Are you driving your theatre company into the ground?
The brilliance of leading a community theatre company is that you have a place to let your artistic passions run free. The problem with leading a community theatre is that your artistic passions can become so loud that you cease to hear other voices and begin to believe that you are the only one with a heart for your company or the skills to take it into the future.
Sit down next to me, take a glass of red in your hand and hear me as I gently ‘whisper’ in your ear – “THIS ATTITUDE WILL DRIVE YOUR COMPANY INTO THE GROUND!”
I know that you have a love of local theatre and you’re constantly inspired by it. You love creativity and the idea of an audience responding to your shows is a high the rest of the world will never understand. However being passionate and creative does not necessarily make us good leaders of a community of other passionate and creative people and nowhere is this more obvious than in local community theatre.
As a leader, you’re the one who holds the bucks as they stop at your feet; you’re the one who loses sleep over the lack of ticket sales or a budget that isn’t stretching as far as you need it to; you’re the one who picks up the pieces when someone doesn’t do their job and I applaud you for all that. But I’ve learned something about you. You have the tendency to carry too heavy a load – one you were never meant to carry alone.
You’ve started to believe that no one else cares as much about the future of the company. No one can do what you do as well as you do it, and you may be right, but ask yourself this – are you really enjoying yourself as much as you used to? Are your conversations about your theatre full of inspiration and joy or are they tirades of frustration about how no one else does anything?
Have you noticed that you’re being challenged more and more by new ideas and the thought of change causes you to shut down conversations about the future of the company? This is a sure sign that you’re not leading – you’re protecting.
A community theatre company is full of creative inspiration. People with new ideas and vision for the future. Spending time listening to these people share their plans and ideas is a cure for anything that ails you. They see possibility and hope. Nothing is impossible. But often I see these people shut down and frustrated because they frighten those in charge.
Why be frightened by such inspirational ideas? I have found these reasons often come into play:
Those in charge are overly busy and see change as more work for themselves;
Those in charge have their identity so wrapped up in their position in the company that new ideas are seen as a challenge to their perceived authority;
Those in charge don’t know what they don’t know; and
Those in charge have become comfortable with the status quo and have ‘settled’. Change is going to mean discomfort.
Being a leader in a community theatre company is less about you and more about the people you serve. You started out thinking that way, I know you did. But lately it’s become apparent that your feet are stuck and you’re no longer moving forward. You’re not studying what it means to be a leader of people, you’re not seeking out new ideas and you’re certainly not looking for proactive ways to face all the challenges that come with running the company.
Let me share a secret with you – those people who are presenting new ideas for the company are just like you when you first began. Let them reignite the joy and passion within you. Imagine being part of a brand new life in your theatre company. The feeling of excitement as you step out and take a calculated risk for your future and the exhilaration when you see a new life breathed into what was only recently dying.
You have worked on your own long enough. We appreciate you and everything you have ever done for the company but it’s time:
Time to find new ways of doing things.
Time to release skills in the people around you.
Time to rediscover the joy of your theatre.
Time to share the burden of leadership.
Time to listen to new ideas.
Time to encourage and support new concepts.
If your company is going to survive you have to release it from your fears, knowing that others share your passion and drive and can offer the skills you need.
Sherryl-Lee Secomb is An Idiot On Stage. The Idiot exists to encourage and equip community theatre to expect more and be extraordinary.
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Please share the Idiot with your theatre friends and others you think would enjoy it.