2018-01-25

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Jaclyn Dentino
holds a B.A. in Music Performance and Spanish, and obtained both an M.S. in Arts Administration and a Graduate Certificate in Fundraising Management. She has worked with arts organizations of various sizes in the Boston area, and is currently employed by the Performing Arts Department at Emerson College. Jaclyn is focused on studying the interaction of arts organizations with their communities, and on revitalizing operational models to provide a sustainable social and fiscal future for arts organizations in the twenty-first century.
Book review

How to Run a Theatre. Creating, Leading and Managing Professional Theatre

How to Run a Theatre (2011) by Jim Volz is a good introduction to this field for someone currently unfamiliar with arts management. Volz addresses the largest pillars of theatre management (position types, board relations, personnel management/HR, strategic planning, fundraising, marketing, and financial management), while also referencing nuances of the job, such as competition and finding a work/life balance both with a focus on the US arts sector.
 
From my perspective, the strongest aspect of the book is that it is a helpful reference to those considering a career in arts management. It provides a basic understanding of theatre operations and all relevant terminology, and presents a foundational approach to various roles within arts administration. I found Volzs administrative skills to be sound, and would recommend this as a handbook to those interested in pursuing theatre management as a career.
 
Elements that I found to detract from this book were the organization and writing style. As I was reading, I felt the layout jumped around in a somewhat disorganized manner. I can imagine that the books organization may be confusing to those unfamiliar with the topic and many of the terms included. I might recommend rearranging the chapters so the content flows more seamlessly; for example, moving chapter 8, Budgeting and Financial Management, to immediately precede or follow chapter 6, Fundraising for the Arts.
 
I also did not find Volzs tone to consistently be appropriate for a practical handbook. The writing oftentimes came across to me as quite conceited, while Volz simultaneously expresses how difficult it is to find work in this field and maintain your sanity. While hes not necessarily incorrect with those assertions, beginning chapter 1 with The ridiculous rate of theatre unemployment coupled with the sheer ferocity of a life in the American theatre should be an obvious indicator of the need for careful and consistent organizational, life, and career planning strikes me as an immediate turnoff for those new to the field (which I imagine is the majority of this audience). There were moments of humor that I found to be distracting, as well as quotes from debatably questionable political leaders that I found neither relevant nor beneficial.
 
Lastly, the book is a few years old, and could therefore use some updates in a revised edition. I would recommend addressing the following three hot topics that should be on the minds of todays theatre managers: 1) the pros, cons, and implications of live-streaming a performance, 2) updated social media marketing practices, and 3) an acknowledgement of the great and expanding work of a theatres community outreach and engagement department.
 
In sum, How to Run a Theatre is a decent introductory handbook to arts management; I do not believe it would be very useful to current practitioners or graduate-level arts administration students; and there were certain stylistic and organizational factors that I personally found to be distracting from the material.
 
Jim Volz is an arts consultant, author, producer, managing director and professor at California State University, Fullerton. He served as a longtime critic/arts columnist and editor. Also devoted to arts education, Volz has taught at six universities and administered MFA programs in acting, stage management, and arts administration. He is a Ph.D. graduate from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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