Meet The Candidates at May Membership Meeting May1,2017
The Nominating Committee would like to announce its slate for the 2017-2018 year.
For Play Selection Committee:
For the Board:
The meet the candidate event will be held during the workshop potion of the May meeting. Nominations from the floor for the Board and PSC can be made at the May and June Membership Mtgs.
Derek Tarson has a long history with Elmwood. Recently, he served on the Board of Directors from 2009 to 2017, and has been Treasurer since 2010. He has served and continues to serve on the Finance Committee since its inception in 2015.
Derek has acted in and directed plays and musicals since high school, and sees theatre extensively – having subscribed to Manhattan Theatre Club, Playwrights Horizons, and numerous local theatres. He also takes theatre vacations to see plays at the Stratford and Shaw Festivals in Ontario. As a result, he has an extensive knowledge of theatre and both classic and contemporary playwrights.
While on the Board, Derek helped formulate the current charge from the Board to the Play Selection Committee, which includes the request for four “commercially viable” shows in the season. The term “commercially viable” is defined, broadly, to include six types of shows that have historically done well financially at Elmwood. While recent committees have complied with the letter of the Charge, it is Derek’s concern that they have not embraced the spirit of the Charge. In other words, the seasons chosen, when listed on a brochure, have not generated the kind of excitement – “Oh, honey, we have to get a subscription!,” which they should have.
If elected, Derek will endeavor to move the Committee in the direction of choosing recognizable shows. This does not mean sacrificing Elmwood’s reputation for “cutting edge” works. (Pillowman was a perfect complement in a season that included “Amadeus” and “Les Miz.”) But, rather, it means finding a way to integrate the cutting edge works with more recognizable shows (as Elmwood did with its 2013-2014 season referenced above).
Vote for Derek to make a change and bring subscribers back to Elmwood!
I have a long history at Elmwood and have been consistently active since 1994. I have acted, danced, choreographed, directed, produced, gathered props, and served on committees. In addition to serving on the Board for the last two years I continue to be in charge of our prop collection and borrowing, as well as our internship program. In my first term I organized the Brick Patio Project, and worked, along with other Elmwood members, on the ARC program – ‘Elmwood and ARC together’ – a truly rewarding experience.
Sometimes I see my first two years on the Board as a “Baptism by Fire” because there is just so much to do. I must admit it was a bit overwhelming, especially in the first year. Finding solutions to the challenges that we face requires listening to others, patience, and the willingness to change course when necessary. I have also learned that each one of us on the Board has a niche – a special talent that we bring to the table – and mine is in working on the day to day operations of Elmwood, which is why I am one of the liaisons to Plant and Operations as well as Membership.
Being a Board member is not an easy job and it is sometimes frustrating, but I will continue to plod ahead, roll up my sleeves, and work for the good of this organization – an organization that serves our community by producing good, quality theatre that offers both entertainment and intellectual challenge.
It’s hard to believe that the two years of my first term have come to an end. I am honored to represent the membership as a board member and your Vice President. Since I’m asking for your vote again, I thought it would be a good time to go back and look at what I’d hoped to accomplish when I ran for the board in 2015.
Grant writing experience
What I wrote: “In my career as a research psychologist and biostatistician, I spend much of my time applying for external funding. My research is funded by grants from federal agencies and private foundations. I believe for Elmwood to continue to thrive, we need to look beyond ticket sales for our financial security.”
What I’ve done: Continued to shepherd the NYS Capital Grant through the complex state approval process. Attended grant opportunity workshops for county and private funding. Registered on the NYS website to pursue additional state funding. Identified a vehicle to potentially fund our ARC collaboration.
What I wrote: “In addition to grant money, there are private resources that we must approach to remain viable. Many residents of the surrounding areas give generously to other arts and charitable organizations, yet they do not know about the wonderful resource in their own back yard. We need to hone our message and develop materials to reach out to them.”
What I’ve done: Became co-liaison of the Finance area. Continued to insist we “dream big” and extend our outreach to solicit fundraising outside of our usual contacts – which is culminating in the big-ticket fundraiser to take place in June, for which I am liaison.
Research design and data collection.
What I wrote: “I would bring my expertise in research to Elmwood, including a proposed reworking of the post-production survey to make the data more usable. We can leverage data on patterns of ticket sales and audience characteristics, to get a better sense of whom we are reaching, what appeals to them, and how we can expand our audiences.”
What I’ve done: Pulled together the past 10 years of sales data, created algorithms to determine the most and least profitable productions, looked at differences by production type, director, time of year, and production costs. Revised the Director Survey to a quantitative format, produced unbiased analytic reports to provide feedback to directors and the Director Development Committee.
In 2015, I also identified two areas that we have been working on as a group: Documentation and Accessibility of materials. As a board, and especially under Steve’s leadership, we continue to put together written guidelines for committees and procedures, and make them available on the website. Having the rules written out creates a level playing field, enhances the ability to recruit and train newcomers, allows existing members to more easily take on new roles, and increases our transparency.
In addition to what I outlined before I was elected, I’ve also made some progress in a few other areas:
Reorganization of Committees
Last year, Kathy Gnazzo and I undertook a substantial reorganization of the committee structure in order to clarify roles and streamline communication. As new board members, we were frustrated by the endless email chains sent to the entire board when they could be handled by a few of us. We decided to cluster related committees into 7 content areas, each headed by 2 board members. The reorganization was enthusiastically adopted nearly a year ago, and we think it’s made a real difference in increasing communication and focusing on the expertise of the non-board members who serve on our committees.
Finance Advisory Committee
The board has created a Finance Committee, an advisory board made up of members with financial expertise. As heads of the Finance area, Derek and I (along with Steve and Jimmy) sit on the committee and bring their recommendations to the rest of the board. This is another example of an area where I believe we need to take advantage of the wide range of expertise of our membership. While the board is ultimately responsible for the decisions, we are stronger when we listen to our members.
Alongside some truly incredible members, I was fortunate to be involved in organizing the first program we offered to ARC members, as well as serving as music director. It was an enormously gratifying experience, and I believe it reminded us how vital it is to honor the “community” in community theater. I’m working with ARC staff to create this year’s program, and looking for sources of funding to support it now and going forward.
Not-for-profit experience. In addition to my work at Elmwood, I am a board member/officer of the Lenrow Fund, a private foundation that gives scholarships to students who might otherwise slip through the cracks due to college financial aid shortfalls. The fund also gives small grants to arts organizations, including theater groups. I am a former board member of the Nursery School of the Nyacks, a cooperative, parent-run preschool, where I served as publicity chair, vice president, and president (2 terms).
I have been fortunate to work at many theaters across the area, but Elmwood has truly been my home. I look forward to the opportunity to continue to serve.
My connection with Elmwood began over 25 years ago when my son was the pianist for several Elmwood musicals, but my love for theater is lifelong. Inevitably, I began to enjoy the Playhouse’s creative efforts myself, by producing ten plays in partnership with my good friend and longtime active Playhouse member Stella Blasenheim, she as Director. It has also been gratifying to have previously served for five years on the Elmwood Board. During that period renovation and fundraising plans were initiated and operational improvements and fiscal procedures were modernized, all with an eye to assuring the theater’s successful future. Then, and now, I believe my experiences working for Nyack Schools as Communications Director/District Clerk for 28 years, being a graduate of Leadership Rockland, and serving on other Rockland Boards, are assets for the Board and will support the theater’s goals. I deeply believe that Elmwood vitally nurtures the arts in the area by offering an important community service; It provides both affordable, quality theatrical productions, and an irreplaceable creative outlet for both performers and backstage staff alike. I would be proud to continue to help it thrive by contributing my strengths and energies to its Board.