|Artistic Director Elizabeth Hunter|
By 2025 I will have led Theatre@First for more than twenty years. It has been one of the greatest joys of my life and I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved together. But it will be time for me to stop and let a new generation of leaders decide the next steps of our journey.
Generational transition is a very delicate time for any organization. My hope is that by June 2024--just three years from now--we will have a plan in place for how Theatre@First will be led after I step down. Ideally a new person or team would take over at that point--or sooner--giving us at least a year in which they can pick my brain and rely on my experience as we transition responsibilities and they develop their own vision for the future. And then I would step back entirely and plan not to work with Theatre@First in any capacity for at least a year, to give the new leadership team the space to make this wonderful place truly their own.
We do not have the luxury of hiring new leadership. We are an all-volunteer organization. We are not a place for people hoping to make a living doing theatre. We are an organization for people who believe that theatre can be an important part of a larger life. Theatre@First is a community. Nothing that I have achieved could have been done without a lot of other people and whoever replaces me will have a lot of people to support them.
No one is going to do the job that I have been doing. “Artistic Director” has always been a bit of a misnomer for my position, although encouraging and developing our productions is at the heart of what I do and why I do it. I also manage our relationships with different rehearsal and performance spaces, maintain our calendars, represent Theatre@First to other organizations and serve as the primary press contact, recruit volunteers, mentor new directors and producers, assist with publicity, serve on reading committees, develop new programming series, participate in workshops, am the primary contact for our props and costume storage, maintain a library of scripts, and this year have done a lot of work toward equity/diversity/inclusion and anti-racist change at Theatre@First. I host meetings and rehearsals in my home and throw fabulous cast parties. I also direct my own shows, every couple of years. It is hard to imagine any one person having the time, interest, space, and skill to do all of those things.
Perhaps one person steps forward to become our Artistic or Managing Director, with their first order of business being to recruit other people to take on other roles I have been filling. Or perhaps a team of two or three people decide that they can do it if they do it together. If you can see yourself as one of these leaders, now would be a good time to start talking about it.
Theatre@First has been a Predominantly White Institution (PWI) from our inception. We have worked, particularly over the past year, to change that. The Black, Indigenous and People of Color who have worked with us say very kind things about the welcome that Theatre@First offers and I believe that our participants would be very excited to be led by BIPOC.
Maybe you’re already working with Theatre@First, or have done in the past. Or maybe you’ve worked with other groups in the Boston area, are ready to lead and don’t have that opportunity where you are. Or perhaps you’ve just always dreamed about having your own theatre company. While participation of our current people will be vital going forward, I also think that we could be ready for some outside perspective. If you are interested, wherever you are coming from, I’d love to talk.
I believe that Theatre@First still has a great deal of potential. I look forward to seeing what it becomes under new leadership. Let’s get that plan in place.