You Try Running a Theater Company Named After a Native Indian Totem

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 After being named Artistic Director of Rattlestick, during these past few months I’ve received a lot of advice from people who know a lot about running a theater and running a board. I want to share some of that advice with you to show the pushes and pulls on someone trying to run a creative organization in NYC.

You've spent many years freelancing and resent many of the practices you've had to endure . So, at first, you will try to change everything about your theater and the theater culture in general. Then, you will realize just how hard it is to change anything. No, impossible. You will fall into a deep despair. And then slowly you will emerge out of your despair and try to change things very slowly, bit by bit.

Write down your top four priorities and check your progress against them everyday.

Sleep. Do not forget to sleep.

What’s the story behind the name Rattlestick? (The questioner listens to me explain that it comes from the name of a Native American totem which feels awful to publicize because we aren’t a Native American company and the name just feels like bad cultural appropriation.) I see. Hmm. Well, you need a better story.

When are you going to get the bathroom off the stage?

Sorry, patrons. There are some things I can change, and others I just can't.

I've written down my strategic priorities and look at them almost every day: 1. produce provocative work in new ways while stabilizing the company’s finances and staff. 2. create development and partnership opportunities to find the strongest material to produce. 3. deepen our audience base and community engagement; and 4. create educational initiatives, and promote our Middle Voice (apprentice company). We've made a lot of progress on each of these priorities. But there's so much more to do. Fix the two squeaky seats. Develop this crazy 12-person musical.

Am I sleeping? Of course not.

I'm still in the market for good advice and ways to improve our theater. Do you know someone who can help us, as a goodwill gesture, redesign our website and do some graphic work? And, more importantly, do you know any creative ways to make sense of the name Rattlestick?

Daniella Topol