Contributed by Shay Gines
Every year we hear feedback about the awards, the process, the experience and the other work that we do. We take community response seriously because that feedback helps improve the services that we offer and helps us more effectively reach our goals of creating a greater sense of community and promoting the Off-Off-Broadway/Indie theatre community in New York City.
We get hundreds of requests every year. We collect all of it, discuss it and run it through a filter of key questions: What best serves the community? What is actually possible for our organization to accomplish? What are the ramifications of making these changes, both internally, and for the community at large?
For example, a few years ago we had a request to add an award for puppet design. There is a ton of artistry that goes into creating puppets, and it is one of the most under appreciated design elements in theatre. While there is no doubt there are some amazing puppet designers in our community, the truth of the matter is: there simply are not enough shows incorporating puppetry each year to justify a separate category. We also had a request to add an award for gore. Some of my closet friends in the OOB community are experts in this field and I know firsthand how much work and experimentation and careful attention to detail this type of design requires. And as much as I appreciate that work, it does not justify its own category. The same is true of wig design, and arial rigging, and art installations, and even projection design (although projection design is a very quickly growing field and may very well become a separate award category in time). The designers in these fields often create the most impressive and iconic design elements in a production. So, we asked ourselves how - even though we cannot create separate categories for each - can we still recognize this outstanding work? So we created the Innovative Design Award, a category for all designers that are outside the realm of the traditional theatrical design elements.
The Innovative Design Award was a direct result of feedback from the community. We listened to what was being asked. And instead of saying "nope, we just can't recognize these artists," we came up with the best possible solution that we can offer at this time; a design award category that is as inclusive as possible. We are proud that by adding the Innovative Design category, we have been able to recognize some amazing designers that otherwise wouldn't have been included.
We have also received requests to present awards for readings, workshops, benefits, etc. Again, I know firsthand how much work and finesse can go into producing these types of events. But most of these have only one or two performances, and the logistics of getting judges there are simply too overwhelming for our organization. Not to mention that I personally think that judging a reading or a workshop (works that are in process) could do more harm than good to the production's evolution. This is an example where we listened to the request and decided that based on our limitations (resources and manpower)and the ramifications of what was being requested, we could not do it.
This last summer we were given some directives from our board to make changes to our events. When we announced those changes, the community responded immediately. We listened to that feedback, and in fact, encouraged it. We then took that back to our board, reexamined the intentions of the directives, and found other ways to help us address those same intentions while still taking the community's needs into consideration.
Based on feedback from users, we make hundreds of tweaks and changes to our website every year. And there is a big website redesign currently in the works what will address a number of long-standing issues.
From our very origins, about a decade ago, we have built our organization around the needs of the community, as directly communicated to us by... you. Our mission, our structure, our system of judging, even our name were all greatly influenced, by the many conversations, meetings, town halls, and work groups we held with producers, performers, and audience members of the Off-Off-Broadway community. We count on you to let your voice be heard.
We are constantly growing and evolving. Community feedback is one of the most valued tools that we have in that process. This is why, over the next few weeks, we are actively seeking your input into some very big questions/requests that have been made of our organization.
We will be setting a few ground rules and we are focusing the discussion on some very specific topics. We hope that you will join us for this good-natured yet what is sure to be a spirited conversation.
Here's what to expect over the next 2 weeks:
We know that this is a holiday week and folks might be out of town or not near a computer, so we'll use this week to give you some background about the organization and set the ground rules and then we will hit the ground running on Monday of next week.
After Thanksgiving Weekend
- Organization and System Background
- Ground Rules of the Discussion
- Topic #1 - Eligibility: Price of tickets
- Topic #2 - Eligibility: Budget cap
- Topic #3 - Reviewing/rethinking award categories
- Grab Bag: Any other ideas or suggestions