Technology and the Artist-Entrepreneur

by Tori Keenan-Zelt

in National Conference

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(This post is part of the 2014 TCG National Conference: Crossing Borders {Theatre | Technology} blog salon, curated by Jacqueline E. Lawton.) 

JACQUELINE LAWTON: First, please tell us a bit about yourself and your organization.

TORI KEENAN-ZELT: I’m a playwright. My other hats include screenwriter, founding Co-Artistic Director of Panglossian Productions (a non-profit global/local new work company in Williamsburg, VA), and VP of Operations and Development for Kanjy. Founded in January 2013, Kanjy is a global, on-line storytelling community dedicated to fostering access, connection, and opportunity across the stage and screen industries and to empowering artists as entrepreneurs.

JL: Next, please share the title and description of your breakout session, so that folks can find you.

TKZ: The session is Technology and the Artist-Entrepreneur (9:00 AM - 10:30 AM, June 21 2014, Sapphire I). How can technology empower the artist? This session will feature a series of tech tools and tactics for artists and theatre people to support their careers and advance their work as creative entrepreneurs. Panelists will include Kanjy, an online storytelling community dedicated to fostering access, connection, and opportunity among artists and organizations. Through a professional network and tools, Kanjy allows storytellers and organizations to share portfolios of their work, manage submissions, and connect with colleagues, projects, and opportunities. Also featured is The Playwrights’ Center, which provides an artistic home for writers at all levels of experience through tools that help them develop, share and advocate for new plays. These tools will soon include a searchable database of submission opportunities, a callboard for playwrights to connect with each other, a toolkit of templates and documents, and other improvements on a responsive site designed to work seamlessly across mobile and desktop devices.

JL: Now, what inspired this breakout session?

TKZ: Both technology and arts-entrepreneurship have been bubbling in the theatre ether for a while. To me, the entrepreneurship conversation is responding to a perceived need for artists to have more power and choices in a challenging market landscape. I think, as we see more and more concrete models emerging, we’re gaining a clearer sense of what challenges and possibilities they present. By sharing our experiences developing and using tech tools to address the need to empower artists, we can understand how to leverage and build upon them most effectively.

JL: Finally, what do you hope participants learn from this breakout session?

TKZ: I hope that this will be a many-sided conversation through which we will all get a better sense of the big picture of current work in artist empowerment through the narrower lens of our experiences developing virtual tools. We’ll use Kanjy, Lark, and Playwrights’ Center’s individual cases, as well as those brought by participants, to identify the challenges that are causing many of us to set the goal of empowering artists. From that common ground, we’ll survey a broader landscape of current tools and resources to think together about best practical applications, remaining areas for exploration, and how they might support or transform our work.

Tori Keenan-Zelt is a Playwright, etc., focused on asking questions and empowering artists. In addition to her work with Kanjy, she is founding Co-Artistic Director Panglossian Productions, a non-profit global/local company making new work in VA.


Jacqueline E. Lawton received her MFA in Playwriting from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a James A. Michener fellow. Her plays include Anna K; Blood-bound and Tongue-tied; Deep Belly Beautiful; The Devil’s Sweet Water; The Hampton Years; Ira Aldridge: Love Brothers Serenade, Mad Breed and Our Man Beverly Snow. She has received commissions from Active Cultures Theater, Discovery Theater, National Portrait Gallery, National Museum of American History, Round House Theatre and Theater J. A 2012 TCG Young Leaders of Color, she has been nominated for the Wendy Wasserstein Prize and a PONY Fellowship from the Lark New Play Development Center. She resides in Washington DC and is a member of Arena Stage’s Playwrights’ Arena.