Artistic Director - Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Washington, D.C.

Applications for this position are closed.

For almost forty years, Woolly Mammoth has brought provocative, risky—even transformative—work to the stage.  A diverse range of deeply talented actors and production personnel—and indeed the entire staff and Board--have invited in and challenged diverse audiences and stimulated community discussion of important issues in Washington DC and beyond.  The quality and impact of Woolly’s productions, and its “Connectivity” program to engage the community in the ideas stimulated on its stage, are well known throughout American professional theatre. 

The guiding intellect and heart behind Woolly’s significant accomplishments is Howard Shalwitz, co-founder and longtime Artistic Director.  He has determined that it is a good time for him to step down at the end of the 2017-18 season.  His hopes are consistent with this theatre’s history—that the next Artistic Director will be afraid only of standing still and will want to be bold in creating change in how Woolly works, whom it reaches, and in any other ways that enhance its positive impact upon its city, region, and beyond.

The next Artistic Director will be guided by a recently re-stated mission and a new articulation of core values endorsed by the staff and Board of Woolly:


OUR MISSION:  

To create rousing, visceral, enlightening theatre experiences that galvanize diverse artists and audiences to engage with our world in unexpected and often challenging ways.  


OUR CORE VALUES:

• We are a radically inclusive community -- across race, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical ability, socioeconomic background, and political viewpoint – where all are encouraged to exchange ideas freely and reach for new understandings.

• We are a supportive home for creative risk-taking by our company and guest artists, staff, Board, volunteers, audiences, donors, and colleagues.  

• Through relentless inquiry and experimentation, we strive for world class excellence and innovation in every aspect of our work.   

Woolly actively adheres to this mission and these core values.  Its staff works very hard to be welcoming to all.  Although Woolly’s own people will suggest they have a way to go to fulfill these aspirations, they have certainly made important strides. 

The new leader will benefit from the most recent vision statement by Howard about Woolly’s future.  This statement is certainly not to be viewed as a set of rules to be followed, but rather the wisdom of leadership that was codified during a recent and highly inclusive planning process with staff, Board, artists, and others.  The people of Woolly always want to be questioning if the way things are done can get even better.  That desire for adaptive change and risk taking will remain a constant.  The vision statement provides examples of this:

• To continue to work with material that is aesthetically innovative or unconventional, and morally or ethically provocative.

• To refuse to make plays in assembly line fashion.

• To continue to build a diverse group of company members and other artists with the skills and daring to travel outside-the-box, and to assure that a large number of local artists are utilized.

• To consider the performances as just a piece of the way to engage diverse communities in the issues of the plays. 

• To recognize its own accomplishments to date in furthering equity, diversity, and inclusion, but also own the fact that Woolly can and should do much better.

There have historically been multiple ways in which all these elements have been accomplished, and it is safe to say that new leadership will be asked to do this work in the way she or he believes will be most effective.  The Board and Staff will expect the next Artistic Director to “break the mold” going forward, not just try to redo the innovations of the past.

Woolly has built a platform for success through its ongoing experimentation, as well as its powerful, trusting relationships with multiple diverse communities. Moreover, it has a strong professional staff, including the Managing Director, Meghan Pressman, who will remain at Woolly. And its historical impact has relied on many donors, both individuals and foundations.

With all this said, there are challenges ahead:

• There are always the complications of a founder transition, although Woolly has prepared openly and honestly for it.

• Its audience may not be growing at a rate that can sustain the company’s activity in the long term.  At the same time, it can build upon its achievement that the current audience is statistically the youngest, and amongst the most diverse, of all the major theatres in the DC region.

• Woolly’s reliance on national funding, especially for its ongoing innovations, may be difficult to maintain.

• As the region’s theatre community has grown and strengthened, so too has competition both for audiences and for donors.

Woolly has lately mounted a season of seven productions, including five subscription shows, although in Woolly’s ongoing embrace of change, it will this coming season experiment with a somewhat different structure.

The main theatre seats 265. The theatre operates on a budget of just under $5 million. Woolly employs 25 full time staff and approximately 110 part-time/seasonal employees.  A Board of 27 governs Woolly. Nearly 60% of its income comes from grants and contributions.  Woolly recognizes, and negotiates with, three professional unions—Actors Equity Association, Stage Directors and Choreographers, and United Scenic Artists.

Much more information about Woolly, including a list of its past productions, can be found at https://www.woollymammoth.net.   There is a particularly informative essay under “About Woolly” that is called “Woolly’s Intellectual History.”

Additionally, a document is attached to this job profile.  It is written by Howard Shalwitz and provides very important reflections about Woolly’s accomplishments and purposes.


POSITION AND RESPONSIBILITIES:

The Artistic Director and Managing Director will form a co-equal working relationship in which each report to the Board through its President.   

The major roles of the Artistic Director, often performed in collaboration with others, will be as follows:

• He or she will have the generative responsibility and pleasure of articulating a vision for Woolly going forward that fulfills its artistic and social purposes, which include a strong commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion.

• The essence of the Artistic Director’s role is the building of a body of work on stage that inspires those who make it, as well as those who experience it, to want to engage in conversation and action. This role of course includes work with the artist company which continues to evolve as a concept and has placed artists in central roles within the organization.  The Artistic Director is at the center of all these collaborations.

• The new Artistic Director will share the important role with the Managing Director of facilitating the best work by staff and Board. 

• The new leader will be expected to oversee the community engagement that remains fundamental to the Woolly way.

• As a key creator of Woolly’s public face, the Artistic Director will engage with many different communities in the region, as well as with the local and national professional theatre field. There are opportunities in fulfilling these roles because Woolly of course resides in our nation’s capital to which the world travels. 

• The Artistic Director will have an important role in cultivation and solicitation of major donors and foundations, and in support of others who help to raise the funds necessary to further Woolly’s mission and its historical willingness to take risks.

It naturally follows from all the above stated roles that the Artistic Director will be expected to select, develop, and shepherd artistic excellence.


QUALIFICATIONS:

No one person will fully meet all these qualifications.  The Committee will be assessing to what degree each candidate comes close to their expectations by evaluating the following factors:

Professional Experience

The Search Committee will be evaluating candidates on both their learning from their work experience in theatre and their motivation to succeed relative to Woolly’s needs.  Applicants could be practicing theatre artists or creative producers; there may well be yet other theatrical backgrounds that Woolly would consider:

1. Prepared by prior theatrical experience to plan and execute seasons that are built with the artistic teams—a series of productions and presentations that continue to provoke questioning and to bring differing persons into the theatre, as well as to Woolly’s programs beyond its walls.

2. Ability to articulate an overall vision for this theatre that is broad enough to encompass community engagement.

3. A track record of artistic innovation, which can take many forms, but certainly includes developing new theatrical experiences; these include building productive relationships with playwrights and other generative artists.

4. A background and work projects that indicate that in making choices, she or he will consider whose stories are being told, with whose voices, and who will be in the audience.

5. Some track record in imagining new ways in which theatre can have even greater impact in our society. 

6. A clear comfort level, if not actual experience, in interacting with donors and potential donors, especially individuals and foundations; the ability to express artistic intention in written grant proposals and elsewhere is desirable.

7. A heightened awareness of, if not familiarity with, the financial realities and challenges of operating a not-for-profit theatre.

8. A grasp of the importance for a not-for-profit theatre to be an important public citizen for its communities; some familiarity working within major metropolitan areas would be meaningful.  Knowledge of the DC area would be a positive factor.

Personal Qualities and Values

The Search Committee, as well as multiple Woolly constituencies as heard through facilitated “town halls”, believe the following qualities and values are all important to the success of the next Artistic Director:

• Ability to establish a meaningful working partnership with the Managing Director.

• An individual capable of embracing a multitude of roles.

• A lively curiosity.

• Deep thoughtfulness.

• Consistent desire to interact with people of different viewpoints and heritage, as well as within a wide range of socio-economic strata.

• Genuine belief that everyone in the Woolly community is someone worth engaging in conversation about how Woolly makes art and how its art intersects with the world outside its walls.

• Risk tolerance; pushing the envelope.

• Inspiring.

• A mentor, facilitator, and teacher.

• A person who engenders trust and loyalty through his or her authenticity.

An abiding interest in, and affection for, people despite all our many flaws.


START DATE:

The Search Committee hopes to make its final decision no later than the winter of 2018.   The start date for full time employment will be as soon as possible thereafter.  The 2018-19 Season will be planned prior to the new Artistic Director being on board.  This will hopefully provide the time necessary for the new leader to engage with all of Woolly’s constituencies. 


PROCEDURE TO APPLY:

Interested and qualified candidates are encouraged to submit in complete confidence a cover letter and resume to the consulting firm retained to conduct the search. The letter of no more than 1 & ½ pages should describe why this post and theatre is attractive to the applicant, and what about them and their work makes them a potentially strong contributor as a leader of Woolly Mammoth.


Management Consultants for the Arts, Inc.
Attn:  Greg Kandel 

Email only:   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Subject line:  WM AD Search

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NOTE:  The following statement was written by Howard Shalwitz with the purpose of providing historical context for Woolly’s recent strategic planning process.  The Search Committee believes that, while unusual to attach such a document to a job profile, this particular one truly should give the reader a rich sense of what Woolly has been about.


Making Art
In the theatre, we aim to make either entertainment or art. The core question of entertainment: will the audience like it? The core question of art: will it change how people experience and engage with the world?

Woolly Mammoth aims to make art. Art-making goes beyond telling new and different stories. It requires patience, experimentation, risk, and exploration of things we don’t already know, in order to achieve new forms of expression that make audiences sit forward and engage in new ways, and that may galvanize change in the world outside the theatre.

Woolly has taken a variety of approaches to art-making over our history. These have included fresh approaches to avant garde classics, recent plays by radical American writers, developing provocative new works, showcasing diverse new voices, configuring our space in unexpected ways, presenting innovative guest ensembles, and curating interactive learning and dialogue before and after performances.

Cutting across all these has been the idea of a   company of artists with the requisite skills, risk- taking sensibility, and shared sense of purpose to push our work forward. For most of our history, the company has been a loosely affiliated group of artists who work at Woolly on a recurring basis. More recently, its work has also included “off the assembly line” steps (including workshops and labs) to deepen the artistic process and build new skills. We have re- discovered what was articulated in our founding manifesto in 1978: that investing in the development of our artists and how they work together is just as important as investing in the shows we produce. The company's skills and ideas and methods must keep moving forward to achieve the elements of surprise and challenge that keep audiences re-engaging with Woolly.

How can we continue to build this investment in our artists and their skills and process? How can we continue to raise our sights -- from merely doing strong productions of edgy new plays, to consistently creating visionary new theatre that provides transformative experiences for our audiences? These were the questions that inspired the planning process decision which this plan documents.


The Content of our Art
Woolly Mammoth’s 37-year history may be viewed as a search for the meeting point of three goals:

1. aesthetic originality & innovation,

2. civic/moral provocation & dialogue, and 

3. building new audiences for theatre. 

These define our idea of theatre that matters, that has an impact on the world. Many of the most impactful Woolly projects of the past decade achieved all three goals (e.g. BOOM, CLYBOURNE PARK, BOOTYCANDY, MR. BURNS: A POST-ELECTRIC PLAY, WOMEN LAUGHING ALONE WITH SALAD, AN OCTOROON). And many significant projects achieved two of the three goals (e.g. ECLIPSED, STEVE JOBS, DETROIT, APPROPRIATE, STUPID FUCKING BIRD, ZOMBIE: THE AMERICAN, BLACK SIDE OF THE MOON, etc.).

Since 1990, we’ve had a fourth goal of “developing, producing, and promoting new plays that explore the edges of theatrical style and human experience...” By 2000, Woolly had established itself as the new play leader in our region. But today nearly every theatre in our region produces some new plays. To maintain our position at the leading edge, we may need to emphasize the other longstanding goals that have defined our history (aesthetic originality and civic provocation). It may be that the kinds of productions and experiences we create for audiences are more important than whether the scripts are new. This may also give us greater flexibility to support the needs of our company and identify projects that can be marketed effectively.

From the mid-1990s, we’ve had an equally important fifth goal: to represent a wide range of voices and experiences on our stage, especially those of women and people of color. This became even more central in 2005 when we moved into our new home, where we have shifted toward fully multi-cultural seasons. With support from the Weissberg Foundation, we are in the midst of a long-term diversity initiative to transform the face of our organization and give ourselves new tools for engaging effectively with diverse artists and audiences.

How do we prioritize the five goals articulated above? How important are new plays (including commissions) in the overall mix? Are we comfortable adding classics back in? Can we stretch the boundaries of what it means to be a “Woolly” play and rely on our artists to put the Woolliness into the work we produce? How can we continue to become a truly equitable, diverse, and inclusive organization? These subjects were repeatedly addressed during the planning process.


Programming Balance
In our new home, we’ve developed a fairly unique business model that relies on three different kinds of projects:

1. Signature projects, which generally involve a number of company members and benefit from "off the assembly" opportunities such as workshops or design labs or extra rehearsals;

2. Other new or newish plays, which get the usual rehearsal process but may still involve company members and which may add diversity, balance, or audience appeal;

3. Guest projects, which often attract new or different audiences. In general, we will accept the greatest risk with projects in category 1 and the least risk with projects in category 3. We believe that our self-produced projects (categories 1 & 2) form the core of our identity, even though we generate the most net income from our guest projects(category 3).

We have found a fairly consistent pattern for scheduling the different projects across each season: our core subscription package includes five plays of which four are produced in-house and one is a guest project (usually in the spring); and additional guest projects are presented in the holiday and summer slots. We have also experimented with small scale shows in the rehearsal hall (recently THE TRUMP CARD and KISS) and short runs (1-2 weeks) of guest shows on the mainstage (REGGIE WATTS, RODNEY KING, THE TRUMP CARD). Over the past few seasons, we have questioned whether we can sustain this volume of work because of the strain on our finances and workload.

Do our guest projects play a useful role in enhancing our brand and building our audience, or do they merely contribute net income? Could they become more consistent with our overall mission and contribute more to building our core audience? Is maintaining a 5-play subscription series (or even discreet seasons) still essential to our business model, or is it time to try something different? Is it feasible to continue producing in the rehearsal hall, either to add new programming or substitute for current mainstage programming?  These additional important questions animated our planning process.

Last modified on Monday, 30 October 2017 07:56