Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
A Life In The Theatre
Executive Artistic Director
Also see other installments:
Choreographer | Director of Marketing | The Sound Designer | Associate Producer & Company Manager | Scenic Designer | Director of Volunteers | Director of Education | Director | Stage Manager | Performing Arts Fundraiser | Costume Designer |
Those who stand in the spotlight on stage as the curtain is raised owe much to the talents and hard work of the many who make that moment possible. This interview is an installment in a series of interviews with South Florida professionals in non-performing theatre careers. Hopefully, these interviews will serve not only to illuminate and entertain, but to inspire those with a love of theatre to explore the possibilities some of these careers might hold for them. Truly "a life in the theatre" need not be one that is lived only on stage.
Inside Out Theatre's Triptych
Sandy Ives, Kim Morgan Dean, Lisa Morgan
The Inside Out Theatre Company is a 501(C)3 not-for-profit organization hiring local Equity and non-union actors and actresses. In addition to their shows at the Museum of Art at One East Las Olas Boulevard in Ft. Lauderdale, they have extensive shows and classes for children, including a teen touring group. For information on the theatre and for tickets you may reach them by calling 954-385-3060, or online at www.insideouttheatre.org. Their mailing address is P.O. Box 267355, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33326.
Executive Artistic Director of the Inside Out Theatre Company, Inc., Robin Braun, holds a BFA in Theatre/Performance and an Master of Education in Mental Health and School Counseling. She has extensive training as an actress, singer, dancer; and has worked professionally in San Francisco and Chicago. Robin worked with the Imagination Theatre in Chicago where she toured the inner-city schools with Touch and No Easy Answers, a sexual abuse prevention program for elementary and high school students The experience was a catalyst for returning to school for her master's degree.
Before founding the Inside Out Theatre, Robin did a variety of counseling and teaching work. She was a founding member of The Popcorn Theatre, an interactive children's theatre in Weston, Florida. Dedicated to building arts in the community, Robin also currently serves as a Vice President of the Arts Council of Greater Weston.
John Lariviere: What does an Artistic Director do?
Robin Braun: I can only answer this question if you ask me what I do as the Co-Founder and Executive Artistic Director of Inside Out Theatre Company. In this way, I will tell you I do a little bit of everything. Programs, writing grants and proposals, interfacing with the Board of Directors. Our organization is small in terms of its work force, so my job includes developing programming, hiring and training the staff for our children's funders, teaching children's classes, supervising instructors, writing, creating and directing plays for young people, producing shows, answering phones, box office and accounting, administrative work, marketing and publicity, managing grants and more.
JL: What made you become an Artistic Director?
RB: I'm not sure I ever consciously decided to become an "artistic director." I was driven to create Inside Out Theatre by its mission and its goals, and was very passionate about the power of live theatre and what it could do for its participants and its audiences. At that time, I didn't think about, nor could I imagine, what it would ultimately entail. Sometimes what you plan for your life and what life plans for you can be very different, and it is in this way that I became an Executive Artistic Director.
JL: What experience and training do you have that has best prepared you for all of this?
RB: I think everything I have done in my life has prepared me for this job. As you can see it is a comprehensive one. I have a B.F.A. in theatre, and I continued my training as an actress, singer and dancer in San Francisco and Chicago, where I was able to work professionally. In addition, prior to founding the company, I worked as a teacher while earning my master's in counseling. That was very helpful in later being able to develop curriculum and work with the many various young people I have encountered. My years as a singer and songwriter have also been instrumental in helping to create the original musicals that were the genesis of the company. In my youth, as a struggling actress, I did the whole stereotypical "waitress by day" routine, which I think was useful in learning customer relations and how to multi-task.
JL: Are there any differences in how you are effected by professional vs. educational or Equity vs non-union productions that the Inside Out Theatre does?
RB: The difference in our theatre is very simple as our professional productions are Equity, and our productions for youth are educational in nature. Of course, one of the obvious differences is in an Equity production there are certain expectations in terms of ability, work ethic, and outcome. In our educational programs we do expect the students to have a professional work ethic; however, our emphasis is on learning, increasing self-confidence and building character.
JL: What is your greatest challenge as an Artistic Director?
RB: It is hard for me to separate the "artistic director" component out of the entire job I do. So therefore, I would have to say the greatest challenge is money, money, money! Having the funding to do things right means not always being strapped, being able to market shows properly, the ability to build audiences, being able to pick your seasons according to the mission and not according to the budget, being able to hire additional staff, etc. ...
JL: What is your greatest reward as an Artistic Director?
RB: There are many rewards, as you can imagine, but some of the greatest are seeing my students after they've been in a show, watching them grow and being able to witness the confidence they have acquired. For example, I worked with some young people in a residential substance abuse program. At the end of their show (for which they received a standing ovation) and during the cast party, one of the members told me her "self-esteem had gone through the ceiling" and that when she got out of the program, she was enrolling in acting in high school. It was very satisfying to see her have something that made her feel so good, and something to look forward to.
Watching a group of 500 middle school students give a standing ovation to a class of 7th grade students that I directed in a show that I co-wrote at Parkway Middle School - that was very rewarding. Reading the surveys students fill out after being in a program, where many report on how much they enjoyed or learned from the experience - this is continually pleasing. Being in the theatre, especially for young people, offers them a strong feeling of belonging to a positive peer group. It offers them the opportunity to work toward a goal, and experience the immense satisfaction of obtaining it when they hear the audience applause ... there is almost no other experience like it. In addition, hearing audiences talk about a show while they are walking out of the theatre and being able to offer them an opportunity to examine their lives or some issue facing our society, those are all times I feel like I am doing something worthwhile.
JL: What characteristics would you look for if you were hiring an Artistic Director?
RB: I would look for an extremely passionate, creative person who strongly believes in what they do, but at the same time understands the importance of flexibility. I recommend my job to any stubbornly persistent maniac who loves the arts.
JL: What are your professional goals for the future?
RB: Having completed almost 10 years of moving at speeds of sometimes 100 mph in my job, I am currently in a reflective state regarding my future goals and plans. I know that next year we at the Inside Out Theatre plan to continue our varied programming both for children and adults which include a small Equity season at the Museum of Art, children's classes, workshops and shows, community outreach programs and summer programs, but as for my future and long-range plans, I am currently developing this vision.
See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.
-- John Lariviere