From the opinion desk of: The Benevolent Overlord

The thing I realized about 2018 was that it ended up being a lot like my theater career. Which is to say a lot like other theater people’s careers.

Which is to say crammed in amongst the necessity of living.

In March of 2018 I took on full time work for a company called Sogro (sogro.co), we help small businesses grow their social media presence (particularly Instagram). Like Playlist, it is a small company - full time staff of four - and a young company as well, and so undergoing a lot of changes. Those demands combined with the demands of being a father of two young girls (ages five and three), running my own theater company, and finding time for hobbies I enjoy like Dungeons & Dragons, meant that Playlist was going to get squeezed for time. 

And my thoughts led to realizing that many individuals around my age are in the same kind of place with their theater careers right now.

Many of us in our 30s and 40s are experiencing the pressures of establishing families and the needs that come with it. Or even just reeling in the new normal of burnout (this article on buzzfeed really spoke to a lot of this). This may include things like first time home ownership, having a first or second child, ensuring a stable day time career to cover the cost of day care and insurance for a family. And even those of us who work in theatre administration, where those objectives can be met through a day time job in the arts, are often pushed to such a limit that fitting in creative endeavors in the nights and weekends seems less attractive than it did a decade ago. 

My wife and I saw Joe Haj speak last year at a friends of the library fundraising event at the U of M. He talked about generational audience cycles. How 20-somethings will attend theatre, and then those people are lost in their 30s and 40s as they (no surprise) focus on family and establishing themselves. And then how many of these folks return in their 50s and 60s as the family life wanes, often with a reinvogorated energy for something that had been diminished in their life for two decades.

I left that talk thinking that this cycle is probably mirrored in the creation of work as well. And while certainly not the case for everyone - as our state boasts actors, creators, makers, and producers of all ages - it is supported anecdotally by conversations I have had with others recently.  At some point the dial of passion for making and creating live performance gets turned down in relation to the other priorities that have been turned up. 

Which brings me back to Playlist. 

2019 will be Playlist’s twelfth year of existence, and my third year in the driver's seat. The site underwent a major cosmetic and usability change in 2015 with the redesign. That change came eight years after the site’s launch but the thought process leading up to it was a few years in the making. And so now I'm at that same point of considering what is the next phase of this service organization? And as always with Playlist being the community resource that it is, that question will primarily be answered by you.

So what can you expect from Playlist this year?

First, public input options. I’ll be sending out surveys and hosting some happy hours to get feedback from the community about a whole swath of things. Playlist is only as valuable as the community deems it. Whatever changes are made over the next few years will reflect the needs of our diverse community. With any endeavor like this not everything will be possible (time, money, resources, usability, etc). But having the perfomring arts community provide the raw input means when changes are made they can be focused on what matters most to your needs.

Second, testing things out. We’ll try some ideas in micro and see what sticks. 

Finally, building on changes that have worked. One of the things I was really proud about in 2018 was the launch of The Bazzness with Sam Landman. I’m excited to say that 2019 will bring the second (and possibly third) season to the digital airwaves. And you can expect more audio content from playlist in the future. I see a great deal of potential in podcasting for Playlist and look forward to taking advantage of it.

The demands of time are always present for any of us who work to fulfill creative endeavors. For 2019 I plan to spend the limited time I have with Playlist exploring and digging into what will bring additional value to our community, what value needs to remain that we are already creating, and what we can do to continue being a powerful resource for individuals and organizations, at whatever point they find themselves in this generational cycle of the performing arts.

If you have thoughts or ideas please don’t hesitate to reach out: damon@minnesotaplaylist.com or through our facebook page. The Bazzness started with an email from Sam saying “hey I would like to do a podcast talking to theater people about their craft. Are you interested?” 

Yes. Yes I am.

Happy 2019 everyone and I look forward to talking to many of you this year about the future of Playlist.