Give Guide Nonprofit: Susan Aversa-Orrego, founding member of the new Collaborative Theatre Project.
Rogue Valley Messenger: It seems as if CTP is governed by a group. Is there a process for making group decisions? What challenges to having a group make decisions are there? What advantages?
Susan Aversa-Orrego: CTP is structured so that the artistic board works together to make season plans and programming. It allows us the opportunity to bounce ideas off of like-minded artists so that we can fully vet and decide on the shape of our offerings. We meet weekly and all members are able to propose shows for the upcoming seasons. We discuss costs of productions and how to best leverage our resources. We are a start-up so it’s important to do high quality shows with smaller casts. When there are disagreements, we work to hammer out the best way to proceed. Honestly, the group process is a bit harder, but the rewards are great. We all work to make each show special not only for the audience, but for the directors and casts. We believe there is a great advantage to having opinions presented freely and we know that we support each other fully.
RVM: What attributes or skills do you believe you have to make you a good leader?
SA-O: We are all leaders in this group. Because I have been a business owner, I have more working knowledge of some of the requirements of opening a business, and this theatre is a business with rules to follow and regulations to adhere to. I know that I have a strong artistic background as well and have done a great deal of design and directing which enables me to not only visualize my own productions, but help design for other directors. Others have marketing skill sets and fund raising abilities. All of these combine to make a structure that (hopefully) will get stronger with time.
RVM: Do you believe that it takes different leadership skills to run a successful arts organization as compared to a business?
SA-O: During our initial meetings, we all agreed that the business organization would be the most important element to develop as a foundation for what would come artistically. So I believe that the skill sets are the same for any successful organization. Build a foundation, then decorate with style so you combine substance and style.
RVM: Are there different skills for running the business-side of CTP, as opposed to what makes a good stage director?
SA-O: Organization is key to both the business end and the artistic side. I think that if you have taught yourself to communicate effectively with co-workers or employees, the same communication skills serve the director. The emotional component of theatre, that is to say dealing with actors and designers, does require a bit more delicacy and awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of the other artists. If you neglect or make the performers feel insecure, you don’t achieve the quality you desire. In business, discussions can be a bit more pragmatic. i.e., “do this and this is what will happen to our margins.” That doesn’t apply the same way with performing arts. But both benefit from having a level head and not making harsh or rash decisions.