For our first interview on the the UTBA I’d like to introduce you to Jerry Rapier. I first met Jerry a couple years ago when completing a project for my theatre management class at BYU. He sat down with my group for an hour to go over the workings of a company like Plan B and then tossed us a couple free tickets to see Gutenberg! The Musical!, Plan B’s comedic interjection to the Christmas season that year.
What has impressed me most about Jerry is his ability to build a community around each show Plan B produces. Oftentimes that community includes not only the playwrights and actors involved, but local businesses, literary circles, action groups, politicians and media outlets. They are frequently featured on Utah’s own Radiowest with Doug Fabrizio and have racked up an incredible number of local awards:
- 35 City Weekly Slammy/Arty Awards (2000-present)
- 13 Q Salt Lake Fabby Awards (2005-present)
- Equality Utah – Allies for Equality Award (2007)
- Salt Lake City – Mayor’s Artist Award (2008)
- Utah Broadcasters Association – Gold Award (2009)
- TEA of Utah – Organization of the Year Award (2010)
So, without further adieu, here are Jerry’s answers to our 10 questions!
1. What is your title?
2. What show/shows are you currently working on?
We’re currently working on a free reading of Larry Kramer’s THE NORMAL HEART to kick off our 20th anniversary (and the 25th anniversary of the Utah AIDS Foundation). It will be on August 14 – details at http://planbtheatre.org under ‘free events’.
3. In one sentence, describe your job.
I spearhead the development, programming and production of new plays by Utah playwrights, write grants, sell tickets and represent the company publicly. I also occasionally design costumes and/or props. And I do the show laundry.
4. What skills are necessary for a person in your position?
Someone in my position must value others’ time more than your own; return calls and emails the same day without exception; not be tied to a job description; keep up with technology; possess professional-level writing skills; and, of course, see theatre, both locally and elsewhere. On a basic level, I’d say that if you can’t (a) recite your mission statement without effort and (b) work it into any conversation with ease, you’re in the wrong profession.
5. What kind of training did you go through to get to your position?
Absolutely none. So I’m doing it in reverse. After 10 seasons running a theatre company I’m completing my MFA.
6. What was your first job in theater?
My first paid theatre gig was as an actor, here in SLC, in TheatreWorks West’s CINDERELLA (OR THE SHOE MUST GO ON) in 1994.
7. Why do you think theater is important?
Theatre is, in many ways, the gateway to conversation and thus change. That sounds just this side of cheesy but I really feel that way – it’s why I do what I do. Theatre can give people tools to begin conversations about delicate subjects that they may never procure any other way.
8. What is your profession’s greatest challenge today?
It’s crucial for non-profit arts organizations to constantly reaffirm their position in – and service to – their immediate community. Too many people forget that their passion doesn’t always translate to a compelling case for support.
9. If you could change just one thing about the industry with the wave of a magic wand, what would it be?
Artists tend to be myopic and self-focused. I’d like to see less ‘me’ and more ‘us’ in our community.
10. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do what you do?
Prepare yourself more than I did! Be sure you understand the difference(s) between your passion and the mission of your organization. And don’t think a 40-hour work week has anything to do with you.