afford tickets and it’s easier to stay home in front of a computer screen?Perhaps we might start by building community among artists, becoming performers and audience and teachers for each other until ways to reach the rest of society become clearer. Member play reading nights, improv nights,dance nights, painting nights, singing nights, play writing nights.. monologue nights and so on, free or donate what you can.. (I also like the idea of easy ways to volunteer for TBA — a wide variety of tasks, days and times. )

    • Theatre Bay Area

      Hey Susannah! Thanks for commenting! Dale, field service director here. Long time no see. Your bring up some really interesting points for me. It sounds like you are more interested in activities that build community among the artistic community and also give the framework that creating art benefits the common good just by its existence. So am I right in hearing that the benefit of art might only be for its creator/s and that’s ok? …That this creation in and of itself can mean citizenship and common good? I might have some more questions based on that clarity…

      • Susannah Wood

        Hi Dale! I meant it’s a start…artists forming stronger bonds, then inviting others in, bit by bit. Political art? Is it art, advertising, or a lecture when we advocate for global warming prevention directly? GBS did this very well.. I spent years building community through the arts by bringing shows to where people are, i.e. touring audience participation shows to malls, homes, senior centers, libraries, streets, etc.Do we need education to help translate how a story benefits the common good, builds empathy, self knowledge and appreciation for diversity? More random thoughts, I fear.

  • Sheila Devitt

    1) I belong to TBA, TCG, Bay Area Ensembles Consortium, Works by Women SF, all to stay connected & informed in the theatre community, locally & nationally.
    2) I’d love to see Theatre Bay Area host a drama library/book store. Remember when we had Limelight Books? There’s no good library for plays, unless you have access to ACT. Maybe collaborate with regional public libraries to develop their collections, as a start.
    I’d also love to see TBA become a local publisher of plays, beyond the 1 or 2 scripts published in the magazine each year (which is great!). We have so much new work created here, and we should foster it’s dissemination beyond a 2-wk performance run. American Theatre discussed new works in Britain and what makes them successful: one thing was having copies of the new play to sell at the performance, for an affordable price, $5-10.

    • Caroline

      Hi Sheila,

      As someone who works in the editorial department of Theatre Bay Area, it’s good to know that people enjoy having the full-length scripts published in the magazine. I always wondered about that.

      It’s funny that you suggest TBA becoming a library resource for the community, because that’s something we just started talking about in the past couple of weeks. We are moving to a new, slightly larger space on Market Street in about a month, and we are trying to envision how we’d like to use the space. Someone who works here suggested having a space for members of the community to kind of hang out and read scripts. We already have several bookshelves of theatre-related books (not all just scripts; we also have books about marketing for the performing arts, etc.). It’s cool to hear from someone in the community that that is something they would like.

      • Sheila Devitt

        Hi Caroline,

        I love the published scripts in the magazine, please keep ’em coming!

        How can TBA facilitate access to plays for the whole bay area community?
        Hanging out at the TBA office is a nice option, but reading material needs to be available to go. I do most of my play reading over breakfast, while riding public transit, or before bed. I don’t have the luxury of time to spend reading at the library. I’d love to come in to the TBA offices, browse the reading collection, say hi to folks, but then I need to check out the book and take it with me.

        Let’s face it, drama collections in book stores and public libraries are dismal, especially for new work. What if TBA worked with the public library systems of the bay area cities & counties to improve their drama collections? What if that included published scripts of locally-developed plays, like the BOA one-act collections or the Exit WordPress publications?

        What if TBA had a publishing arm that focused on local plays? What if a TBA subscriber could purchase a play script by a local author/theatre ensemble and download it for their Kindle/ipad? (Personally I like an actual paper copy, but that’s just me.)

        Thanks for this conversation!

        • Susan Shay

          I love the idea of a TBA reading room/library with the option to check scripts out. There is huge focus on new work here in the Bay Area & access to these scripts (and of course others) would be a jackpot for theatremakers here.

  • Eric Booth

    I hear increased use of the word “citizenship” by arts and arts education organizations in the past few years. Often (NOT in your case) it use used glibly–that a run out concert to a community setting is good citizenship. I hold the term in high regard, and urge arts organizations to dedicate themselves to the same kind of learning, listening, exploring you would undertake in changing your legal citizenship before using the term in a self-serving way. I think Theatre Bay Area could model what this looks like. They could develop the skills and models of how arts organizations could develop deep partnerships with communities that don’t currently have much connection with them. TBA could show arts organizations how to cultivate new committed relationships that answer the needs and aspirations of a community, not just tweak what the arts organization likes to do and assume good things are happening. I think there is a need for an organization to take the lead in demonstrating what true cultural citizenship looks like, and how to foster such partnerships. We have many arts organizations that do beautiful work with and in a variety of communities, but we don’t have a collective voice for how ALL arts organizations (or at least theaters) can grow into such work as an organic outgrowth of what they currently do.

  • Amanda Grumet

    I am a member of SAG and AEA and of the Teaching Artists Union. These memberships have been precious to me because they involved my ability to earn a living as an artist. Before AEA existed, actors were treated like circus animals and lived entertaining on the road under deplorable conditions. My Teaching Artists Union negotiated frequently with our employer in NYC on my behalf, helping set our fees in all sorts of teaching situations and helping to insure fair treatment for all of us. Since coming to the bay area, joining TBA enabled me to participate in their large auditions and assisted me in immediately becoming part of the theater community. The ATLAS program was extremely helpful for me to connect to fellow colleagues. Perhaps TBA could enhance the networking aspect between fellow artists, hosting mingling social events to build community between theatre people and/or classes or lectures like OneOnOne does in NYC or LA, to introduce local talent to directors, casting people, and writers, playwrights and composers.

    • Theatre Bay Area

      Hey Amanda – TBA assoc editor Laura B here. We love being able to help artists make artistic & career progress; thanks for shouting out that that’s important for you too. Currently our classes are pretty career-focused, and are all part of the ATLAS program you mentioned ( They currently serve directors, actors, & playwrights. What sorts of social events, lectures, and other classes might be appealing?

      • Amanda Grumet

        Mingling nights for actors or people trying to produce one-person shows might be nice. A night for musical theater people, maybe a voiceover event to meet CD’s or producers or advertisers. There was a great SAG workshop recently on setting up your own studio in Oakland. I would love to attend something in that area that is empowering to the artist’s independence. Thanks for asking!

  • Martha Luehrmann

    I belong to
    1. Tuck Alumni because I love my school
    2. Actors Ensemble of Berkeley board because I love the group’s commitment to community theatre
    3. Masquers because I love the group
    4. PoorPlayers board because of their wonderful new plays
    5. Generation Theatre because of their wonderful new plays
    6. Women for Peace because they are a bunch of fantastically wonderful old ladies, and because I want peace

    I think TBA already does its part for the common good by covering the Bay Area theatre scene, and I fully agree with Susannah Wood’s quote below:

    “2) Theater and the arts create common good by definition. I believe the best way to engage with the common good as artists is to create and/ or share art. How to do this when audiences can’t afford tickets and it’s easier to stay home in front of a computer screen?Perhaps we might start by building community among artists, becoming performers and audience and teachers for each other until ways to reach the rest of society become clearer. Member play reading nights, improv nights,dance nights, painting nights, singing nights, play writing nights.. monologue nights and so on, free or donate what you can.. (I also like the idea of easy ways to volunteer for TBA – a wide variety of tasks, days and times. )

    • Theatre Bay Area

      Hi Martha. Thanks for writing! Field services director Dale here. Check out my question to Susannah below and let me know what you think.

  • Caroline

    Hi Laura,

    I think that’s a really great point you make about the common good not being as strong a motivator for individual membership, and I have to say that on a personal level, I feel similarly. As you illustrate with your passion for your co-op, it’s not that people don’t care about good causes.

    It sounds like the co-op might be a good model for TBA to emulate. From the description of your co-op, it seems like that doesn’t even necessarily mean doing away with membership fees, although I’m pretty sure that would be popular.

  • Valerie Weak

    I belong to: the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, TBA, TCG, and AEA – these are all groups that I have paid memberships in. I also am part of a few different smaller groups that are unpaid, and focused on gender parity advocacy in the SF Bay Area region. I joined the SFBC initially because there was a great discount at Rainbow Grocery for SFBC members – that discount no longer exists, but the discounts at other stores on bike related things, the info on advocacy about bike related causes, the lobbying the coalition does on behalf of cyclists, and other perks (like their free bike trailer rentals for members) have kept me as a member – or I should say us because my partner and I have a family membership (not an option currently at TBA). TBA I originally joined because of access to information – auditions and job listings for theaters in the region. TCG I think of as really just a magazine subscription, but they call me a member AEA I joined because I was ready to have someone else do my negotiating for me on a basic level.

    The arts citizenship/common good question sounds to me like it’s related to advocacy efforts and sharing information about advocacy actions we can take. I also like what I’ve read below about TBA moving into a space where they might have a member hangout space for script reading, etc. There are things that have been lost by our community becoming a virtual one. The random connections that are made when we happen to be in the same place at the same time, like used to happen at limelight. There’s also a generational disconnect as those who have more comfort/ease w/technology are zooming forward and leaving the late adaptors in the dust.
    Arts Citzenship and arts common good sound very meaningful – but I’m not sure what they look like beyond increased advocacy, common spaces, and finding new ways to pool and share resources.

  • Ben Cameron

    I belong to the YMCA, mostly because I can access facilities for working out almost anywhere I travel.
    I think the future of the arts lies less in an “arts agenda” than a civic agenda. For TBA to move into this terrain will require a shift of focus from the needs of artists and arts organizations to the needs of audiences. At MIT, I heard someone say “Our job is useful knowledge for solving problems.” If the arts are a way of knowing–as I certainly believe they are–what is the useful knowledge we have, and what’s the problem we are trying to solve? There are a huge number of potential answers–from the extrinsic (economic advantage) to the intrinsic (bringing joy to children’s lives)–but the continual connection to audiences will be key to a sense of citizenship.

  • arlenegoldbard

    It’s funny how people don’t see themselves as “members” of the USA (judging by the 24 prior comments), but that’s what citizenship is: costs and benefits, rights and responsibilities. Most of the people who’ve commented already described memberships in groups from which they derive direct benefit: one belongs to a co-op, likes the food, pays dues, gets a discount; another belongs to an arts organization, enjoys the work, gets a discount; a third belongs to a professional organization, works for common cause with fellow members, advocates for shared interests. Religious organizations are a little different: you get the comfort of shared values and connection to a higher reality, a social network, and the opportunity to join together for the common good.

    There’s a quid pro quo in citizenship too, and (as with a church, mosque, temple, or shul) it’s not just the practical benefits you acquire in return for your taxes. It’s an investment in collective meaning and responsibility that generates one type of belonging. If it’s working, you identify enough to feel some sense of pride in accomplishment and some responsibility to call out whatever fails to live up to stated aims and principles.

    Cultural citizenship means a lot of me in this context. (I write quite a bit about it in my two new books, which you can learn about here:

    It’s not about legal status. Its simplest definition is that in a state of true cultural citizenship, all of us feel at home in our own communities, and all of our contributions are valued and count. If TBA considers itself a steward of local cultural life, with some measure of responsibility for ensuring the conditions that support cultural citizenship, then part of the social good you will do is to assess the fabric of the theater community. What needs strengthening and mending? Whose stories are heard and whose aren’t? What infrastructure exists to enable the flow of cultural information across barriers of race, class, gender, and so on?

    People who study such things say that younger generations are less likely to become formal members, having come up in a context of ad hoc participation rather than affiliation (think as opposed to joining a political organization or party). If that’s true, the “pledge drive” model might get you more money, in that it’s concentrated, dynamic, and has a low participation threshold.

    But however it’s supported, being an advocate for full cultural citizenship is a much more exciting and potentially world-changing role. It also involves noticing more distinctions than are generally observed by arts service organizations: it’s not possible to go on saying “the theater community” any more as if rich and poor were in exactly the same boat. You have to notice that resources are much scarcer for some groups, and those who have the most access to wealth are seldom seen standing to advocate for a different way to slice the pie, a way that equalizes shares.

    This is one of the pervasive weaknesses of arts service organizations in general, that they can’t or won’t call attention to inequities within their ranks. Could you change that and prosper? I don’t know of a group on TBA’s scale who’s tried it, so I can’t say. But I don’t think the word “citizenship” has much meaning unless it entails a commitment to look clearly at such gaps.

  • David Gluck

    I have memberships to the SF Zoo, Exploratorium, and Academy of Sciences — sort of on a rotating basis, one or two at a time — so I have places to take my kids on rainy days. I can’t imagine how that relates to the situation at TBA, but you asked, so there it is. Also, AAA in case my car breaks down. Sometimes we are asked to make charitable donations to things like Greenpeace or ACLU and they couch it in terms of “become a member,” and so we do, although we really just want to be philanthropic. And of course we are members of KQED, because we can’t stand the guilt.

    Re. the common good: it seems to me that if more people could experience the intrinsic benefits of arts participation, that would have a positive effect on civic life. Arts participation stimulates empathy, imagination, and resourcefulness, elements essential to crafting a positive life for oneself, to building strong relationships with others, and to taking public actions which benefit all. To the extent that TBA can facilitate more arts participation, and more diverse arts participation, TBA is contributing to healthy people, healthy relationships, and a healthy society.

    • Theatre Bay Area

      Hey David. Dale here. Thanks for commenting! When you say arts participation, what do you mean by that? Audience? Artist? Audience engagement with artists? So of all of the above? And are there examples or ideas of good models of this that you know of?

  • Michael Fenlason

    Membership driven organizations are challenged in the new normal of our culture in part because Generations X,Y and M prefer looser engagement models that are more authentic. It’s not just membership, but also season tickets. If I lived in the Bay Area, I might join primarily for the comp tickets. TBA does great stuff. How do you create more participatory experiences from membership? What initial benefit can you offer? Looking at this like a salesman, you can’t particualrly start from the idea of membership or citizenship, not with this kind of abstraction. Instead of offering a comp ticket vaguely, maybe update our site with these two specific tickets on a revolving basis. If you want to create a kind of theatre community through your membership-driven organization, you might have to invite prospective members in for free first with public non-membership events and networking opportunities. As we often say in the arts, “First taste is free.”
    We’ve done a few “citizenship” related events both at the Museum and theatre I work for. We held an open audition party where actors could come down, audition and get feedback about their audition from a panel. It was cheap to get in and we sold subscriptions as well. It was a party and a community event. At the Museum, we’re hosting a city-wide program called The Arts Speak where organizations and artists from around Tucson take a day to talk about what’s most important to them (gender equality, food justice, environmental, border issues). In some ways, it’s not about citizenship is about civic engagement. Where is our tribe? Our home? Our voice?

  • Guest

    I’m hearing the word “civic” a lot (“civic engagement”–@michaelfenlason:disqus, “civic agenda”–@9c06af84b0aa47bac879b9ef004c618b:disqus, “civic life”–@davidgluck:disqus ).

    Can someone explain a little more what they mean? I know the dictionary definition of the word, but I don’t entirely understand how it’s being used here.

  • Guest

    I’m hearing the word “civic” a lot here (@9c06af84b0aa47bac879b9ef004c618b:disqus , @michaelfenlason:disqus , @davidgluck:disqus ).

    Can someone explain a little more what they mean? I know the dictionary definition of the word, but I don’t entirely understand how it’s being used here.

  • Vonn Scott Bair

    1. I belong to a lot of arts organizations, food & wine lovers groups, writing clubs and Meetup groups. Depending upon the group, the benefits have included good people, learning, career development, shared arts experiences, et cetera. And of course I’m also a citizen of San Francisco, California, USA.

    2a. The concepts of “citizenship” and “the common good” do mean something to me as an artist, but my problem with the second question is that everyone will have their own definition of what they mean and the definitions might conflict. Who gets to decide what is “the common good,” anyway? In my experience, the underlying message I have heard consists of “what’s good for me?” For example, A lot of playwrights complain of a lack of opportunities “out there” while performers complain about the lack of roles for a certain type. It seems to me that what they really say is “Why aren’t there more opportunities for me?”

    2b. As far as citizenship goes, to me that largely means supporting other artists by seeing their shows and contributing the occasional financial support for arts groups. Now that I think upon this, it seems rather limited, and I look forward to reading what others post and perhaps getting a few good ideas from them.

    • Theatre Bay Area

      Hi Vonn! Dale here. Thanks for writing. I too am looking forward to hearing more posts and hope that we can really get into the citizenship part of this discussion. What did you think of Arlene’s post above?

      • Vonn Scott Bair

        Good Evening: Her post has proven more than worthy of reading, it’s worthy of rereading. One interesting question consists of citizenship in a smaller community vs. citizenship within a greater community that contains the smaller one. In the political world, I’ve noticed some small communities whose members think of themselves only as members of that small community and not as members of the American community as a whole, Westboro Baptist constituting an extreme example. If we, the “citizens” of the theater community, want to make some sort of contribution to the world, some sort of “stain upon the silence” (Beckett), then to what extent should we act as citizens of our smaller community and to what extent should we act as citizens of our greater community?

  • Renu

    I belong to a few organizations but wish I could belong to many more because they are a vehicle to be involved in the community and to care for the community and the self. The term Lonely American is getting more and more accurate because people are not mixing in the communities.
    1) Gurdwara or church
    2) PTAs
    3) Neighborhood Association
    4) Parent of kids in Boy Scouts
    5) Children’s Theatre

    The serious disadvantage of not being involved is that the voice of the people is not heard. An example is that Palo Alto City Council have been proceeding with a decision to rezone Maybell/Clemo neighborhood to high density with serious traffic implications for student bikers who use that stretch despite vehement opposition from the neighborhood. The neighborhood association is gathering grass roots efforts to oppose this and we are realizing that the organizations we trust to represent us have no understanding of our issues and basically don’t give a damn. The neighborhood is understanding how important it is to elect the right people and be represented.

    The theaters can portray the issues and the struggles of the community in many different forms and help the community.

  • Aaron Murphy

    Membership & Motivation:

    1) YMCA – because it meets long term personal health needs in an atmosphere that resists many of the gym-hype aspects I dislike (loud music, over-hyped aesthetics)

    2) CityCarShare – because they meet needs of basic transportation, sharing of resources, and smart thinking.

    3) Public Libraries – again, pooling of resources, as well as education.

    Citizenship & engagement:

    1) I see theater as providing the intimate platform for experiencing what is best, matters most in human experience, mediating personal and communal needs. Theater puts this right there in front of people. When something happens in the theater and it is real, we all, for a moment, experience the truth.

    2) TBA is a like the router for a computer network, without shared resources and information, the all of us most work harder and in silos of less information.

    3) If TBA did not exist, the bay area theater community would be building it.

    4) Drama is an ethical experience. We cannot witness human behavior without empathy, sympathy, and judgement engendered. What is the “common good”? The ethical development of the individual who make up the society.

  • Piper

    You have asked us to describe our current memberships and why we joined them, but I I think it is just as relevant to consider our informal “memberships” to get at the heart of what drives us towards such commitments. Membership is just that: commitment. When we offer memberships and subscriptions, we are asking our constituents to make some sort of commitment to us, and we to them in return. To analyze this two-way commitment and understand how to apply it in our own organizations, we should also think outside of identifiable membership or subscription situations to those where people make a commitment to a service or organization without formalizing it. For example, there is no such thing as a membership at my local farmer’s market, restaurants or stores, but I choose to return to the same places repeatedly, which feels like a form of membership. Even though there are many convenient options in my neighborhood, I return to the same places because the product I pay for is great (value for my dollar) and because the staff is enthusiastic and knowledgeable (trusted service providers) and they genuinely seem to be interested in my presence (personal relationship). They ask me how my dog is, they make suggestions about new products based on my feedback, they share neighborhood gossip, and they suggest new places in the neighborhood (and, boy, do I take their recommendations seriously!). Even though our relationship is not formal, I visit these businesses more often and, subsequently, give them more of my money than I do with my formal memberships.

    Then my thoughts turn to my formal memberships, which include a car-share service, a gym, two museums, and a few home entertainment services like Netflix. With the exception of the museums, all of my memberships are requirements of service – I can’t attend my gym on a per-visit basis, my only option is to join as a member. Even though these memberships are mandatory for any level of participation, I enjoy incredible flexibility, which is key. Being a member reminds me to use the service or attend the museum frequently, but I am always in control of when and how often I do so. I feel I should also point out that I have memberships at two museums, but I have no theatre susbcriptions even though I work in and attend theatre more often. The museum memberships simply offer me a variety and flexibilty that I can’t get at a single performing arts company. The one theatre organization that I attend frequently does not have any sort of membership or subscription, but they make me feel more “welcome” and at home than any formal subscription I have ever purchased, and I have no obligation to attend on a particular schedule.

    This brings me back to the initial concept of “membership.” What is its purpose? Is it financial, and if so, does the financial arrangement favor the organization or the constituent? Is it a spiritual/communal membership, and, if so, how do we offer that? Being nonprofit cultural organizations, most of us offer memberships and subscriptions to provide a secure financial base for ourselves – but what happens if we step back from that need for a moment to consider what our patron’s NEED in order to feel like a member of a community?

    • Lily Janiak

      Piper, you echo many of my sentiments about defining “membership.” Membership doesn’t always require an application or a card; many of my most valued “memberships” have no official validation whatsoever. I completely relate to what you say about flexibility and feeling welcome. I too go out of my way (sometimes, far, far out of my way!) to patronize businesses that make me feel special. Is there something Theatre Bay Area could be doing to make our members feel more special?

  • Anthony Williams

    I’m currently a member of a few groups. I am a company member of Playground and BrickaBrack. They both provide great benefits to their members, the number one being an artistic outlet. I don’t always have time to do a full production, but as a company member of Playground I can sometimes do a staged reading or see my fellow company members in great productions for free or low rates. It also creates a sense of comradarie and community to run into someone and know that they are also a part of your company. I’m a new member of BrickaBrack, but we provide support to each other and push each other to be better. And of course I have AAA because they emergencies happen and it’s worth the annual rate to know that if I’m stranded, someone can help me out. Like others I also belong to local libraries because they provide resources at little cost.

    “The common good” is meaningful in the arts community. I’m not so sure about “citizenship.” Sure we are citizens of the arts communities, but what does that mean and how do we all connect when there are so many of us? I think TBA does a lot for the common good, though. TBA’s articles and presence act as a common ground for artists in the theatre community and reinforce a healthy working environment. I care a lot about the community and it seems that TBA does too, by talking about tough subjects and offering benefits to it’s members. I haven’t been a member for about a year due to financial reasons, but I am in support of TBA and it’s push toward the common good. I think the bay area is huge, obviously not as big as NY or other markets, but still huge. And even so, I am always only one or two degrees of separation from many people within the community, and I think that is a great thing.

  • Karina MW

    I belong to the Park Slope Food COOP where I paid a $25 one-time membership fee and a $100 investment that I will get back when I leave, and where I am required to work 2.5 hours every month for groceries that are 30% to 70% cheaper than at a typical grocery store.

    The COOP has very strict rules about membership. If you miss you shift, you have to do two makeup shifts (5 hours of work). If you miss two shifts in a row you owe 4 make up shifts (10 hours of work), etc. It can compound very quickly if you’re not careful. Also, there is no way to pay your way out of your work commitment. COOP members with higher personal income more cannot exempt themselves from showing up to be a cashier, stock the shelves, package spices, or any of the other jobs that members complete.

    While I was initially intimated by the commitment, I’ve been surprised that putting in the hours, doing the work, and knowing that everyone shopping beside me is expected to do the same has bound me tighter to the COOP and its community. During our training, the person leading it said something like “When you spill bulk rice on the floor (ruining it), you’re not wasting something that belongs to “the store”, you’re wasting something that belong to you and the person shopping next to you.” I haven’t forget that and I take more care shopping in the COOP that I do anywhere else. Every apple is my apple to watch out for. I can only image what our world would look like if we all had that same sense of shared ownership and carefulness.

    The COOP has 15,000 active members that provide 75% of the labor required by the store, which is why the cost of the super high quality organic groceries is so low. Ultimately, the benefit at the end of the day is cash saved. The price = time spent. Then, why is it that in so many every other circumstance I’ll throw a little extra money at something rather spend 2.5 hours of my time? I’m still figuring that out, but it does have something to do with shared values, an equitable community, and high quality product.

    • Theatre Bay Area

      Hi Karina! Dale Albright, field services director at TBA here. “Shared values, equitable community and high quality product”, huh? Hmmm…sounds like theatre to me, right? At least that’s what we strive for…
      It’s so interesting that COOPs have come up a lot in these discussions. These conversations are so illuminating as we look forward. Love to think that we can really find ways to activate the field in a much similar way.

  • Nell Edgington

    I would caution you that the public radio model of membership is not terribly innovative or effective. In fact, most public broadcasting entities are suffering similar membership declines. You might take a step back and think about what your end goal is. It sounds like it is to increase individual dollars flowing to the organization. Is membership the right way to do that? Does “membership” mean what it used to back in the height of public broadcasting’s success? Do people really want to be members anymore? I don’t know.

    I think the innovative model is to use social media to identify and empower people to tap into their networks to build support for your work. Beth Kanter talks about this at length (The Networked Nonprofit). In creating an army of “free agents” as she calls them you are allowing people to (in their own individual ways) not only give you their support, but more importantly, connect you to the support of their broad networks. In so doing, you can exponentially grow an army of supporters, advocates, volunteers. So that at the end of the day you have much, much more than an increase in the number of members.

    • Lily Janiak

      Thanks for adding Kanter’s and your ideas to the conversation, Nell. Do you have any favorite examples of Networked Nonprofits?

      • Nell Edgington

        Lily, I think the American Red Cross is probably the best example of this. They have absolutely transformed how they do business, how they raise support and how they get their work done by becoming a Networked Nonprofit.

        • Lily Janiak

          Thanks again for alerting me to this work, Nell. My coworker here at TBA had a copy, and I’ve been looking through it over my lunch breaks. Much so far has been illuminating — they’re the kind of ideas that make you think, “This should be an obvious idea, not an illuminating idea, yet here I am marveling at what should be self-evident!” Like this one: “Networked nonprofits know that relationships are the result of all the interactions and conversations they have with their networks. They are comfortable doing their work transparently. It makes them open to serendipity and new ideas.” Boom!

          Thanks again.

          • Nell Edgington

            Yes, I really think Beth’s book is pretty seminal for the field. You should also check out the follow up to it, Measuring the Networked Nonprofit. Good luck!

  • Kathleen Gaines

    My memberships are all in the arts or environment, in large part to echo the concept of the common good. They are organizations in which I participate. I enjoy such benefits admission discounts, special member events, and reciprocity with other organizations.

    My memberships, almost all local, include:
    SFMOMA: lifelong member and museum visitor

    di Rosa: love the place, used to work there

    TBA, cause I’m a theater nut

    Lark Theater & CA Film Institute: best movie theaters in Marin

    MALT: a leader in public lands and sustainable agriculture

    Mono Lake Committee: family connection

    NRDC: important national environmental and climate change advocate

    I wish I had specific new ideas for TBA. I enjoy feeling connected to the theater community I love.

  • PatrickMonkRn

    Greetings and congratulations on your survival. I think before ‘we’ look into our future ‘we’ should always check to make sure we remember our history. I have not seen any mention of Quenelle Minet in any of your info. I was one of about a dozen people who responded to her call and sprawled around in the attic of her beautiful Noe Valley Victorian discussing what we could do to help ‘little theatre’ in the city. From those first few meetings “CALLBOARD” emerged and TCCBA [Theatre Communicatios Center of Bay Area] was born. Cut and paste had a very different meaning back then. Layouts and pasteups were done, stencils were cut, and the mimeo-machine cranked out the latest issue, originally everything was done at Quenelle’s. Subsequently we had various ‘offices’, I think it was at the one on Powell Street that we first developed the discount ticket program.
    Anyway, thanks Quenelle, wherever you are, just see how your baby has grown up.
    Patrick Monk.RN. Noe Valley. SF. Ca.

  • Jerry Metzker

    I belong to several clubs and organizations, including a Christian church (Lutheran), the Artists Development Lab, a small foundation board and the Non-Profit Roundtable of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce. Each connects to my many interests, but all have one common theme — being a part of and sharing myself and skills with my community.

    Yes, as I already noted, being a good neighbor is important to me. We all share this universe, galaxy, solar system, planet, hemisphere, country, state and region. Supporting, talking to, taking care of each other is paramount.

  • Susan E. Evans

    TBA – I am an active member of the Bay Area theatre community (both as an individual and for my theatre company) and have been for many years. I have relied on TBA for info about auditions (both posting and receiving) , venues, and sundry opportunities as well as just seeing what’s out there.
    SDC – I joined to be linked up to the larger directing community and have access to opportunities around the country and share advice and stories with fellow professionals.

    “arts citizenship” and
    “the common good” – what do these really mean? Such broad and lofty terms. Can Theatre Bay Area engage with its members for the purpose of simply beginning a discussion about meaning and practical application?
    Susan E. Evans

  • Mary-Margaret Dale

    I belong to Theatre Communications Group for access to its resources, primarily for American Theatre magazine. The information in the publication feeds my curiosity of what is going on in the greater world of theatre, beyond just my area and the US and info I read online. I eagerly look forward to spending several hours with each issue every month.
    Theatre organizations have a responsibility to educate and inform our communities. They have traditionally tackled tough issues and this will continue. Organizations such as TBA play a huge role in supporting artists, theatres and administrators so that they can continue to do their jobs to serve the community. I think TBA also plays a important role in making theatre affordable for the community at large. Progarms such as Free Night of Theatre, the Tixs booth and other programs to reach new audiences are super important to extend reach.

  • Jen Norris

    I think of myself as a member of communities as well as organizations. Some I join to find fellowship and folks with similar needs and priorities, some I join for the advocacy work they do to help something I care about flourish, some I belong to by virtue of the location of my home or the frequency of an activity that is meaningful for me. I want these communities and organizations to thrive and to make sure they do I invest my time, energy and money in them.

    -Child’s school & friend community
    -LGBT community
    -Open adoption community
    -Rhythm and Motion dance community
    -Bernal Heights
    -Arts Advocates & Appreciates

    -International Association of Venue Managers
    -Girl Scouts
    -Our Family Coalition
    -Adoption Connection
    – Friends of the Library
    -Bernal Heights Neighborhood Association
    -California State Parks Association
    -SF Symphony
    -Americans for the Arts
    -Marine’s Memorial Theatre
    -New Conservatory Theatre Center

    As I make my list I realize that some of the organizations like New Conservatory Theatre touch on numerous interests of mine including: LGBT advocacy, theatre
    education, youth tolerance curriculum and theater. Organizations which intersect multiple communities to which I belong are likely to get the greatest investment of
    time, energy and money from me.

  • Belinda Taylor

    I belong to AAA, the Berkeley Y, TBA, Playwrights Foundation, Dramatists Guild, a chimp rescue organization, probably more for two primary reasons : 1. I receive direct services or 2. My values align with the work of the organization. In the case of TBA it’s both. TBA has a strong values statement that reflects my valuing of art and ideas. I want to live in a community where brilliant theatre, museums, music, dance, and culture exist and are supported. TBA often speaks of the ecology of Bay Area theatre, and TBAs role in supporting its many constituent parts. Keep it up! Recognize that you already enrich community life through direct services to theatre and theatre workers. Plus the discount ticketing program is a boon to audiences. A final word of caution: beware of mission drift and keep in mind what you already espouse, that theatre is an essential public good.

  • Carolyn Power

    I’m a member of SAG, a professional organization that has protected both my safety and income for many years. I am also a member of our local museums and even one abroad because of member benefits. I am a member of Costco because of product discounts. I am a member of a Jewish congregation because my husband is Jewish. And I am a member of the public library and several other libraries because I love research, books and words.

    Finally, I am a member of TBA because of the sense of community & citizenship that is fostered by constant Bay Area theatre news and information through the website, magazine and professional events. As a result, I absolutely see TBA as a proponent both of community & citizenship. I can imagine TBA supporting my fledgling theatre company simply by doing more of what you are already doing: more networking, more opportunities to connect with other small theatre companies. Perhaps forming a collective of freelance theatre professionals who strive for more work through contacts all the time. I’m not sure how this would work, but it’s a thought.

  • Susan Shay

    1. Professional:

    TBA (individual & company), AEA, The Noel Coward Society, Yeah I Said Feminist, Union Women Actors’ Coalition & a small group of theatremakers who meet monthly

    I am a part of these organizations for many reasons, among them: a sense of community with other members, job search/safety, networking, open discourse, to keep abreast of the happenings around town, to learn about new opportunities in my field….to connect, in every sense of the word.

    My church, a playgroup with my children, a mothers’ group in SF (GGMG – several thousand members), my child’s school community, alumni associations for my high school & university, alumni association for my university theatre troupe

    These groups are a part of who I am, shape my sense of community and represent where I spend my time outside of work – some are for networking, information sharing, some are just social.

    2. I would love to see TBA as more of a “center” for the community. I have been engaged and excited by moments at TBA events such as the annual conference b/c I am in the same room/same discussion with so many other artists/theatremakers in our community. In our virtual world, it happens less often, but there is nothing like the power of presence (which is why live theatre is a different animal than film, television, etc.). In person events take so much work, but it is worth all of your efforts to bring us together in one room.

    Absent of a large (& inexpensive) facility to serve as a salon/library/community center, continued engagement with all the variety in our community – from the street performers to the LORTs – is what I want/need from TBA.TBA is a link from our community of artists to the greater community of the Bay Area – children who have not been exposed to performing arts, citizens who think touring shows are the only thing around, the opera lover who hasn’t yet discovered the beauty in spoken word poetry…we need TBA to advocate for us as part of the San Francisco/Bay Area essential cultural landscape.

    A footnote on the idea of arts citizenship/membership/community…

    Last Monday (on the heels of weekend 1 of the Playwrights Foundation festival), I received 3 invites to staged readings – I couldn’t attend any of them as I was acting in a separate reading of my own. I have been bummed to not be able to make it to readings of new work happening around town the last few weeks – it seems that they happen in bunches and I can only be at one (or none). I would love to have access (as a TBA member) to a calendar specifically for new play developmental readings – that way, if I am scheduling something in my space or with a playwright/director team we know what else is going on that may pull actors/audience/etc. from our reading. New work is a huge part of the Bay Area theatre experience and it seems like we should work as a community to avoid conflicting schedules when possible.