Acting on a Theatre Board

A peek behind the curtain


Acting on a Theatre Board

A key part of any theatre is its board of directors. However, many audiences are unfamiliar with who the board is and what the role of a board member entails.

A board of directors for a theatre is composed of elected members who are interested in taking an active role in the theatre’s ongoing activities and its future. They are also interested in serving as the theatre’s ambassadors in their community. A good board has a diverse group of members from all areas and backgrounds, who can each bring their own expertise and unique perspective to the table. Together, the board governs the theatre’s activities through management oversight and policy setting. The board is also accountable for the transparency and protection of the theatre.

A board’s tasks will vary depending on the theatre’s size. The smaller the theatre, the more closely involved the board. Smaller theatres typically rely on their boards for everyday activities from ushering shows to cold-calling donors. In contrast, larger theatres will look to their board for oversight, general advocacy and policy. By looking at “the big picture” for the theatre in its community, the larger theatre’s artistic directors have the freedom to make day-to-day operational decisions.

Regardless of size, the board’s ability to help its theatre with strategic planning is critical. For example, for the last two years, I have been Secretary for the board of Carousel Theatre for Young People (CTYP). The board is dedicated to CTYP’s mission of creating theatre for young audiences and offering drama schools that inspire, educate and empower young people. One of our programs is a drag camp. The drag camp is open to kids in two age groups — 7 to 11 and 12 to 17 — with an interest in expressing themselves through clothing, makeup and performance. Unfortunately, since CTYP announced the drag camp in March 2023, CTYP has been barraged by threatening emails and phone calls in response — the backlash has been subject of the news. As a board, we are supporting CTYP during this challenging time. We have hosted multiple fundraisers to hire additional security to be present at events — funds we would have rather put toward CTYP’s diverse, inclusive and engaging programming. It has been “all hands-on deck” for several months as CTYP has weathered this storm. Thankfully, CTYP has received local community support for the drag camp. Most recently on July 4, 2023, supporters gathered in front of CTYP’s theatre on Granville Island in a positive demonstration of support in response to a planned protest against the drag camp.

Acting on a board allows you to make a difference in your arts community while playing an active role contributing to your theatre’s mission. Boards are always looking for individuals with strong leadership skills, good connections with funding agencies, and diversity in order to expand audiences and funding. As a lawyer, your skill set would be an asset for long-range planning and troubleshooting.

If you are interested in acting on a theatre board, consider joining your favourite theatre company and running for election. You should be prepared to spend the time necessary to serve on the board, be willing to make a personal contribution, and actively fundraise to meet the theatre’s growing financial needs — this especially as theatre box office sales have dropped due to the continuing pandemic. The most important qualities of any board member are curiosity, passion, and desire to help your theatre thrive!