Call and Response: Mallory D. Pierce

by Dafina McMillan


“I had a pretty rude awakening when I realized that I was not going to make it as a dancer. I wasn’t very happy because I didn’t quite know what I was going to do with my life… It takes a whole lot of people to make art happen and I decided that what I was meant to do in this business was to create a space where the art can happen.”
– Mallory D. Pierce, I AM THEATRE

I can definitely remember the excitement and joy I had when on any stage growing up in Texas – and then realizing perhaps acting was not my calling. After college, I set out to New York to somehow find a way to combine my interest in communications and my passion for theatre. How could I help raise visibility for the arts? After working in public relations, I participated in the Kennedy Center Arts Management Fellowship – which literally changed my life and set me on a new path. Only then did I begin to truly understand the complexity, creativity and rigor of arts management. I realized I had skills that could be better used as an administrator to champion the arts.

When did you realize there was a whole other world behind the stage?

What excites you about arts administration?

Are there enough quality education/training programs for arts administrators?

Let us know, or better yet, don’t just tell, show.

Call and Response extends the conversation surrounding the I AM THEATREvideos (and hopefully inspires you to make your own video). You can watch Mallory’s video and catch up on I AM THEATRE here.

  • Devra Thomas

    Having just completed my first Residency for the Masters of Arts in Arts Administration program at Goucher College, under the direction of Ramona Baker, this question comes at a perfect moment.

    I believe whole-heartedly in the life-changing power of stories told through live theater. I never truly understood the AIDS crisis until a local community theater performance of Finn and Lapine’s “Falsettos”. I knew I wanted to be a part of that power and I thought I had to do that on stage, that that was the only possible avenue (a drastic disservice fostered by our high school arts programs).

    I learned very quickly (one show, same community theater) that I am not an actress. That is not where my skills lay. I had the opportunity to work backstage next, and found a niche at which I was adept, and that carried me through college and much of my working life after, while I was honing my customer service and management skills in retail.

    I am people person, naturally drawn to developing relationships with customers, patrons, artists, etc. When I took my current Theater Manager position, I realized that it was simply combining my skills from retail service with my passion for live theater. Kaching! A match made in heaven (for me anyway).

    Is there enough quality education for the field? Perhaps, but it is not promoted in a way to be useful. “Business or professional development” seems to me to be an afterthought for most arts service organizations. While their primary objective is — and should likely be — connecting artists with audiences, the means through which that is done should also be given equal weight. As arts administrators, we have the obligation to step up in our communities and organizations and be recognized as the link between the two that we are.

  • Tanya Mote

    I absolutely believe the field needs adminstrators who are as committed, passionate and creative as the artists on our stages — but there is still a gap between the skill building that happens in the arts adminstration programs that are proliferating across the country and the hard reality of working in the field. What we do is a profession and it requires commitment. It is up to us (adminstrators, artists et al) to propel the field forward: to build the infrastructure of our individual organizations, innovate, and to nurture dialogue and advocacy. We have to make a better field — and the work is happening beautifully, even if it is often a struggle. We are privileged to work in this field — and we have an opportunity and a responsibility to transform how art (all kinds of art) and artists (and teachers and workers of all kinds…) are valued in our society and how every person on the ground experiences art.

    Still — this field is not for the faint of heart — and I think we have to be real with the people we are training – the field is challenging, grueling, disappointing, satisfying, amazing – the best and most important work you will ever do. You will not get paid for all of the many hours that you work. It will be up to you to plan and save for retirement. Working in the arts is not a 9-5 gig – but I guess no vocation worth pursuing ever is……