Ask yourself which theatre company in our area is the most responsive to changing cultural demands. Perhaps a few come to mind, but if Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company is on that list, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation would agree with you.
Just announced: Woolly Mammoth have been awarded an $800,000 “Change Capital” grant by the Foundation. Foundation members sought out (this grant was not open to application) companies with a track record for innovation and adaptability. Woolly is one of five companies in the country chosen. The others are American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA, On The Boards in Seattle, WA, Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, OR, and Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts in Middletown, CT.
“We are honored and humbled to be included with an extraordinary group of colleagues as a part of this new initiative,” said Woolly Mammoth Managing Director Jeffrey Herrmann. “For the last 34 seasons, Woolly has continually sought to innovate and respond to a rapidly changing world in the artistic work on our stage, as well as in our business model and operations. ”
The Doris Duke Foundation described the purpose of the pilot program: “respond to a changing climate including, but not limited to, demographics, audience behavior, and the impact of technology. Each company will go through an organizational self-analysis, followed by an external assessment. Based on the outcomes of this first phase, they will develop and implement strategies and tactics to best enhance their long-term capacity to adapt.
That is practically a map of the brain of Woolly Mammoth. As far back as 2011, Howard Shalwitz created a Company Task Force to examine the theater’s past and future, and enter a period of self examination, to “sift through lessons learned” as Jayne Blanchard called it in her interview with Shalwitz. “What was interesting about the interviews with the company members was that they didn’t ask for more money or more roles,” he said. “They asked for a new way of working.”
Jeffrey Herrmann, in today’s press release concluded: “Woolly’s on-going “Free The Beast!” campaign will continue to support experimentation on our stages in an effort to push the art form forward. And with this astonishing award from Doris Duke, we will expand our adaptive capabilities as an organization, enabling us to stay ahead of the curve in our business practices. Indeed, we intend to use these resources in the ‘Woolliest’ way we know how: to keep taking risks and to keep Woolly a fresh, vital, and relevant contributor to our community and culture for years to come.”