The Indiana Repertory Theatre’s Summer Marketing Intern, Hayden Thomas, sat down with IRT’s Associate Artistic Director, Ben Hanna, to discuss his experience as a presenter at Theatre Communications Group’s 2018 conference in St. Louis.
How long have you been at the IRT and what specifically do you do as Associate Artistic Director?
I’ve just finished my first season so I have been at the IRT for 10 months now. I work with many departments, but I primarily collaborate with Janet Allen, our Executive Artistic Director, to help produce the highest quality work on our stages. I manage our season casting both locally and out-of-town. I guide and support our education and community programs. I also act as a line producer or connector between visiting artists and our organization.
I am also a director and this upcoming season I will be directing the Indy holiday favorite, A Christmas Carol and in January the musical Elephant & Piggie’s “We are in a Play!” by the delightful children’s book author Mo Willems.
What is TCG and what was your involvement with the conference?
TCG stands for Theatre Communications Group. IRT is just one of hundreds of non-profit theatres who belong to this service organization whose mission is to strengthen, nurture, and promote the professional not-for-profit American theatre. Over the last ten years I have attended many of their annual conferences. I started going when I led a program for young theatre leaders in Berkeley and continue to go to stay connected to the national theatre community. I most recently received a grant through the Andrew W. Mellon foundation and administered by TCG where I participated in extensive theatre leadership training over 18 months.
At the annual conference theatre folks talk about issues in the field as well as hear from exemplary thought leaders. IRT was invited to participate on a panel about neurodiversity in the American theatre. This past season we cast Mickey Rowe as the first American actor on the autism spectrum to play Christopher in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. We also talked about how instrumental it is to broaden access to our art by having sensory-friendly performances for people on the autism spectrum. This upcoming season three of our productions will have dedicated sensory-friendly performances: A Christmas Carol, The Diary of Anne Frank, and Elephant & Piggie’s “We Are in a Play!”
Did you see any familiar faces there or create any new valuable connections?
I saw so many dear friends and artists from across the country that I love. One of the best parts about the TCG annual conference is being introduced by your colleagues to new artists and collaborators. I met actors, directors, playwrights, administrators, designers – so many folks from so many disciplines!
Was there any inspiration you found from this conference?
I was inspired by some of the deep Equity, Diversity and Inclusion practices that theatres are undertaking across the country. This conference provides an opportunity for you to gather in an affinity space with people who are dealing with some of the same kinds of problems that you come against every day in your job. You get a chance to discuss those issues and hear how your colleagues have found solutions in their markets.
With each new inspiration I thought about the great work that IRT does and how to incorporate these learnings as we continue to plan for next season.
What do you look most forward to for the 2018–2019 season?
I am thrilled to be directing two shows this season! As an audience member, I am eager to see Pipeline by the incredible playwright Dominique Morriseau. As a white educator having worked with teachers in broken systems and watching black and brown students be discarded by the institutions built to protect and nurture them, I think it is an important and powerful work. And I get to wrestle with A Christmas Carol! I'm also excited to continue meeting IRT patrons and hearing their stories. I could go on and on and on—I'm excited about so many things!
The IRT produces top-quality, professional theatre that engages, surprises, challenges and entertains people throughout their lifetimes, helping to build a vital and vibrant community.
Marketing Communications Manager
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