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Thistle's The Way: The Performing Arts Scene in San Angelo

STEAM in the Performing Arts

In the realm of human creativity, the performing arts stand as a testament to the fusion of imagination and skill. Traditionally seen as a domain driven solely by artistic expression, the performing arts have increasingly embraced a multidisciplinary approach, incorporating elements of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) into their fabric. This harmonious convergence has not only enriched artistic endeavors but has also expanded the horizons of innovation and collaboration. Let's explore how STEAM influences and enhances the world of performing arts.

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Strategic Planning Considerations for the Future of the Arts

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Musings by the Executive Director of the San Angelo Performing Arts Center.

Leaving the Army after 22 years and somehow ending up in performing arts venue management may seem like two sides of two different rocks, but actually they are similar in many ways. Strategic planning, for example--not the strategic plan for a fiscal year, but the 5-10 year planning required to meet the needs of a future development--is common to both.
Who on an Army staff doesn't like strategic planning? It is one of the most fun and engaging activities that an officer can do during their career. I jest of course. Strategic planning can be daunting, ponderous, complex, and unfinished. In the performing arts and non-profit world, strategic planning are all those things and more. In San Angelo, for example, we have to consider many factors such as the planned extension of the interstate, transition of organizational leadership, developments in other nearby cities, and the shifting trends in audience interests.
At the forefront of all the variables, however, is the planned extension of the interstate(s). This nebulous evolution of the transportation network will potentially change the landscape of performing art in West Texas quite significantly.
For example, it could bring more tourism to the city, in which case we have to be poised for that growth and consider whether we have the facilities, sites and events to accommodate adventurous travelers. It's something I think about everyday. Do we have a common vision for what our city will offer tourists so that they spend a couple days here, or will we merely be a rest stop for them onto places like Abilene, Amarillo, or Lubbock?
Other cities, like Abilene are getting prepared for this eventuality. Last year, the City of Abilene entered a seven year contract with ASM-Global to manage their convention center. ASM-Global is the same venue management company that oversees the daily operations of Wagner Noel PAC in Midland and the Buddy Holly Hall in Lubbock. Between the three, they have formed a triangle of live entertainment in West Texas that has never existed before.
It is a great strategic development because each city is approximately 2 hours from the other allowing for tours to come through and hit multiple cities. Moreover, ASM-Global works with Live Nation and Broadway promoters so there will be bigger shows regionally.
Moreover, if we look at how the Hotel Occupancy Tax funds are used in each city, they are all highlighted as a successful examples on the Texans for the Arts HOT Funds Tool Kit for Municipalities. 
Investing in the Arts always pays off, and you can see this not just in West Texas but in places as remote as Padukah, KY or Fayetteville, AR.  In Padukah, KY, their success story revolves around the Market House Theatre that went from a single building to over 11 spaces in their historic downtown.  Whereas in Fayetteville, AR, the success of the performing arts is driven by collaboration between Walmart, the City and surrounding communities, along with arts leaders.  When I visited Fayetteville for an International Venue Association of Venue Managers conference, the key word I remember was 'intentionality' in planning and ensuring a cohesive vision for Northwest Arkansas.
So as I enter into my third year as Director at SAPAC, I am looking forward to where San Angelo will be in 5-10 years. But I also wonder, are we ready collectively for the future?  There is a lot of work to be done, but we can use a lot of existing examples to make sure we are poised for the next decade.  
Experimenting with the integration of new technology

Musings by the Executive Director of the San Angelo Performing Arts Center.

Yukio Kuniyuki

Technology keeps us on the edge of our toes.  This weekend we managed our first Zoom call broadcast on Facebook Live and projected on a screen in one of our theatres.  We had never done something like this, but were asked by an event organizer to help figure out how they could reach more people during a Cancer awareness event. So we did it.  It wasn't perfect at first because we had to work out a few networking issues, but we had it going within 15 minutes.  

Today is another test of technology to meet the evolving demands of the information domain.  We hear marketing professionals say that organizations need to improve their Search Engine Optimization.  They say that blogging is the way to go, but they don't often say which blogs to use.  As with some other non-profits who created a blog on their website, we followed suit.  But I got to thinking, is this the right blog forum?  In a world dominated by Google and its vast array of statistics and data mines, I determined that it may be more important to blog on Blogger and then link that to our website.  Afterall, Blogger is connected to Google and I can imagine unseen AI-bots combing through my text and categorizing it for the data behemoth.  

We'll see if it works.  

To further elevate the quality of this post for our digital overlords, I queried ChatGPT about interesting facts about theatre in October.  This is what it said.

October is an exciting month for theater enthusiasts, with various events, historical milestones, and interesting facts associated with the world of theater. Here are some intriguing facts about theater in October:

 -National Arts and Humanities Month: October is recognized as National Arts and Humanities Month in the United States. This month-long celebration emphasizes the importance of theater, arts, and culture in society.

-Shakespeare's Birth and Death: William Shakespeare, one of the most renowned playwrights in history, was born on April 26, 1564, and died on April 23, 1616. His birth and death are celebrated in October in some parts of the world, coinciding with the autumnal equinox.

-Halloween Theater: October is the perfect time for spooky and Halloween-themed theater productions. Many theaters stage plays, musicals, and events that embrace the eerie and macabre, adding a touch of fright to the season.

-The Tony Awards: The Tony Awards, which recognize excellence in live Broadway theater, are usually held in June, but they are a significant event in the theater world. October often marks the beginning of a new theater season in Broadway, making it an exciting time for theater fans.

-Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Some theaters and theater organizations hold special events and fundraisers in October to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research and support. These productions are often referred to as "pink theater."

-Arthur Miller's Birthday: The renowned American playwright Arthur Miller was born on October 17, 1915. He is best known for plays like "Death of a Salesman" and "The Crucible."

-World Ballet Day: While not theater in the traditional sense, October 1st is celebrated as World Ballet Day, showcasing the art of ballet, which often features prominently in theater productions.

-Anniversary of 'The Phantom of the Opera': Andrew Lloyd Webber's iconic musical, "The Phantom of the Opera," had its London premiere on October 9, 1986. It has since become the longest-running Broadway show in history.

-International Stage Management Day: October 10th is recognized as International Stage Management Day, celebrating the hard work and dedication of stage managers who ensure the smooth operation of theatrical productions.

-The Nobel Prize in Literature: While not specific to theater, the Nobel Prize in Literature is often awarded to playwrights and authors whose works have made a significant impact on the literary and dramatic world. The Nobel Prize ceremony takes place in December, with announcements in October.

-October Revolution and Russian Theater: In Russia, the October Revolution in 1917 had a profound impact on the development of theater. It led to the establishment of Soviet theater and innovations in theatrical production.

These are just a few interesting facts and events related to theater in October. It's a month filled with a rich history of performances and celebrations of the arts. Whether you're a theater enthusiast or a casual theatergoer, October offers a variety of experiences for all.

For the San Angelo Performing Arts Center, October is a month full of events, shows, and activities.  Here is a short list.

7 Oct:  San Angelo Symphony

7 Oct:  Cancer Awareness Event

8 Oct:  Angelo State Wind Ensemble

12 Oct:  Kyiv Grand Ballet presents Snow White

14 Oct:  Etta May and the Southern Fried Chicks

15 Oct:  San Angelo Chorus

17 Oct:  Glenn Middle School Orchestra

20 Oct:  Ballet San Angelo Sharing Dance Day

23-25 Oct:  Spoken Word In-Residency Workshop at CHS & LVHS

25 Oct:  SAMFA Lustre gallery and car show

26 Oct:  Spoken Word night featuring Outspoken Bean and students

27 Oct:  Mariachi meets Beethoven

27 Oct:  Rocky Horror Picture Show

27 Oct:  Be Theatre presents She Kills Monsters

29 Oct:  Blackshear Heights Fall Festival and Haunted House


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Behind the Emerald Curtain: Insight into Performing Arts Management

This is a multi-part series to provide insight on the Performing Arts industry and what I've learned in two years as the Executive Director for SAPAC.  

Non-profit performing arts management is a challenging profession that I have likened to being in the armed forces.  It is a dynamic environment that requires near term coordination and execution, long term planning, risk mitigation, operational assessments, and area analysis. 

Every event is similar to a military training exercise.  Planning usually begins 6-8 months out, and sometimes 1-2 years depending on the size of a show.  During this planning and coordination phase, we finalize contracts and do initial coordination; this includes developing a marketing plan.  Everything has to be in place either at the start of a season or at least 3 months out from the show.  However, as planning for the upcoming season takes place, you're executing the for the current season of shows.     

3-6 weeks out from the show, the Production Manager and Technical Director normally 'advance' the show by meeting with the Tour Manager and others to solidify the plan prior to execution.

On the day of the show, all of the prior coordination and planning comes together.  It begins with RSOI: reception, staging, onward movement, and integration of the touring production.  Like the stevedores at a port, the freelance tech staff off load equipment from trailers and stage them within the auditorium.   Tour staff designate spaces backstage for artists while the tech staff move into their assigned positions and begin installing lightsets, backdrops, and other props for the show.  

Lastly, other tech staff integrate the tours equipment with the house lights and sound to ensure that all systems are ready for sound checks and last minute rehearsals prior to the show. 

To witness the process is amazing.  Sometimes it may take 6-8 hours just to build a set for a 90 minute production.  But it is a great feeling to be a part of something like a touring Broadway show or an internationally renowned artist.  


The Murphey Performance Hall is able to download two semi-trucks at a time.  We've had up to five for some of our bigger shows.

Staging equipment is key to a speedy load-in of equipment.  Many tours bring their own light sets and other set pieces that can fill the space on the stage.


When everything is in place, it is a wonderful feeling.


But the work never really stops.  Since each venue may be different than previous tour stops, artists often have to work on spacing for dance numbers and other cues.


Once the show is over, then the operations transition to redeployment.  It usually takes half the time to repack the equipment and load it onto the trucks.  Once this is complete, the staff also begins cleaning and restoring the theatre back to its basic state to prepare for the next show.  

Some theatres and venues may have 2-3 shows a week, which requires a lot of coordination and synchronization.  Others may only have 2-3 shows per month.  

If you would like to know more, follow this blog as we provide more insight to this world to help aspiring professionals explore another world of possibilities.

Changes as we enter our 8th Season

Our 8th Season at SAPAC will look a little different this year than in the past. We are shifting gears to focusing on becoming a venue of choice in West Texas where local, regional, and national promoters may use our space for their tours, shows, and events. In fact, in the past two years, we've seen a steady increase of promoters planning event in our spaces.

This is inline with our mission: To provide local, national, and international arts organizations state-of-the-art facilities; in a way that ensures the success of local arts organizations, enables and encourages quality and diverse  programming, and promotes cultural and educational opportunities for all so that we enrich the lives of people who live in our community.  

While we will continue to present some shows, it will not be on the scale of previous seasons as we will need to seek grants and sponsorship to help underwrite each show. We are still a young non-profit performing arts organization and there are some key things we must have in place to allow us to return to being both a robust presenting organization and a state-of-the-art venue.

The number one priority is to grow our operating endowment. An endowment is essential to every successful presenting venue in the US. In fact, many of the venues that reside along I-35 and to the east have substantial endowments that they've grown over the decades. The Miller Outdoor Theatre is a great example of this as they celebrate their Centennial this year. They are able to offer free shows of world class performers to their patrons.

The business of performing arts is a complex and challenging endeavor as a multitude of factors evolve and change over the years. Our goal is to be the visionary and presenting venue of choice in our area of West Texas. I am confident we will get there, together.