Stephen Sondheim said it best: “You may know what you need, but to get what you want, better see that you keep what you have!” This quote is pertinent as UTBA undergoes an exciting period of transition that will make the organization stronger and better able to serve the Utah theatre community.
What We Need
Since UTBA started in January 2010, it has been run mostly through the energies of its founder, Dave Mortensen, and its managing editor, Russell Warne. Others have helped greatly along the way, including about 5 other people who have scheduled reviews, 3 other people who have served as editors, and over 80 writers. Operating on a shoestring budget and through the donated time of all of these people, UTBA has made a contribution to the Utah theatre community that far surpasses its founder’s intentions.
But the organization cannot be sustained by passion alone. Mr. Mortensen’s and Mr. Warne’s love of live theatre have sustained the web site, but that is not enough as UTBA approaches its 8th anniversary. The scanty budget means that many amazing people do not get the remuneration they deserve for their hard work and expertise. The time demands are also becoming harder to meet as key members of UTBA take on new responsibilities in their daily lives, including theatrical opportunities, educational responsibilities, new jobs, and growing family commitments. Maybe you have noticed how UTBA has changed gradually over time. We have fewer active reviewers, have missed important shows that we should have reviewed, and the organization has not been as well equipped to serve the needs of our readers and Utah theatre artists.
What We We Want
We want to not only keep UTBA running, but make it better for readers and theatre artists. That requires some positive changes in how UTBA operates. First, instead of being run privately as a few people’s hobby, we have organized a board of directors for UTBA. Currently, the board consists of 8 people, each of whom has specified duties, including finances, editorial supervision, scheduling, and communications. Our managing editor, Russell Warne, is president, with longtime member Megan Crivello as vice president. Dave Mortensen is a board member in charge of the technical functioning of the site, but he has relinquished all supervisory roles.
We are also pleased to announce that we have applied for non-profit status. We have already obtained this status from the State of Utah, and similar approval is currently pending from the IRS. This will allow UTBA to solicit tax-exempt donations for site operations. In fact, we are delighted to announce our first fundraising drive for this year’s Giving Tuesday on November 28. Non-profit status also forces the organization to have a formalized structure, instead of merely being run based on one or two individuals’ personal preferences.
We also intend to improve the transparency of the web site. While theatre reviewing will always be subjective in nature, we can be better at informing readers who UTBA members are and how reviews are produced. In the past we have tried to keep ourselves in the background, mostly because we want to keep the focus on the plays. However, the board believes that increased transparency will help readers and theatre artists have greater confidence in our reviews and other communications.
Keeping What We Have
Some of these changes have already begun, and we’re thrilled with our progress so far. Perhaps you have noticed the changes in our social media communications that UTBA board secretary Tara Haas has made. Thanks to her, our social media presence is better than ever. Maybe you have received our first UTBA newsletter, also the brainchild of Ms. Haas. The board’s development officer, Justin Ferrell, is spearheading our impressive Giving Tuesday fundraising campaign, which will help us get on our way to our 2018 fundraising goal of $4,000. This is the expected cost of keeping the site’s servers running and paying writers and editors for 200 reviews in 2018. Over the coming months, look for more announcements about these (and other) changes as we improve UTBA so that it serves you better.
As we make these changes, we hope to keep what we have: a vital, robust organization of theatre lovers who believe in the strength of the Utah theatre community. Our goal is to make UTBA better at shining a spotlight on excellence in Utah theatre. If you have feedback or suggestions, please contact UTBA’s new secretary, Tara Haas, at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also apply to be a reviewer and donate to our fundraiser. With the help of our amazing board and all our readers, we can strengthen this state’s theatre community together.