Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Theater Boards - A Delicate Balancing Act - More on Intiman Closing

This week we have seen the closing of another theater - Florida Stage.

Right on the heels of this, we have Brandon Kiley's article in the Seattle Stranger in which he tries to get at the bottom of the Intiman closing, but finds few people willing to go on the record.

He is able to draw some conclusions though:

The board/staff relationship is fundamentally flawed. Boards do too much or too little. They either don't raise enough money to keep an organization going or complain that they don't feel enough sense of participation. Sometimes the board members don't even attend the performances of the organizations they're ostensibly there to oversee and support. (That was a problem at ConWorks and Giant Magnet.)

Sometimes board members try to apply the lessons they've learned in the business world to their arts organization, typically with disastrous results. "The board is there to support us in doing things that don't make sense in the business world," Czaplinski said. "Putting weird art onstage is not going to make you a lot of money, but boards are there to help you do it anyway, because we enjoy it and we value it. And if we have a show with naked people onstage and the public gets riled up about it, it's an opportunity for the board to do some arts advocacy."

"Nonprofits are creatures of market failure, by definition," Linzer concurred. "They're nonprofits. But some board members try to transfer their experience in the corporate boardroom to the nonprofit boardroom, and it's like they went to the wrong boot camp." It's presumed on too many boards that if you're wealthy, you must be smart, and if you're smart, you can tell a theater how it should be more like T-Mobile

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