A Theatre ‘Renegade’ at the Helm

A Theatre ‘Renegade’ at the Helm

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Philip Himberg is the Artistic Director of the Sundance Institute Theatre Program and serves on the Board of Directors at Theatre Communications Group. Below is an excerpt from his article published on Arena Stage’s HowlRound blog.

My Fellow Americans [with a passion for new plays],

My ascent to the throne—I mean, the presidency—of Theatre Communications Group was swift, seemingly uncontested, and best of all, unmarred by any bothersome inauguration ceremony. Hence, you were all spared an inaugural address starring me in an ill-fitting Hugo Boss.  At least until now. When Polly Carl asked if I might contribute a perspective to HowlRound – specifically in my role as the new President of the TCG Board of Trustees – it occurred to me that I would have to think profoundly about what it means to lead a new play development institution and at the same time, ‘lead’ the trustees of an Institution that tries mightily to represent the entire spectrum of the American theater. Dramaturg Scott T. Cummings once noted: “Theatre as an art form is already a marginalized fraction of American culture. New play development takes place in a margin of a margin.” So, what, if anything, is it that I might offer the broader field? Can my scribbles in the periphery of our precious world offer any substance, hope?

Let me clarify straight off that it is the extraordinary staff of TCG, lead by Executive Director Teresa Eyring who bear the real weight and concern, and whose successes past, present, and yet to be unveiled, are a testament to concerted outreach, vision, and dedication. In not quite four years, Teresa has introduced a vibrancy, diversity, and inclusion into TCG - the field’s largest umbrella and service organization - that did not exist earlier in the decade. The Los Angeles National Conference last June was filled with scores of new and younger faces, including independent artists and burgeoning young ensembles. Generational and culture diversity were apparent everywhere.

It was only after some self-inflicted Talmudic torment that I accepted the leadership of the TCG board. I did so because I wanted to work closely with the devoted TCG staff, and I suppose, share some essential responsibility in service to the larger American theatrical field: to be charged with some modicum of liability for its health in these unpredictable times...Continue reading.