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Most recent posts:

Nov16

Ronia Holmes

Because it isn’t central to your mission. Period.

I hear you harrumphing as mission/vision/values/beliefs and goals statements are dragged out. Sure, your organization has been around for a century or more and these statements about your commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion are barely older than the Gen-Z unpaid intern managing the Facebook account, but still, these statements are proof that your organization is committed to community.

No, they’re not. So put them down, and let’s #RealTalk about communities, new audiences, the past, and the future.


Posted November 16, 2016







Nov02

The need to deepen relationships with current stakeholders and build relationships with new audiences is a compelling question for us at Forklift Danceworks. When we are asked this question, we often answer with a question: Who loves Elvis?

In 2007, Forklift’s Artistic Director Allison Orr choreographed The King & I—not the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, but an evening-length, contemporary dance performance work to address her curiosity, “Just what does Elvis Presley have to do with you and me, anyway?” In making the work, Allison knew she needed to find a way to get input and inspiration from the Elvis community. She sought out to find, “Who loves Elvis?”

Meeting the dedicated Elvis tribute artists and hearing stories from fans, Allison decided to loosely structure the performance of The King & I on Elvis’ last concert. Thinking even more about the fans who love Elvis (who also love to get together to talk about their love for Elvis!), she decided to perform the dance over three weekends around the 30th anniversary of Elvis’ death. Through collecting stories about Elvis’ life and work, performances of his songs and of course, choreography that included his iconic moves, this show with three professional dancers and five Elvis Tribute Artists was really a collaboration with many others, with inspiration and input from the Elvis-loving community.

In the years since The King & I, we have choreographed dances for trash collectors and their vehicles, electric utility workers and their equipment, forestry technicians and a heritage pecan tree, and baseball players and a historic field. The key to the success of each project has been asking, “Who loves Elvis--or recycling, or electricity, or trees, or baseball?” and finding the community that already has a stake in the dance we are making and inviting them to join us in the creative process.


Posted November 2, 2016







Oct26

Barry Hughson

A few months ago, I attended the dress rehearsal for “Dreamers Ever Leave You”.  It was a transformational artistic and human experience. 

At the National Ballet of Canada, we have two choreographic associates, Guillaume Cote and Robert Binet.  Unlike a resident choreographer post, which is often filled with high profile, well established choreographers, our choreographic associates are young, emerging choreographers.  Artistic Director Karen Kain created these positions in an effort to nurture a new generation of dance makers, and specifically Canadian dance makers.  These talented young artists bring their ideas to Karen, and she provides the platform, dancers, and collaborators required for them to explore and shape their ideas and hone their craft.

Robert Binet approached Karen a year ago about a new idea.  Inspired by the work of Canadian artist Lawren Harris, Robert had created a solo that he now wanted to expand on.  The Art Gallery of Ontario, one of Canada’s most prestigious and respected arts institutions, was to present a major exhibition of Harris’s work.  Curated by the American actor and musician Steve Martin, the exhibition seemed an interesting opportunity to explore a collaboration between the National Ballet and the AGO, and a perfect platform to develop Robert’s idea.  We convened meetings with AGO officials, who enthusiastically embraced the idea.  Budgets were developed, Robert’s ideas further shaped with input from key collaborators from both institutions, and the spark of an idea became the transformational experience.


Posted October 26, 2016







Oct19

I serve as a theater director, producer, writer, and, in the past, actor. My artistic collaborators and I vigorously pursue artistic excellence every day. Often, community engagement and artistic excellence are framed in opposition to one another. For me, it is the very pursuit of artistic excellence that drives my self-interest to develop and deepen relationships with current stakeholders and new communities.


A play or musical, regardless of when or where it is set, also lives in relationship with the time and place it is being produced and thus community engagement is essential to artistic excellence.


Consensus Organizing for Theater (CO)

I practice an artistic methodology called Consensus Organizing for Theater (CO)*, through which an arts organization deliberately builds stake in multiple pockets of communities and those communities deliberately build stake back in the art or organization by surfacing and organizing around mutual self-interest.


Posted October 19, 2016







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