Panel Discussion: The Ins and Outs of Touring
Hello, everyone! Welcome, welcome! We are going to give a few minutes before we get started, but I wanted to just let everyone know as you're getting settled. This session is being recorded. It will be featured on A.R.T/New York's Youtube page. Only the folks who are spotlighted which will include our panelists as well as our interpreters, will be seen on the recording. So whether or not you have your camera on is optional.
But do know that if you come on Mic and speak, that will be in the recording. And so if you don't want to be on the recording you're welcome to engage via the chat function captions are available for this session. You can access those using the CC button at the bottom of your screen. Again we will have a conversation for about the first hour of our time together, and hold some space for a Q&A session. Near the end. in that Q&A session, you are welcome to again ask your questions via the chat. If you would prefer not to be on the recording or you're welcome to use the raise hand feature, and we can call on you and spotlight you, and you can ask your question on camera, and be part of the recording if that's what you would prefer So when we get to the Q&A section later, you will have those options. Either the raise hand feature, asking your question in the chat, whichever you would prefer. My colleague, Nicky, is here offering technical support. If you need anything, they have dropped something in the chat about the captions.
So if you needed additional technical support, you're welcome to private chat, Nicky, Nicky, I want to ask if you also, when you have a moment, could remind folks via the chat function that they're options for that this is being recorded and that their options for asking questions are either to ask them in the chat, or to use the raise hand feature so that we can call on them and include them in the recording. If That's what they would prefer again we won't get to the Q&A Section until later. So there's plenty of time but I just want to make sure that's included in the chat as well, All right. It looks like we are gathering, gathering, and there will be more joining us.
So I'm going to go ahead and kick us off here, welcome everyone to A.R.T/New York's panel about the Ins and Outs of Touring My name is David Shane. My pronouns are he/him/his. I am the senior manager of programs here at A.R.T/New York. I am a white man in my 30s with brown somewhat spiky hair and a short brown beard. Today i'm wearing a purple sweater and a white collared shirt, and i'm sitting in a space with some windows to my right and lovely sunlight coming through those windows some white walls behind me. I am actually recording this today from the lobby of the A.R.T/New York theaters as you know for those of you who signed up for this panel Today's panel is being recorded. So hello to everyone who's watching. the recording after the fact for those of you here in the room you will not be featured on the recording,
unless you are spotlighted. And so, if you would like to ask a question on camera, you can use the raise hand feature and we'll spotlight you so that you can ask your question. Live to the panelists if you would prefer not to be a part of the recording. You were welcome to ask your question via the chat, and we'll read it out for our panelists so that they can respond to your questions then. We're going to start with introductions, and then about 15 min or so of a moderated discussion, and then we'll hold space at the end for about 20 to 25 min of Q&A from from the group. If you have questions that come up as we're going through, and you want to drop those questions in the chat.
You're welcome to just in case you want to make sure you don't forget, but we probably will hold most of those questions for the Q&A portion at the end before I ask our panels to introduce themselves. I'm going to take just a moment to offer up a land acknowledgment, and I invite you to join me in acknowledging that wherever we are located on Turtle Island, otherwise known as North America. we are on occupied territory A.R.T/New York's membership in the 5 boroughs of New York City operates on the unseated ancestral land of the Lenape, Wappinger, Canarsie, Rockaway, and Matinecock communities. I want to honor and celebrate all of these indigenous communities. Their elders, past and present,
as well as future generations. I also want to take this time to acknowledge that after there was stolen land, there were stolen people. I want to honor the generations of displaced and enslaved people that built and continue to build the country that we occupy today. And since we are gathered today in a virtual space,
let's also take a moment to consider the legacies of colonization embedded within the technologies structures and ways of thinking we use everyday. We are using equipment and high-speed Internet not available in many indigenous communities. Even the technologies that are central to much of the art that we make leave significant carbon footprints contributing to changing climates, that disproportionately affect indigenous peoples worldwide. I invite you to join me in acknowledging all of this, as well as our shared responsibility, to make a good of this time, and for each of us to consider our roles in reconciliation decolonization, anti-racism, and allyship.
Thank you for taking that moment with me. Thank you also to Adrienne Wong of SpiderWebShow in Ontario, Canada, who is the author sort of the second half of that acknowledgement specifically around virtual space. Nicky is dropping into the chat some links so you can learn more about the land that you may be occupying, and also a link to our friends at TCG for some resources about some native lead justice movements that you might want to look into supporting. So thank you for taking that moment with me. Okay, I am going to turn it over to our illustrious panelists and ask them to introduce themselves.
And so i'm just gonna go in the order that i'm seeing them on my screen. So first up I will invite Deadria to introduce yourself. Awesome. Hi, folks! My name is Deadria Harrington.
She her hers. I am one of the producing artistic leaders at the Movement Theater Company. I am a light-skinned black woman with a short brown Afro, and I am wearing a light pink sweatshirt with some little pearls on it as well as a black and white polka-dotted colored shirt. I am in a tan room with a couple of light brown doors behind, and to the side of me, and to give a little context.
I'm coming into the space today to really talk about my experience at the Movement, and when touring happens to you and what it's like being a small and mighty theatre company partnering with larger institutions and regional houses. Thank you. Michelle Preston. Hello, everyone! My name is Michelle Preston, i'm the Executive Director of SITI Company. I use she her pronouns I am a white woman with short brown and blonde hair, and wearing a black scoop, neck sweater, and I have my background blurred. But you can kind of tell i'm in an office it's a little yellowish. The SITI company is an ensemble theater. company who tours both domestically and internationally.
we're about 30 years old. And I come to this- we work with a booking agent. However, some of the relationships with presenters are stewarded by us. Largely I don't go on tour but sometimes I do, and i'm certainly the person that they all call it 3am when there's an emergency, so I can talk about a wide range of aspects of touring. Once you're to the level of doing it quite a bit which is how we earn most of our revenue. We self-produce very rarely, and tour quite a bit.
Thank you, Carlos My name's Carlo Adinolfi. I'm the Co-Artistic Director of Concrete Temple Theatre and i'm a white man in my sixties gray hair, red sweater, black reading glasses on the wall behind me, there's old paintings from Italy and there's a wolf rod puppet my pronouns are he/him/his Concrete Temple Theater is a multidisciplinary company. We tour internationally and nationally and I guess we're very small, and I suppose I go on tour with all the shows I perform in many of them. Most of what I can offer is how we get gigs and then how we turn those gigs into tours Oh, my pronouns are he/him/his Thanks Carlos and Michelle.
Hi, everybody, I'm Michelle Coe she/her/hers are my pronouns. I work with Urban Bush Women. We are a contemporary dance company based in brooklyn been around for inching up toward 40 years. Very proud to be part of the organization. i've been here for about 4 and 1/2. Almost 5 years, and I'm the Director of Touring and Booking I'm a white woman in my-will say early Middle Ages I have chin length hair dyed burgundy brown i'm wearing a floral top, and a black jacket, also sitting in front of a large 35 film reel in front of a gray lavender wall.
let me think. Oh, my role here at Urban Bush Women is really to prospect and reach out to presenters. So it's sales. it's also negotiating contracts and fees, and what happens. And then working closely with our artistic and production teams to advance the engagement, and I don't go on the road, but vicariously and also occasionally take calls at 3am That everything? Think that's everything. Thank you so much I'm thrilled to have all of you here, and as you know we've shared in advance some questions for you to think about.
That I hope will guide a really interesting conversation So let's start at the beginning. My first question for you as a group is: Where do you go about finding touring opportunities? Where do you find venues or partners? Talk to me a little bit about the beginning of that process. And i'm going to ask Carlos to start us off. but everyone, please be thinking about how you might want to respond to this question of how do you go about finding venues and partners at the start of planning a touring process. We generally got our gigs by getting a gig in a festival then building from that. That's been our sort of in so- I can give you a link it's critical-stages.org and that's one of many potential places.
You can find lists of all the festivals in the world, and then, you know, apply Now the festivals don't pay much money. In fact, they often just pay a small fee and it's nothing like enough money to cover the cost of getting to the country. What we've done is use the festival but the people who run the festival they know everybody in the country. They're well connected that's how they manage to be a festival organizer. They know people in other countries nearby they're very connected, and what we done is, we've called the State Department. The Embassy or the Council at the nearest Embassy Consulate just persistently kept calling and calling until we could talk to somebody at the State Department, and in that country. And it's actually paid off usually what happened is they will then if they are interested they'll think about booking us regionally in that country, and they'll put together a tour and they'll pay for travel and they'll pay for shipping. They they pay for accommodation they don't pay the us very much.
They pay like $200 a day to each artist which is very nominal, but it but everything's covered, you know. They get us from A to B. they make sure everything runs really smoothly, and these people are total pros, and I mean they are! And the amazing thing is they really want to serve underserved communities. They'll take us to you know women's colleges. They'll take us to disabled communities where you know it's like literally. We went to work with puppeteers who were disabled. It was amazing!
You know- they specifically want to try and get us to be doing things at places where people aren't wouldn't normally have seen these shows so it's amazing that way there's the difference between the actual American representative there who's the cultural attache They only have that for 2 years, and so the rotation is so fast that they barely know the job before they've left. or know the country before they've left but there's a professional and there was a local person and that's their job to organize everything and sort of keep a continuity going, and that those people are unbelievable I mean they book everything and connect everything. And we know that They keep a file on your company, and they refer to that file, and they write reports so make sure you've done your homework and you really know your cultural stuff about the country you're going into and that you you know it all. It all pays off. Be good to work with. be easy to work with.
So those are the main points I have. I can answer questions about that. As things go, Carl, could you tell us a few of the countries that you have toured to? Where? Oh, yeah, we've been we toured in India and the State Department. We've got one gig in a festival and that end up being a tour of over India. and then they hooked us up to Sri Lanka. So that was incredible. Then we've gone to Costa Rica that
we didn't use state from there. Italy. and then, even in Italy, we just we just invited the consulate, and they came and that meant a big thing, to our hosts, you know, just to have them come even though they didn't pay any money to us. You know it was just important. South Korea and we're building on that to actually be able to tour regionally. We're actually training puppeteers in South Korea on the show right now and make China work in that region. Turkey, Bulgaria. We left the show. We left all the set in Turkey,
and then shipped it over to Bulgaria. And yeah, so Incredible! Thank you. So we've heard about you know sort of the international stage through state departments.
Deadria! You were saying beforehand that your experience for touring- you are coming to the touring is quite different. So I wonder if you would like to share? How does it come about for you and the Movement Theater Company? Yeah. So for us it really came, you know, with our with our production of "What to send up when it goes down" by Aleshea Harris directed by Whitney White in 2018 you know we really worked to just invite as many folks to come to the show as possible. And then we're kind of spread so then folks
were coming into town to see the piece I think we also it was a bit of a serendipitous moment, as well. It was right at the time where a lot of regional theaters were getting the sort of changing of the guard. These new artistic directors, who were really looking to make a really strong statement with what they wanted to program on their stages. And so Maria Goyanes at Wooly Mammoth She came knew our work as a company from before and got really jazz and really excited about it.
And then folks from a bunch of other regional theaters came, folks from ART, and also folks here in New York you know, playwrights horizons, and Maria really, you know, championed us bringing "what to send up" to Wooly Mammoth, and then really looked at. how can we financially make this tour happen? So then we started building a relationships with the folks over at ART with the folks here in or here in New York, at the public, as well to work together to finance the sort of the remounting and then the touring of the show. and so it's definitely a moment when the touring kind of happened to us, and then then figuring out the details, and I shared this with the panel earlier. It's so Serendipitous when all of this started happening for us at the movement.
Michelle is one of the people that I reached out to to be like "HELP" They're asking me for these numbers and I don't know what it's going to cost to move this stuff. Will we even have it by the time they figure out their tour?" And so so reaching out to colleagues who have a lot of experiences always, always always key. Then i'm gonna follow your lead and i'm going to reach out now to Michelle Preston and ask you, Michelle, to tell us a little bit about SITI Company's touring. How that comes about for you. And then also, if you want to speak a little bit to what Deadria is talking about here, the the putting together of those numbers. Well, how does that start? Absolutely So you know when SITI company was a was a brand new company They did everything that Carlos' company is doing right.
They went to a lot of festivals. It took nearly no money for anything. They got paid very little, but they were all about being on the road and getting the work out there, and at a certain point the ensemble made the decision that they were not going to keep doing that that they wanted to be paid a real living wage to be able to do that work. And so that meant they had to start saying no to gigs, or to start really aggressively negotiating. I've been at SITI Company since 2012 so it's really just maybe a third of their overall history of of touring, and for us, like we, have a booking agent. And and they have their relationships. But SITI company itself also has built a lot of relationships with university presenters over the course of 30 years . and so sometimes gigs are coming to us through the booking agent. Sometimes they're coming to us through those relationships and sometimes it's a multi-year conversation.
It is very much like donor Stewardship is is the same as presenter stewardship to me. So we APAP is the big booking conference in New York City. I always go to APAP, not as a registered like conference member, but I just schedule meetings with people and and presenters and people.
We've had relationships with because they're gonna be in New York. And so i'm like, Hey, you want to have coffee you want to have a drink. You want to have lunch. Sometimes Anne comes with me. Sometimes one of the other Co. Artistic directors comes with me, and my first question to them, or comment is never like, Here are the things on my roster to tour It's what are you doing? What are you programming for your season? What are you thinking about? What are you trying to get your audiences exposed to? And then they tell me what they're looking for and then I haven't been the back of my head my roster of pieces or productions that we're touring or things that we want to build in the next couple of years. And we're looking for commissioning partners for and I sort of actively curate that list as I listen to them.
And sometimes the answer is, I don't have anything for your audiences right now, or I don't have anything that you are gonna be interested in right now. But let's keep talking. Okay. So I go into that meeting, and I sort of have a round budget number a fee for each one of those things on my target hit list but one of the the things that is really important is that your budget, like anything else, is kind of flexible. So you know it costs a lot more to fly to California and
ship things to California from New York than it does to ship it to Ohio. And so, while I start off with the oh, this is the standard weekly fee, or this is the standard schedule. Once you get into a deep conversation with a presenter you're i'm really working with our booking agent to customize those numbers for that tour as much as possible. So we can really get to a place where the presenter gets the amount of engagement and the amount of time that they want, and they need from us that we get an amount of money that allows us to pay for our costs and pay our artists and make sure that nobody is is too stressed out or trying to do too many things in one day. And then, you know, building a fair amount of contingency to Figure out what you don't know, because my staff likes to joke. I live in the future- I'm talking about things 2 or 3 years out So when you're building a budget now for something that's gonna happen in 3 years, you don't know what oil prices are gonna be. You don't know what shipping costs
are gonna be. You really don't know what flights are going to be. So you're making a lot of educated guesses. Signing on the dotted line for something, maybe a year plus in advance, and then hoping that you've built enough contingency in that budget to have wiggle room to deal with a whatever crisis happens and there will always be a crisis, and the scale of the crisis will be different.
Thank you, Michelle. I will come back to crisis management shortly. trust believe. I want to go next to Michelle Coe. and asks you, Michelle, how does it start for you and Urban Bush Women? So prospecting for me when I first started with the organization, I did a lot of research just on urban bush women's extensive history, and where we've been and sort of made a concise list of you know where have we been. And who can we go back to presenters like to allow a lot of breathing room between the last time an artist has been has been to their venue even like 2 seasons, is sometimes too soon so just kind of being aware of when we were last there, because that's often a question that I get i'm like "Oh, when did we last have you?" so kind of having that on the brain is super helpful Also understanding the work. Excuse me because knowing what kind of venue we actually want to go to. If if it's just sort of a like- we like to say "lights and tights" concert dance performance, or if it's, maybe we're currently now doing a more site-specific work some of our other works are more dance theater, and they like to move around to different rooms, and in a venue. So I'm, looking for venues who might look for something interesting and an unconventional experience for their audiences.
it's kind of hard to tell especially now, if you go on our websites to do the research because of covid a lot of people haven't been doing a lot of typical season programming, but doing that research not only kind of looking at where you've been, but where you would like to go what cities you would like to go. Do you have an anchor days, maybe one venue that's kind of excited about having you Can you do a tour in the South for example, so let me research different venues in the South when it comes to dance there? Probably aren't that many venues in America unfortunately anymore that really do present dance. If somebody presents a nutcracker i'm probably not even gonna bother. But if they have other kinds of artists that are maybe similar to urban bush women,
I might go there. I might also look to see if they have a theater or dance department sometimes. That's like a backdoor entry to a performance. Sometimes departments will present our artists and have them in residence, so that is also an approach. I usually I go to APAP I also go to the regional booking conferences. Wait there's maybe one left arts midwest There used to be PAE- performing arts exchange, which is no longer But there are some other regional events There's the NPN national performance network. Conference which is really great. it's very artist-driven, really great experimental dance and theater
the opportunities I'm trying to think of what else you know what i also look at. So in the dance world we have the National Dance Project. I think you have the National Theater Project as well for theater. Looking at the list of artists who have been funded, and who their partners are. Those are also like Oh, that person supports the kind of work that I do. it's also a question of not only your project, but like, who gets you? What do you think is going to get you And where do you want to be? And what kind of experience do you want to provide and sort of making educated guesses and doing that initial outreach? I'm trying to think that's probably like the basic the the bunk of what I do for prospecting and then I make a list, and I just start sort of sending out e-blasts- hopefully designed with visuals- I just kind of send out an E blast with a personal note that goes out unmask to everybody.
But then I send out personal notes to target people that I want to talk to and then make follow-up calls from there. You were, see what I get, and as michelle said it could take years. It's a really tough marketplace a lot of venues have relationships with artists that they promised or wanted to bring them for years. So you kind of have to get in the queue but you know it's it's it's a great relationship to have right, and maybe you can build on doing Master class go to campus if it's a college-based presenter. Could you go teach a class one year maybe in a couple of seasons? You'll be able to get your company there to cultivate relationships and audiences.
I think i'm going on a while. Oh, that's brilliant, thank you I want to just call out some resources that have been offered in the chat. But several of you have mentioned APAP- association of performing arts professionals (APAP365.org) We've also seen some suggestions in the Chat for Arts Midwest and Western Arts Alliance also regional booking conferences to be aware of NDP and NTP grants are run by the New England foundation for the arts. So those are some other resources that are happening in the chat and if you're watching at home invite you to to check those out as well.
Was somebody going to hop in? It sounded like somebody maybe was going to add something. Michelle? Yeah, yeah, I was just gonna you know, back up what Michelle Coe was saying. You know there are some presenters that really are interested in new work, so they want to hear about the project before it's real, and there are fewer and fewer of them these days. But they will sort of provide you with the Residency. The extra weeks to sort of build the thing to work with them so that they can get that like world premiere.
That's important to them, and then there are other presenters who like want to see it. They want to see it premiered. they want to show up at the theater, and they want to really look at it before they're going to be willing to book it, and it you know it takes all of them so finding your your presenter who's really gonna back you and sort of support that development. Time is is the key. it's. the lynch pin to making everything else work,
or at least it is for us in our operating model at SITI company. Thank you. So we've talked a little bit about the the need to plan ahead. Both Michelle Preston and Michelle Coe have have mentioned that sometimes the booking happens so far in advance that you need to be in the queue, and you need to be building relationships over the long term and we've also talked about what are the numbers that we need to put together. So i'm gonna dig in a little bit more to the numbers here and pose this question to the group which is, what are some key budget lines that you find are really important to include, to think about to build extra contingency for any of those things.
I just really want to think a little bit about. What are those integral budget lines when you're planning for touring a production, And i'll invite any of you who want to respond to that to go ahead i'll just say the obvious ones air travel, local travel, shipping accommodation per diem, Artist fees, and then a company fee. those are the the obvious ones, And something like like Michelle was saying. You have to kind of try and project,
and like well, it could be, you know, a flight to Korea could be $1,500- It could be $2,000, and you know a year from now so you're trying to go off what current prices. But you want to definitely add a contingency. One of the things that we often ask for in terms of our US presenters is what booking agents like to say fee plus plus. So that is, we ask for a fee plus that they pay for the our local housing plus.
They pay for our local transport on site, I saw put in my budget. The transport transport costs for the artist to take a cab to the to the airport and to take a cab home from the airport in New York or wherever their local is But then you know if we're going to Pittsburgh, or if we're going to Cincinnati, I'm asking the presenters as a starting place to stay. You pay for the hotel. You pay for my local travel, which means if the hotel isn't walking distance to the theater that you arranged the shuttle bus every day, and you work with us to set that schedule.
Sometimes they can't do that and it comes back to us and I I put that into my customized budget, but that's the the plus plus that you'll hear booking agents talk about For us, I think more specifically or most importantly, for us, what we learned is being really specific to who are your artists And what do they need? So something that a lot of our partners weren't didn't quite weren't quite aware of was that you're dealing with a cast of all black actors- There needs to be a be a line item for for hair, and hair upkeep. And you know barber shop visits and you know getting braids done, and the time that that takes so there's that. And then, I think also the support. you know for us we were remounting the show like a year after it had closed, and we weren't in a position to actually store any of the items.
And so in nothing was, was confirmed yet by the time that the show closed. So also making sure that your partners that you're budgeting for any additional help that your artists are going to need really thinking about your lighting designers if you're going to be stopping at multiple venues, so that they have funds so they can hire an assistant to do drafting for them with your costume designers. I think, for us as well. There have been long gaps in between the presentations of the tour. Right? We did a we did 3 stops in 2019, and then we had a pandemic break, and then didn't do the show again until 2021 and so being mindful of the fact, that actors as bodies are going to change and that the costume Design is going to have to, you know, move with that. So making sure that there's money set aside that we can be really responsive to just how we are humans and our bodies change. So I think those are 3 specific things that I that I learned in my experience with touring Yeah, budget-wise I definitely do the the fee plus plus although it's really interesting, because more and more. Now, I think, after covid and staffing shortages, at venues, we're being asked to rent cars and do it ourselves,
which you know presents its own interesting situation, because how many then, how big is your company and then how many drivers meaning company members who are willing to drive, how many are comfortable doing that? And if they're not how do you kind of figure that out so I always try to budget, Add something in there for a rental cars. i'm just in case sometimes, and I don't put this in the fee But I keep it in the back of my mind, and an extra person for teaching because, you know, they like to presenters love to have the kind of the artist there, and like to pile on the activities. But I think, was it, Michelle? You know you were talking about the exhaustion factor of the performers, so we want to keep that in mind. We want to honor. You know what what the presenter wants to do with us as a company, but we also want to be human, right, and and not pile on too much to the company members.
So sometimes I just kind of have that in mind like. Well, if you want that sixth activity we might need to bring somebody in and here would be the cost for that Sometimes it works out. And sometimes they say, Well, no, it's okay or you know you have to be creative, Right? How can we kind of give them what they want? Can we combine activities? Could we have one group of kids come to this other thing? Could we do an open rehearsal, and just let them come in and watch us, and say how, and answer a few questions and kind of connects in that way? And a way that's different. but satisfies everybody yeah, those are kind of the yeah, and the travel is always shock and a half. Now I think, just because of flights that you budget for are just now, you know, expensive like we say so, having the contingency is a great idea and a must. I would also say, and this is this isn't part of our fee. but I've worked with artists in the past
who they don't have the budget really to if it's a if it's a runout meaning like it's a it's a tour stop in the middle of nothing really like you were talking about the gaps right? If there are a lot of gaps, are you gonna be able to rehearse and have the the work ready? Is the company gonna be ready. So if it's you know 2 months in between. What kind of rehearsal time do you need and then how do you subsidize that If you can't sort of put some of it into the fee, and maybe some of the other folks can the panelists can kind of share how they handle that but that's always a thing to timing and gaps, and making sure everybody's comfortable and ready. Michelle Coe you bring up such a great point also. You know what happens when you have to do put-ins when somebody is not available. And I think you know for us, especially with the show, like "what to send up" which is so much about building an ensemble and us really learning that it takes more time than you think on the page the piece looks like its simple, and that there's no set, but like there's so much work and so much ensemble building that has to happen to make sure that the the presenters and our partners really know what it takes to get the piece in it. So physical to get the piece back up to
where it needs to be to be performed. So it's such a great. Yeah absolutely- like Michelle said. When SITI company is is touring, and there's a presenter who wants a lot of master classes. or Suzuki and viewpoints training we will often say, look that's an additional fee and I need to send somebody else. It's really easy if it's it's a week long run, or it's a week log engagement, and I have free performances, You know the actors are really happy to do engagement activities on day 2 and performance, 2 and 3, because we're no longer teching or rehearsing right But if it's one night only it's too short for our actors to be able to tech to put the piece back up to get on stage, and to also do a bunch of workshops, even though they would love to like they really want to like be a part of the communities that we're going into They don't like to just go to the hotel and go to the theater and go to the hotels and go to the airport. Like they really want to engage. but if it's too super short you just can't We definitely start with a weekly rate for a presenter that builds in some some pickup rehearsal times. And then, once we actually get into the conversation of dates, we look at what are the other tours of the other engagements around it? Do we really need it? because it's a lot easier to reduce your fee in conversation with the presenter than to add money to it.
So we start by having a little bit of pickup rehearsal time built in. I also wanted to touch on a really good point that Deadria brought up around production, elements and crew, and what you need. One of the essential pieces of your booking conversations with Presenters is your writer. So you're technical writers so being able to to put into writing.
What are your lighting needs? What are your costume needs? What are your scenic needs? What are your hospitality needs? For that given show. What sort of personnel do you need to expect from the presenter? and what sort of personnel are you bringing? What are you shipping? Is it 5 cases, 5 road cases worth of things? Is it a suitcase? Is there no set? Are you bringing? You know, your lighting designer and your sound designer? But you need a board opp and a sound engineer there being able to Give that to them early on, and also see what the technical specs of the theater are, and have your technical team or your production manager. Look at that like you got to make sure that you all are on the same page. On what is their space, and what are your needs? and does the production even fit? Or is the space huge, and your production needs a really small footprint.
and you're suddenly in an 1,800 seat Opera House, and it's gonna look wrong like you want to have that conversation early. You know It's sort of like dating and so then that allows you to sort of build into your fee the production elements that you know you're gonna have to take care of are there consumables that you need to replace every show like. Do you need to eat 10 apples on stage? Every show like that consumables in your budget. You know costume cleaning is always in your budget, because you always got to clean those costumes. But you know building new costumes may be in your budget.
If the piece hasn't toured for a while or you know that it's It's been a wide range of time, or you may always put a little bit of costume purchase money in there just in case you have to recast somebody as a backup that might be a place for for contingency support, but in a very specific line Item way, There are a couple of great comments in the chat that I want to just bring forward. One is "for my company, we are also thinking about things like child care stipends/reimbursement. It's another could be really key line item." and then another one that is related to international touring that I'm not sure Carlos if you have had experience with this someone suggested adding a line for conversion rates and giving local money to artists. Is that something that you've encountered or had to think about in your process? Well, yes, I mean you kind of but it's it's usually it's the conversion rate around 3%, That's so it's not a big factor but yes you want to figure it in- people need to use local money. So we have but it's not a it's not a huge amount.
But in international touring as a US company though you want to think about: do you need visas? Is your presenting partner or your festival helping you manage that process or not? And what are the costs of those visas you know some are very inexpensive. Some aren't, some are very time-consuming some aren't and of course COVID- which countries are gonna let you in right now? Do you have to quarantine. And then coming back, at present you have to get tested to come back to the US. For anyone watching this recording. It is March- March 14th, 2022- so if you're watching this. After this fact this may have changed. It is pi day.
Yes, great point, though. Thank you very much. Something else I heard coming up in conversation that multiple people touched on was the idea of artists need artist care. I mean, I think it first came up Michelle Preston used the word stress. and so at first I thought to myself. Oh, the question is, how do you manage stress of the artists who are having to travel?
But it's come up in so many other ways. what do the artists need all. many of you have mentioned how to be more human, how to be more flexible in that process. And so I would love to, just to dig into that a little bit more. How do you think about managing the health? and well-being? And I don't just mean through covid protocols. But how do you manage the the mental health and well-being of the artists?
Who are engaging in this work, you know, away from their homes, perhaps in new places, I think. Oh, go ahead! Oh, I was gonna say, you know, this was something that was a real challenge for us while we were on tour with "what to send up" and I think it was the it was one thing when we were doing it and doing it in New York and the movement. We were, you know, our mighty team of 4. At that time we were there. We were present. We really had, you know, control over the room. We were creating over the audiences that were coming so then all of our actors, you know, could feel really supported as their diving into really like letting their their whole selves out of how do we deal with anti-blackness in in this society? How do we create spaces for healing and going through that process? Every night, and then, I think where we really had a missed step, as a company was really figuring out. What was it that we did when we did the show in 2018
to provide that specific care for an all-black ensemble? What was it that we did? and how do we articulate that with our partners so that they can be really ready and prepare to provide the level of care that those that those artists and performers are going to need in order to go through this ritual every single for every single performance, and that that what that care is how they need to be taken care of what needs to be present in the space, how everybody in the space needs to kind of show up and and and be really thinking through that, and having real conversations with their teams before you even arrive on site which we learned as we went through, We're like, Oh, this is what we need to really talk to them about. This is the makeup of what we need that the wardrobe folks to to be so that they can feel most most supported. This is what we need from your front of House staff like this is how we need to, You know. Check in with the artists. This is how we need to make sure that we're calling time,
and all of that. And I think the other thing, too, is that where I think we also had a misstep was being really real and transparent about how touring is hard, regardless of if it is just, you know a straight play. or if it is something that is, you know, a ritual and emotionally taxing- touring is difficult, and I think you know we had a number of folks in our ensemble who hadn't been on tour yet. we had some who had but really having that moment with the company of like this is what you're what to expect.
Things are going to go wrong, because that's life and this is how we're here to support you this is how we're here to catch you, and and to be like it's hard so like what do you need in order to like move through a tough, you know, a tough process. So those were, I think, 2 of the big things we really learned. wonderful Michelle Coe, are you gonna say something about this topic as well? Yeah, Well, more on a sort of logistical level I think I know that our artistic team sort of has the company teach in teams like the residency activities are sort of done in teams so that way not everybody's not working all the time. They can kind of schedule days off for people, so they have time to themselves. Another aspect that we did, and we still try to do I mean we're going to keep doing post Covid was everybody- sometimes we'll try to double up in hotel rooms for the sake of the venue and the budget. But we kind of stopped that mostly because of Covid. The board mandated that we provide single rooms for everybody but we really feel like It's a priority, because everybody needs to be able to go and decompress and have time to themselves, even if it's you know at night when they go to sleep at night, or you know they just. They just need to have that space. So I think that we we revisited that now that we definitely
do like a company meeting, it's mostly to review the itinerary But I think in the studio there are conversations with the company before they go out, and I think on the ground. They touch base. You know once everybody's there they kind of review the itinerary and the plan, and check in with everybody on a regular basis. That's a good question. Good to think about I will say that no matter how long the engagement is, it actually gets harder the longer the engagement. So SITI Company was just out in Pittsburgh for 6 weeks. There are some years where we've partnered with the Getty Villa in LA and they've been out there for 10 weeks. The longer they're there. The harder it is to be separated from family and and to just be away from sort of regular life. A lot of our tours are one or 2 weeks,
and they come home, which is a little bit easier. But regardless of how long it is, If you have housing with a kitchen and a fridge, it makes everything easier, like the fact that you can grocery shop and like, get what you want for breakfast as opposed to relying on a hotel restaurant or fast food, and and trying to making sure that they have access to store foods so they can go to the grocery store and prep the lunches that they want to take to the theater. Not only is it sort of a cost savings for them, but it really allows people to stabilize like their their body needs and their comfort level needs, and it just makes them feel better.
Figuring out that is important double-checking the housing that the presenter is going to put you in like, be a little sleuthy. Call that hotel. See if there's any construction going on make sure the gym is usable All of those things like is sort of on you to do the diligence of, because it is no fun when they get there, and the housing is bad. Deadria shaking her head. I feel like you've seen that you felt that off, and when they're on those long engagements we always always always negotiate for apartments that way, if you're there for 6 weeks you're there for 10 weeks your family can come and stay with you for a part of it. And it just sort of helps Another question that we asked you to think about in advance, and has come up a little bit here- We've been talking a little bit about the sort of surrounding events that the engagement type of events, often educational type events.
But I also wonder if we could talk a little bit about: How do you embrace community engagement when you're touring to various destinations, and the audience that you might be engaging with that community that you're bringing your work to isn't your home community. How do you think about that type of community engagement when you're talking about touring? And I and I suspect it's probably really different for venues where you've been back multiple times, or where you're saying for a long period of time versus something where you're sort of popping in and out in a faster way. And so I recognize that that it's not really one size fits all i'm sure. but if anybody would like to speak about community engagement, and what that looks like for you from a touring perspective- i'd love to hear about it.
you mind if I go first? Harry, one way week with, because we have puppets in many of our shows. So the immediate thing we can do right, and I performance is to have a meet the puppets event right after a performance. People just love that, and people will come on stage, or you know. I mean Obviously, if it's a huge audience then we might pass the puppets out into the audience, or whatever but and that's just an immediate engagement, you know that we can do right there. then, the other thing.
We've learned from experiences and sometimes the venues are trying to look for, thinking of having us have an event at the venue but in general it's much more successful If we get brought to a community group that already exists like it could be a school. It could be a college something it's if you're trying to bring an audience that doesn't know the company to a venue. It's very hard attract sort of random people but if you go to I don't know a girl school that's already studying theater, and you know that theater's department boom! you've got captive audience and it means that you have to have the whatever you're bringing be likeweight.
You know, and you not trying to bring a whole show or something. So it's it's often we you know we do shadow puppetry which isn't necessary part of our scene of what we perform. But it's easy to do right there as a workshop you know. So that's it. While we were on tour we worked really closely with the community engagement in education departments at our host theaters.
Another thing that was really built into the tour was partnering with community-based organizations. And so you know, when we were in DC at Wolly Mammoth. Our first stop was at Duke Ellington School of the Arts, and then we went to Howard University, and then we went to a place called the Ark- Nope. That was yeah, the Ark And so it was really, you know, like what Carlos was saying was about actually going and being in those being in those communities. And then we really shared with our partners as well just things that we do as an organization that's very much about being out in the community to tell people about our work, and so even shared resources of like these are initiatives that we did to- you know, to start spreading the word.
Our cast was also always really excited when there were young people in the audiences. and so, when we, especially when we were at Duke Ellington and at Howard and at the Ark, really looking at great we're at your schools like? Is there a moment in which, like classes, want to come and setting up times for the cast, just to chat with them, just to have some conversations? And when we came back to New York really focusing on doing outreach with just contacts that we have to bring to bring youths to bring young folks to to the show and letting our cast know that they were there and saying they're here. if you have capacity to meet with them they'd love to just say, say hello in doing that with members of our design team as well as our writer and director as well when they were on site I just got a text from Renee, my partner in the company- The co-director she's like I tell them that you we've gone to communities and we created work with the local people like little shorts. Then they present that when we actually come with a performance, they do it as a preview or as a post view of the show. so like if the theme is about grief, then they might do little pieces about grief or whatever puppet pieces SITI Company was really fortunate many years ago to have been a part of an initiative through funding from the Dorris Duke Charitable Foundation for the Krannert Center Champagne Urbana in Illinois. They're connected to the University of illinois they received this really large community engagement.
Grant from the Doris Duke Foundation, and we got to be a part of that. So over a many years we got to go to the Krannert Center, not with the production, but just with with some of our artists and engage with, I think they had, like 4 different communities off campus that they were really sort of focusing on, and that the culmination of what I think was a three-year process, We presented- we were presenting a production of ours there, and it was the first time that I have been on tour with the company, and I sat in a theater and I knew more people in that audience than I do in a typical New York house of ours and so to have over that many years, built enough connections of community organizers youth, like students who hadn't graduated yet like that was really really exciting for me. And it. It was in some ways the best case scenario of what community engagement can do over multiple years. And that's really the hardest thing with with touring for a company of our size, Is It's not like the Krannert center or CAPUCLA or the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth can bring us every year they're not gonna plan their season that way and So finding ways that we can build a community with two or three years before seeing them again is something we're always thinking about.
That's amazing. We love that, too, we love the deep dive but it's hard, right, because so many venues their budgets are so limited, and they want to try to get as many artists in front of their audiences as possible. So we we definitely propose that I mean our sort of starts with a list of activities in our artistic team carefully curated the events that we know we can handle on tour and that the company can do on tour that aren't too intensive or exhausting, or anything, because we have a whole community engagement program, and we're known for that Urban Bush Women is definitely known. For that. So that's often. why, that's often like a big part of why people want to bring us so we kind of give them the standard list and say, just look at this and see what you're interested in and come back and tell us so. Then step 2 would be they come back and tell us and then we say, Well, who's the who who would the participants be? Who are your community partners, and really like who do you want to work with It's it's not so much about who we would find engaging, but like, who does the presenter really want to work with in their community and we can help them build those bridges so we we try to put that pose that to them, and they come back and they'll say, Well, we've got these 3 partners that we're really interested in we do try to meet with the partners to discuss the activities.
It sort of depends if it's just a master class, right? It's a lot easier that you can just sort of drop in and out But if it's a little bit longer or if it's a workshop they want, and it's specific with specific people and goals in mind, we do try to get on the phone with them at least the company manager and I definitely do. and then we speak with the artistic team later about it. So it really is. We like to do multi-step planning, and I don't know how you're gonna know if this is how everybody else does it. But we definitely try to set up multiple calls so once we get there.
You know there's some familiarity. and shared mission and goals and shared understanding which doesn't always happen but for the most part it does Yeah, So that's kind of our process Michelle will you all go in advance if you can. Will you send one of the dancers, or send Jawole to do something 2-3 months in advance to build interest. Yeah, that's ideally how we would love to do it before or after like even after they see the show we could go back, and they could continue the deeper dive with us We try to do that a lot but then it just becomes a matter of budget and capacity, like, Oh, the dance department already has another artist coming in or we would love to have you, but I don't have the money, you know but that's that's where the goal program our building our community engagement program really comes in handy because we could just send one or 2 people, and that's it.
So it's a lot easier on the budget but I think that's a great that's a great part of touring, too. I think if you're able to do it We've been- Renee is from Flint Michigan. So we've been going back to Flint and working with a community people there and then we'll bring a show over, but we might be going back and forth and doing just workshops and that builds a sort of base.
It's always interesting to hear the presenter side of that because they some of them- I don't know, it's I mean this is obvious but yet it's always interesting to hear from that side of Sometimes they have trouble getting buy-in from those partners or just the reality on the ground of what everyone's going through you know capacity or staffing shortage. or you know priorities were shifting over to student productions, and we're not doing a lot with outside artists or bless them. They're working with regional artists. now, local artists which is great, but it's like, oh, that's you know it's gonna affect our touring. But good. i'm glad artists everywhere need support and need to be seen and celebrated.
Before we move to the question and answer portion with our audience, I would like you each to offer us a thought about a moment that was particularly difficult, and how you handled that moment. You've all been very transparent about what you found challenging, and how you address that pretty broadly, and if there, if you have one sort of moment that you felt like was particularly tough and how you worked through it I think there's a lot to be gained from that. And so, if you would be comfortable sharing one of those moments, I would love for you to do that before we move to our question and answer portion. Did I mention disasters earlier? I do. I remember that. I remember Crisis, I think, was the word-
I was not the executive director at SITI Company during these tours but I was working there and sort of seeing it- You know we had our our Trojan women seemed like every time we toured it something crazy happened. So we were slated to take it to Connecticut College, which happened to be at the same time that Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast and so suddenly we were dealt with figuring out how to get all of our sets and people to the presenter- Did they have electricity? Did they not? The same production The cast and crew were on on the train to Boston. We were working with ARTSEmerson, at the same time that the Boston Marathon bombing was happening.
So they're pulling into Boston in the middle of of chaos, and in both of those instances I watched my predecessor Megan Wallace. I watched how important her relationship was to the presenter in making making everything okay, making sure the artists were taking care of making sure that the the presenter was able to sort of shift their schedule as necessary you know. Certainly we had a multi multiple performances in Boston, and for that gig we ended up canceling one and just bringing the communities together and having a conversation.
But it was a I really watched her strong leadership in in making sure that you know she was on the phone at all times. You, and night working with those presenters who, you know, Rob Richter at Connecticut College. God bless him! taking phone calls in his car because he didn't have electricity to make sure his battery was charged to take care of everybody, and you know all of those were you know scary moments and moments where you're like- why are you still going? Just bring them home. But in both of those instances those performances of that production were really moving to those audiences. And so the the relationships that you're building with your presenters just can't be under estimated in terms of their importance when things go wrong, or when crises emerge i'm going to tell our little horror story. So we we had that the freight that's with shipped the set, and we're going we had a gig in Turkey at the festival, and the ship had got delayed because of storms so we actually had to cancel the first gig, because they hadn't arrived yet, and and we had a mid-atlantic Grant, and if we didn