Annual Conference 2020

In 2020, we ask the question: How can theater become essential to our communities?

We convened Tuesday, May 26 - Friday, May 29. See below for our schedule.

Watch the Welcome video from staff here, and find the Conference Program here.

May 26

3pm EDT / 12pm PDT | We’ve Been Here Before: Theater & Crisis

Best For: Anyone & Everyone!
Theater is no stranger to calamity. From the plagues that devastated Sophocles’s Athens, Shakespeare’s London, and Kushner’s NYC, to the acts of war and economic devastation that upended the whole world at once – the theater has survived, evolved, and thrived through it all. With perspectives from across history, a crack panel of dramaturgs illuminate where we’ve been as an art form – and invite us to consider where we hope to go next. This panel and discussion features Carrie Kaplan, Tanya Palmer, Sally Ollove, Edwin Wong, and moderator Julie Felise Dubiner.

Watch the recorded session here.

4:45pm EDT / 1:45pm PDT | Pitch Session

Best For: Member Theater representatives
The classic NNPN session goes digital! In addition to sharing the new plays and Rolling World Premiere opportunities that we are excited about producing in the future, we will also swap ideas about digital and analog strategies for engaging audiences and artists in the interim.

7pm EDT / 4pm PDT | A Virtual New Play Reading of DIARY OF AN EROTIC LIFE

Best For: Anyone & Everyone!
Inspired by “Earth’s Spirit” & “Pandora’s Box” by Frank Wedekind
Written & Directed by Core Member Artistic Director Olivia Lilley
Devised by The Ensemble: Valeria Rosero, Kate Black Spence, Kenya Ann Hall, Mary Iris Loncto, Caitlin Shantz, Dylan Fahoome, and Chelsea Turner
Stage Directions read by Electra Tremulis
Assistant Directors: Vero Maynez and Alison Thvedt
Dramaturgy by Tanuja Jagernauth
Presented by Core Member Prop Thtr presented by Core Member Prop Thtr

Lulu, a young and ambitious South American woman, graduates from DePaul University, debt free thanks to her investor, Gold Coast native, Caroline. Lulu will not feel the vulnerability ofher immigration status as long as she does not veer from “their plan”. When romance complicates their arrangement, so does race, class, and power. Will Lulu ever find her American dream or will her spirit be crushed by her capitalism-entrenched community? A desecration of Wedekind’s “Lulu” plays, reimagined in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood in 2019.

May 27

3pm EDT / 12pm PDT | Triple Play: Past, Present, Future

Best For: NNPN Member Theater Audience Engagement & Marketing Pros (please note space is limited for this session)
This session will engage participants in participatory conversation about the new take-aways from the Triple Play study uncovered by NNPN Member Theaters and others in the new play sector. Led by Triple Play partners Tory Bailey of Theatre Development Fund and Brad Erickson of Theatre Bay Area, the discussion will ask:

What learning from Triple Play informed your audience engagement effort practices pre-COVID and what efforts were most effective in attracting new audiences and converting occasional theater-goers into new works fans?

What learning from Triple Play is informing your practices now in the midst of the pandemic?

What learning do you imagine bringing forward into your practices as we emerge from the pandemic and how might they assist you in attracting new audiences and deepening engagement once we have reopened our theaters?

In considering these questions, we hope to generate ideas about the audience we imagine for the future-how do we ensure the continued engagement of our traditional audiences, how do we build on engagement with new participants we may be reaching right now as we use technology to reduce barriers and who are the newcomers in the future audience we might want to reach when we reopen our doors?

How to Prepare: Session participants should be familiar with Triple Play, either through past experience and/or by reading the Executive Summary of the full report (available here).

4:45pm EDT / 1:45pm PDT | Social Impact Commons: Reimagining Our Sector: Possible Futures for Your Resource (aka “Business”) Model

Best For: NNPN Member Theater Artistic & Management Leaders (please note space is limited for this session)
This session, presented by Thaddeus Squire and Asta Petkeviciute of Social Impact Commons, focuses on how the rapidly changing landscape, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, is inspiring new thinking in how we gather the resources to do our work. While money is certainly a focus, we will be thinking about resources (or “business model”) more expansively, examining how our approach to organizing personnel, technology, and even audiences themselves may be shifting and what this means for your work moving forward. This session is for both artistic and management team members of theatres. Ideally you should have done some scenario thinking about how the COVID-19 crisis is and will be affecting your work and what you might do to pivot. There is a short (30 min) preparatory exercise to gather some thinking about future scenarios that we ask participants to complete beforehand.

6:30pm EDT / 3:30pm PDT | NNPN Virtual Happy Hour

Best For: Anyone & Everyone!
Because the Networking part of the Network is what makes the Network work! Grab your beverage (and snack) of choice and join this casual hang-out to meet new colleagues, catch up with old friends, and schmooze.

May 28

3pm EDT / 12pm PDT | JCA Arts Marketing: Valuing Art in the Era of COVID-19

Best For: Managing & Marketing Pros
During the time of coronavirus, theatres are not short on plans for online content (for the short-term) and for eventually reopening their doors (for the long-term). A critical piece of these plans is the price of a ticket, which is key to determine both your revenue and your audience’s perception of your art.

In this session, experts Jennifer Sowinski and Jamie Alexander from JCA Arts Marketing will explore how to communicate value and maximize revenue through pricing for online and in-person performances. We’ll review questions such as: How do you price streamed performances and other online offerings, and how do you communicate their value to patrons? How much will audiences be willing to pay for a theatre ticket after reopening? How can you make up lost revenue through pricing?

You’ll come away with basic knowledge of pricing best practices for online and offline content, and ideas for optimizing revenue and value perception through pricing.

4:15pm EDT / 1:15pm PDT | POC Theater-Maker Affinity Space

Designed For: POC Folx in the NNPN Community (includes Affiliated Artists and Ambassadors)
Building on the discussions and ideas generated at the Women of Color Affinity Space last December at Showcase, this session is an opportunity address the status of our Member Theaters and theater-makers of color and what we can create going forward in the wake of this pandemic.

4:15pm EDT / 1:15pm PDT | Anti-Racist Affinity Space for White Theater-Makers

Designed For: White Folx in the NNPN Community (includes Affiliated Artists, Ambassadors, and Partner Organizations)
This session will provide an affinity space for white theater-makers eager to work toward racial justice and equity in the American theater (and the world writ large). This space will allow us to ask tough questions, share experiences and support, and work together to envision what might come next for ourselves and our field as we begin to imagine an anti-racist, post-pandemic world.

May 29

3pm EDT / 12pm PDT | Imagining a “Back to the Theater” campaign

Best For: Artistic, Managing, & Marketing Leaders
In this session, we will start to consider how we are currently engaging and how we will welcome audiences back into our spaces, even though many of our timelines for that return remain uncertain.

We’ll invite participants to take an honest look at who their audiences were, invite them to be curious about who their audiences are now, and to be wildly aspirational about who their audiences can be in the future. As an organization that believes that new plays are vital to our communities because they reflect, chronicle, and question the ideas, issues, and stories of our time, we will also invite participants to consider ways in which new and/or local stories can be a balm to our communities and help bridge the gap between who our audiences were and who we want them to be in the future.

4:15pm EDT / 1:15pm PDT | You Have Everything You Need: Expanding the Depth, Breadth, and Diversity of your Audience

Best For: Anyone & Everyone!
While we must wait until our 2021 Conference to join our friends at the Phoenix Theatre in Indianapolis, there is much to be explored in the work taking place across the city’s arts & cultural sector, particularly as it relates to audience engagement, development, and inclusion. This session will feature a conversation among Tamara Winfrey-Harris, Vice President of Community Leadership and Effective Philanthropy at Central Indiana Community Foundation; Joanna Beatty Taft, Executive Director of the Harrison Center; Reginald Douglas, Associate Artistic Director at Studio Theatre (and NNPN Board Member); and Dr. Charles L. Venable, The Melvin & Bren Simon Director and CEO of Newfields, home to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, The Garden, and the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park.

Each speaker will offer insights into how they leveraged the existing assets of their respective institutions to create value and access for a larger and more diverse segment of their community. Panelists will consider how strategies employed in the visual arts sector can be applied to the theater field, particularly as we strive to spotlight new stories and voices. How might we expand the purpose and utility of our physical spaces, work with artists to address the alienating and divisive forces of cultural gentrification in our surrounding neighborhoods, and reconsider how (and why) we invite diverse artists and audiences into primarily white institutions? And how might this work help our theaters become essential to their communities?

Watch the recording of this conversation here.

8pm EDT / 5pm PDT | Affiliated Artists Playwright Slam

Best For: Anyone & Everyone!
Hosted by NNPN Board Members Lynde Rosario (Denver Center for the Performing Arts) & Liz Engelman (Tofte Lake Center)
Join our Affiliated Artists as they read short selections from their work in this informal, open-mic style event. Inspired by the annual crowd favorite at the Colorado New Play Summit (and a tribute to the beloved Doug Langworthy who championed so many new works during his inspiring and field-altering career), it’s like a sampler platter and speed dating in one!

Watch the recording of the Playwrights Slam here.