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Corn Stock Theatre to Present Digital Q&A Workshop “From Artist to Admin: Managing a Theatre with John Stuff”

Corn Stock Theatre continues their Q&A Master Class Workshops with From Artist to Admin: Managing a Theatre with John Stuff. This digital Q&A will be through Course Storm on Monday, December 7 at 6:00pm CST. Below is a small interview with John Stuff and Corn Stock Theatre’s Box Office Manager, Brandi Young. John Stuff, who is originally from Champaign, IL has created a career in community theatre and graphic design. He is currently based in Dodge City, KS at the Supervisor of Promotions at the Boot Hill Casino.

Question: What moment/piece of advice/decision influenced you to work create a career on the administrative side of theatre?

Answer:  Basically, “opportunity knocked” and I answered! When we started CUTC (Champaign-Urbana Theatre Company) everyone on the Board worked many hours to get the company up and going and on firm ground. After a year or two, we realized we needed a part time manager and I was working full time at my design studio “Pen & Inc”, but (being a workaholic) decided I could do both and became the first company manager for CUTC. I learned a great deal over the next few years just out of necessity!  Eventually, that led to a job as Executive Director at the Grand Opera House in Dubuque, IA, and some years later, the Executive Director at the Depot Theater in Dodge City, KS.

Question: What is a piece on the administrative side of theatre that has to happen to make sure theatrical productions occur that most people are unaware of?

Answer: I think a lot of people are unaware of the mental and physical gymnastics that an administrator goes through to get a show on stage. Finding the right show starts the challenge – is it something that can technically be done in the space? Is it appropriate for our audience and will it appeal to new patrons? Can we afford the rights, sets, costumes, etc.? Just choosing the dates of a show can be challenging, so it doesn’t conflict with other local events any more than necessary, provides opportunities for elderly to attend, and figuring out how many performances to do. Then you have to assemble a production team of people who work well together, schedule auditions and rehearsals. There are SO many gymnastics that people never think about when they walk into a theater to see a show.

Question: What is one piece of advice that you would tell someone who is considering a career in the administrative side of theatre, whether it is community theatre or professional theatre?

Answer: As I have mostly worked in community theater, I will comment on that. Two pieces of advice…A) COMMUNICATE!! Making sure everyone is on the same page from the very first day even talking about producing a show will alleviate a tremendous number of problems and issues many community theaters face. Set rules, communicate those rules, stick to the consequences regardless of what happens, and things will run much smoother. Communicate the vision that everyone is working to achieve. Communicate the process everyone is expected to follow, and the chain of command that will be followed. B) Make everyone feel needed and appreciated…listen to others’ ideas and give them consideration. Make everyone feel like they have a vested interest in the show and let them feel a sense of “ownership” in the production and it will help bring out the very best in each and every person involved.

Question: What was your process to transition from an on-stage actor to artistic administrator?

Answer: I’m not sure the process ever ends! I still enjoy acting from time to time, enjoy designing, building, and painting sets, enjoy directing, and enjoy standing back and watching others work through the whole process. Sometimes the immediate needs determine what role an administrator takes on, and they should be ready, willing, and able to step in anywhere they are needed…the show must go on!

Question: You studied graphic design and had a several jobs in that field. How did you transition and be successful with career in a field that is seemingly different from what you studied in college?

Answer: I am fortunate that I have been able to combine both careers into a life that I have loved. For many years I did both at the same time – worked at my own design studio and did theater in the evenings and on weekends. As a designer, I created many of the show posters, playbills, marketing pieces, and props, allowing to incorporate both careers into one. Most of my theater “training” was “on the job” – experience is an excellent teacher! Many years of trial and error, and a lot of common sense and patience, have served me very well in my administrative roles.

Registration is open to all ages and is $12.00 per person. Scholarships are available for those in financial need by emailing the Box Office at tickets@cornstocktheatre.com. Registration is open at www.cornstocktheatre.coursestorm.com and participants will receive the Zoom link for the Q&A in their confirmation email. For more information, call 309-676-2196 or visit cornstocktheatre.com

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