“Even This You Get to Experience…”

by Julie Morris

in Advocacy

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From L to R: Julie Morris, Trustee, NC; Marshall Jones, TCG Board Member & Producing Artistic Director, Crossroads Theatre Company, New Brunswick, NJ; Art Rotch, Field Representative & Artistic Director, Perseverance Theatre, Douglas, AK; Michael Rosenberg, TCG Board Member & Managing Director, La Jolla Playhouse, La Jolla, CA; Bob Johnson, arts supporter, CA; Alissa Moore, TCG; Francine Reynolds, TCG Board Member & Artistic Director, New Stage Theatre, Jackson, MS; Laurie Baskin, TCG; Elizabeth Gray Henry, Legislative Aide, Office of Senator Thad Cochran. 

Using the words and title of Norman Lear’s new memoir, our TCG Advocacy team convened in Washington DC on March 23-24 to experience Arts Advocacy Day. Here’s who participated this year:

  • Marshall Jones, TCG Board Member & Producing Artistic Director, Crossroads Theatre Company, New Brunswick, NJ
  • Julie Morris, National Council for the American Theatre, NC
  • Francine Reynolds, TCG Board Member & Artistic Director, New Stage Theatre, Jackson, MS
  • Michael Rosenberg, TCG Board Member & Managing Director, La Jolla Playhouse, La Jolla, CA
  • Art Rotch, Field Representative & Artistic Director; Perseverance Theatre, Douglas, AK

After a day of training sponsored by Americans for the Arts, we were inspired by Norman Lear’s stellar address for the annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy at the Kennedy Center that evening. Mr. Lear believes as I do, that it is the Arts that can “kick the door open” to the myriad of problems we face in the world. Consequently, he inspired our efforts to come together in Arts Advocacy–theatre, music, film, literature, dance, photography, sculpture–these ARTS that cause us to see and hear as one.  In the “embrace of art” we are ONE in the common good for all.

It was not hard the next day to go out on the Hill to tell our stories of why art and theatre in particular is good for the nation. Theatre explores the core questions of the human spirit, “the wellspring of creative awe and wonder, longing for truth, beauty and meaning”  that our art form can bring to preserving our culture.

While also commemorating the 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), it was a good time to encourage the six Senators and Congressman we visited to support increased federal funding for the cultural agencies and key arts programs that the NEA supports.  We also advocated for the continued appropriations for the Arts Education Program funding.

With each Hill visit, we touched on a summary of actionable items. We began each conversation by focusing on particular issues that could be impacted through the various committees our Senators or Representatives sit on.

Please get to know other key issues that can greatly impact our theaters and let your voice be heard!

Tax Reform:

  • Encourage charitable gifts to support community access to the arts.
  • Preserve incentives for charitable giving by protecting the full scope and value of the tax donation for all forms of charitable gifts.
  • Reinstate and make permanent the IRA Charitable Rollover

Protecting Wireless Technology for the Performing Arts with FCC (specifically wireless microphones in the performing arts):

  • Preserve access to a reliable geo-location database for professional performing arts and education entities
  • Urge the FCC to help defray the costs of purchasing new equipment if a move in the broadcast spectrum is again mandated.
  • Preserve current nonprofit performing arts organization’s financial investments in the technical equipment many were forced to change in 2010.

Improving the Visa Process for Foreign Guest Artists at USCIS (US Citizen and Immigration Services):

  • Reduce visa processing time and unpredictable delays.
  • Lower prohibitive premium visa processing fees.
  • Acknowledge that global cultural exchange is important now more than ever to strengthen ties between the US and the world.

In addition, we were proud to highlight our 123 participating Blue Star Theatres, the collaboration between Theatre Communications Group, Blue Star Families and Met Life Foundation, connecting theatre offerings to military personnel across the United States.

TCG staff members, Laurie Baskin and Alissa Moore, did a wonderful job organizing our team. I highly encourage Artistic and Managing Directors of TCG Member Theatres to consider participating in Arts Advocacy Day next year or in the future. We need this collaboration of theatre leaders representing their individual theatres and states to make these valuable Hill visits possible. We really saw that Hill offices want to hear from their own constituents! When our artistic voices are most threatened, we need to speak out on the issues that affect theatre arts.

“Even this I get to experience” said Norman Lear.  So can YOU!!

Julie Morris of Raleigh, NC, is a community volunteer with a passion for theatre. Julie has served as a board member for the Coterie Theatre in Kansas City and twice served as co-chair for the Kansas City Repertory Theatre Gala. She also served on the Society of Fellows Board at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art for three years. Julie recently moved to North Carolina and can’t wait to engage with the theatre community in her new state. In addition to theatre, she is committed to youth programs acting as an advisor for Tips and Trips on Campus and having worked on the auction committee at Pembroke Hill School, chairing it in 2013. Her other work includes working on the planning committee for the 20th Anniversary of Bridging the Gap, Kansas City, and the Development Committee for Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Missouri. Additionally, Julie is a member of The Aspen Institute.