Have You Hugged Your Grant Panelist?

Short post today because I just returned home after serving on a grant review panel for the state arts council.

The deputy director of the council was reminiscing about the days in the not so distant past when the review process for the main grant program took three days. Even though the panelists reviewed the applications in advance, they would spend time reviewing VHS tapes, etc as a group and discussing final thoughts on the grants across those three days.

Now it is possible to review and pre-score the grants online and likewise review videos, recordings, webpages, etc online and in advance as well. The stacks of applications for each grant program are distributed between different groups so that no group of reviewers has to spend more than a day at the arts council offices deciding on final scoring.


It is still a big job to serve on the panels and potential reviewers are busy.

A month ago a colleague told me she had been asked to serve on a panel for another program, but felt some trepidation about having enough time amidst all her other commitments to review the 45 proposals that had been assigned to her group.

There was a member of my panel today whose background and expertise I felt was much needed because it aligned with the non-arts field components found in five of the grant proposals. She also expressed reservations about serving again due to the time commitment required to preview the 45 proposals.

I should note the actual time we spent reviewing the grants today was about 6 hours. That is about an appropriate number of proposals to assign a group to review for a day. But it was also only possible thanks to 25-30 hours of preparation.

The moral of my little story here is to encourage everyone to volunteer to serve on your state arts council (or NEA) grant panels when asked.

Failing that, give your panel participants a hug in thanks.

Heck, definitely give your arts council staff a hug. They vet many multiples of proposals for basic qualifications and prepare them for the grant panels. Not to mention organizing and providing orientations to the panelists in the first place.

Nothing Ambiguous In This Job Description

A job listing for a Program Manager at the Armed Services Arts Partnership came across my social media feed today. I might not have followed the link except that I was curious what type of work the Armed Services Arts Partnership did.

I thought a lot of the job description was particularly well written in terms of being clear about what the expectations would be. The duties clearly reflected the needs of this job rather than having been cut and pasted from a generic description or another organization’s job description.

What really struck me was the “This Role Probably Does Not Make Sense For You If” section. I am not normally inspired by job descriptions, but this one made me wish I had thought to write something that reflected the expectations and culture of my organization so well. (my emphasis)

-You cannot live in the DC Metro Area.

-You are uncomfortable working in a small work environment that involves less structure than a larger organization.

-You are looking for a traditional job with a 40-hour work week.

You are applying to this job because you think our programs are cool, but you haven’t considered the amount of work that goes into developing them.

-You don’t check your emails and deliverables at least three times before sending.

-You are approaching this job viewing veterans as victims to be saved or heroes to be revered, rather than contributors to and leaders of our community.

The “This Role Probably Makes Sense For You” section is longer and more positive. I don’t want to misrepresent the tone of the listing as being negative and exclusionary. I just appreciated that they were able to state their expectations and operational philosophy so well.

Here are some of the “Makes Sense” criteria they listed. I thought they were equally well written. They are just slightly less arresting. If this sounds like the job for you, check it out a bit more:

You are passionate about art education, community arts, performing arts, veterans affairs, mental health, civic engagement, community-building, and/or social entrepreneurship.

You are energized when working in demanding, fast-paced start-up environments where you have the ability to shape the future of an organization and movement.

You are intellectually curious and excited by opportunities to develop new skills.

You view yourself as an entrepreneur, thrive in environments where you have autonomy over your work, and are capable of managing your time effectively and efficiently.

You understand that the behind the scenes work necessary to build, plan, and improve programs is just as important the actual program delivery.

You are excited by the opportunity to lead and foster the growth of a dedicated staff.

Broadway Wrote Their National Anthem And Didn’t Tell Them

It probably isn’t news to anyone these days that popular culture can influence what people perceive to be factual information.  While there is a lot of controversy over the intentional manipulation of information these days, I thought I would offer an amusing story I found about a situation inadvertently created by a Broadway musical 30 plus years ago to provide a little relief.

It seems diplomats have found their patriotism under suspicion thanks to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music.

Perhaps it is because the musical is based upon the real Von Trapp family lending some verisimilitude, but apparently a lot of people thought (and perhaps still do think) that the song “Edelweiss” is the Austrian national anthem.

According to reports of events at the Reagan White House in 1984, the Austrian ambassador mentioned he had been expected to sing a song he barely knew.

Earlier in the day, music seemed to swirl through the luncheon Secretary of State George Shultz gave for the Austrians. And Austria’s ambassador here found out that the tune “Edelweiss” is just as sacred to Americans as apple pie and motherhood.

“There are 200 million Americans who know it’s the Austrian national anthem,” U.S. Trade Representative William E. Brock III told Ambassador Thomas Klestil at the luncheon.

“And whether you like it or not,” Brock teasingly said of the Rodgers and Hammerstein tune that became known to millions through “The Sound of Music,” “it is definitely yours.”

Klestil told about going to a Texas charity function whose theme for the evening was Austria. At one point he said he was invited to join everyone in singing “a beautiful Austrian song, ‘Edelweiss.’ ”

“I didn’t know the words,” Klestil confessed. “I said, ‘It is not an Austrian song, it is a movie song written in Hollywood.’ When I said I didn’t know the words, they were all shocked and they looked at me as if I were not a patriot.”

Just then, Muffet Brock, also registering shock, interrupted to ask: “You mean it isn’t the Austrian national anthem?”

Klestil shook his head, gave what some would have sworn was a polite gulp, looked across the table at Margit Fischer, wife of the Austrian minister of science and research, and began to sing “Edelweiss, Edelweiss . . .”

“You see,” said Klestil watching Fischer’s expressionless face, “here’s the wife of an Austrian government official and she doesn’t know it either.”

I should mention that while there has been a fair bit of conversation and self-examination in the last few years about the way other cultures are depicted in classic plays and musicals, this doesn’t fall squarely in that category. In the musical, the song is represented as piece of shared culture, albeit fictitious, but not the national anthem.

There may be an obligation to debunk erroneous notions like these, if only to prevent embarrassment. However some the belief is likely to persist simply due to the appealing defiance associated with it. Just like the story about Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads will likely never die.

By the way, here is the actual National Anthem of Austria

Live Streaming Broadway Performances, Nigh or Nay?

The “Why Won’t Broadway Livestream/Broadcast” argument has been going on for awhile now but a recent article on Fast Company suggests that time may be drawing near as Netflix’s influence and reach continues to wax.

The article is better written than many that tackle the subject because it acknowledges the objections and resistance to live streaming have a rational basis.

For instance, author Christopher Zara acknowledges there is something lost when a live performance is broadcast.

Theater is special. It’s not meant to be consumed on a screen because it’s fundamentally better than anything you’ll ever see on your computer, or your TV, or even in your local multiplex.


Even at the Tony Awards, which the Broadway League coproduces every year, the season’s best work often doesn’t hold up once it’s televised. “One of our biggest challenges is having the musical numbers on screen come off as great as they do in the theater,” St. Martin says of the awards ceremony.

At the same time, better technology and recording techniques are improving the ability to depict the live experience with greater fidelity.

Zara also mentions the concerns that broadcasts will cannibalize audiences. He cites general concerns of tour producers who fear the road business will diminish. I saw a specific example of this just a week ago where the Chicago Tribune predicted Hamilton would close in Chicago within a year because three performance venues in Wisconsin would be presenting the show.

On the other hand, Zara suggests streaming might help diversify audiences for Broadway shows given that last year ” 77% of ticket buyers were white, and most had an income of over $75,000 a year.”

Another point that often comes up in stories about why more Broadway shows aren’t broadcast is the stubbornness of the unions, all of which want to be paid. The Fast Company positions Broadway League President Charlotte St. Martin against Actors’ Equity Deputy Francis Jue in an obstruction vs. fair pay view of the situation.

Actors are compensated for streaming content via upfront payment and additional profits–a model that dates back to deals used for television. “Additional work requires additional pay,” Jue says. “Our contracts on Broadway are paying us to maintain the show on Broadway, so the additional work of creating new content distributed in a new medium is additional work.”


The League negotiates contracts with 14 different labor unions, and Actors’ Equity is just one of them. Musicians, set designers, choreographers–they all want to get paid, and St. Martin says that can be cost prohibitive for streaming outlets looking to distribute Broadway content. “They’re going to have to make it more affordable,” she says.

I think one key phrase in there is the concept that streaming payment are based on the television model. It is likely that arrangement is no longer relevant or increasingly less so and will change.

Last week in a Huffington Post interview, Anthony Ramos, who originated two roles in Hamilton talked about the lengthy negotiations the cast had to go through to get a share of the earnings.

“On Broadway, we had to negotiate with our producers to share some [earnings]. That was an ongoing process, but everybody came to an agreement,” he told HuffPost. “But we didn’t … the show didn’t financially make any of us rich. It provided for us and helped open doors to create other opportunities that helped us make money. But the show itself didn’t necessarily change my life or most people’s lives in the cast [financially]. The checks we get after that long negotiation for profit share have helped us after.”

Like in any other industry, Ramos believes success in the theater world hinges on an ability to fight for what you feel you deserve.

“People don’t take into consideration that you won’t be in the show forever. You’re doing it eight times a week. You don’t get paid when you get hurt. You have to earn every single dollar,” he said.

When I heard Oskar Eustis speak a couple years ago, I seem to recall he mentioned that providing for the Hamilton actors to share in the earnings right from the development stage was a relatively new thing. I don’t doubt that both Hamilton and live streaming will have great influence on future negotiations and challenge the standard way of doing things.

I will leave you with one of the final paragraphs from Fast Company as an argument about why streaming is probably inevitable:

Consider last season’s Dear Evan Hansen, which took home the Tony for best musical. It became a monster hit with younger audiences not just because of its storyline about an awkward high schooler who becomes a social media sensation, but because teens could discover the music on YouTube, post fan-made videos, and engage with the show in a way that would not have been possible a decade ago.


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