Handing off the keys

Logo_VectorIt was with mixed emotions (bittersweet but optimistic) that I drafted this note to the membership of the League of Independent Theater. I am excited about where things will go with the League. But giving up the role of Managing Director will help free me up to do more creative work and hopefully impact the world in different ways. Plus I want the League to grow. New blood infusions are good for that.

Hello LIT Members,

Nearly three years ago I assumed the position of Managing Director for the League. In that time, we have taken several leaps forward in the leadership and advocacy of independent theater in New York City. Our collective voice has given more specificity and legitimacy to the work we do.

On almost a zero-dollar budget, we made our concerns heard by both political nominees and elected officials. We held a Meet the Candidates Forum that was so successful our Public Advocate Letitia James recently enthused that we should have another. (She said this in spite of the fact that the League did not endorse her. Twice.) We created a Performing Arts Platform and voting guides to better inform our members where the candidates stand on the arts.

We were able to make endorsements of candidates because of the League’s unique status as a 501c6 non-profit arts advocacy organization. As far as my research has shown, we are the only game in town doing this. This has continued to help us have important conversations with elected officials as the majority of our endorsements took office. These politicians now see us as a big and important voting block. This will only improve with next the election cycle in the city.

We have made several positive steps in helping alleviate rehearsal space costs, including the creation of heavily-subsidized rehearsal spaces used by more than 20 companies, and tackling other issues that make it difficult for us to create our work in NYC. The League was there to testify on your behalf at the open hearing for the City Council’s Cultural Plan. We have also begun taking on artist housing issues and working to create an Independent Theater Code, with plans to have serious engagement with Actors’ Equity.

But the biggest crisis we are facing is within our own ranks. Far too often people will tell me what the League could and should be doing. While the passion is great, this rarely translates into those artists taking part in the actual work it takes to make solutions happen for us.

Of course there is much more to do. To address this, the League has created several new working groups, including Politics, Real Estate, Equity, Unification, Communication, Foreign Language, and Green. We need you to make them run. Consider this your call to action. Contact us at info@litny.org to get involved.

As the League moves into its next stage of growth and progress, I will be handing over the Managing Director duties to Guy Yedwab on Jan. 1. I cannot sing his praises high enough. Guy has done a lot of great work for the League and I know he will continue to build on what was started during my term. You will hear from Guy at the beginning of the year and I hope you will support his smart initiatives.

To be clear, I’m not fading into the sunset. I joined the League because I feel certain things are very wrong in our world and I want to make things better for the next generation of theater makers. This means shifting so I can focus on those projects. I will also be taking an advisory role with Guy and the always-excellent Katie Palmer, who will continue as the League’s Director of Communications, to ensure the League is working more effectively.

The thing I am most proud of about the League is that it doesn’t sit around and talk about the idea of making change. It does it. I believe strongly that we will look back at this time and see what we did to greatly improve things for both the independent theater artists working today and those who will come to the city in the future. I hope you will take an active advocacy role with the League.

We are the 99 seats (or less)!!

In solidarity,
Chris Harcum