Recently I talked with a board member from Theatre Communications Group (TCG), of which YPT is a member. The TCG board was reaching out to all its members to find out what’s happening in our organizations and how TCG can better support us. At the end of the conversation came the big question: “Besides fundraising,” (which is assumed right now) “what’s your biggest challenge today?” “Ensuring our relevance,” I said immediately. “What do you mean?”
It’s a critical time for arts education and for live theatre in general. While so many people spend more and more of their time in the virtual world, our work can be more important than ever. To keep us connected, to keep us talking, to keep us alive to one another. When push comes to shove and we’re talking about cuts to school budgets for books, to shelter, food and clothing providers, so many people today, even in nonprofits, will say “well, it’s not like the arts are a human service.” To which I say, and said to the DC City Council last summer “The arts are a human service. They are a human service.” As much as we need to eat, sleep and clothe ourselves to be human, we need to express ourselves. We need to be able to share with our neighbors and the rest of the world what’s bothering us, how others can help us and what we fear or dream of for our future. When we cut off self-expression, when we deny the inherent need to communicate and be heard, we see the frustration and violence that results. We see the school shootings, the fights in the hallway, the teen suicide. We see how social media has again sparked in all of us the itch to be known, to see and be seen, to always be in touch. So as we’re ensuring that critical needs are met in these challenging times, I think we need to consider not only what will get us through the night, through the next month or next couple of years, but also what we want to be, look like and represent when we get through it. What kind of society do we want to have? How do we know what people need if they can’t tell us? And how can we envision our future if we’re not able to dream?