Have you seen a good play lately?

It is a question at the heart of Next Stage Consulting’s current work with the theatre community through an engagement with the Arts & Science Council (ASC). How can producers and artists in the Charlotte region drive audiences to engage in locally-produced theatre offerings?

Since March 2013, Josh Jacobson has helped to facilitate a strategic planning process in partnership with Ryan Deal, Associate Vice President for Cultural & Community Investment at ASC.  The effort began with a community needs assessment ahead of an effort to convene community leaders to prioritize goals.

The result is a strategic road map, with a priority focus on advancing theatre in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region over the next three years. Key aims of the effort are to dramatically increase the number of individuals experiencing theatre, create a consistent voice advocating on behalf of theatre in the region, and establish a formal system of resource development and sharing to encourage theatre at all levels.

For several years, leaders in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg theatre community have acknowledged a need to convene leading voices to discuss collaborative efforts to advance the sector. Past efforts had resulted in plans that were not implemented, and there was a desire to create a new process that would not only solicit ideas and opinions, but galvanize the community to work together to implement solutions.

Authentic collaboration is a key to advancing a sector that has undergone a difficult period in recent years. In 2005, following a rocky period of financial instability, Charlotte Repertory Theatre closed after nearly 30 years of producing work. Despite a wealth of resources and support for other performing arts institutions (e.g. North Carolina Dance Theatre, Opera Carolina), locally-produced theatre for all audiences has not garnered similar traction in Charlotte in the years since.

The Metro region features a nationally recognized children’s theatre (Children’s Theatre of Charlotte) and a high-quality presenting venue (Blumenthal Performing Arts Center) alongside several theatres with budgets under $1 million (e.g. Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte, Carolina Actors Studio Theatre, Theatre Charlotte) and many independent producers.

Next Steps
An Implementation Steering Committee and task forces have been created to advance efforts in the near-term and work on three-year implementation plans. Everyone involved is committed to seeing this effort succeed, and are rolling up their sleeves to make sure it happens.

According to Josh Jacobson: “Collaboration is never easy, but I am deeply impressed by the participants in this effort and their willingness to work together to create a brighter future. There are some very ambitious concepts that have come out of this process, and seeing them realized is something to which we are all committed.”