Monday, January 2, 2012

2012: So, What's Up Next?

 "Lord, we know what we are but know not what we may be." 
~ Ophelia, Hamlet IV.4

By now, everyone who is reading this is probably sick of reading “Looking Back and Looking Forward” posts, but since this is Up Next's first year as a non-profit, I thought it would be especially nice -- almost necessary, maybe -- to wrap things up with 2011 and introduce what's up for Up Next in 2012. Not only will this give all of you teens, theaters, and other arts supporters an idea of where we are and where we're headed, but it will also serve to hold ourselves accountable for the goals we set this year (because now that you've seen them, we can't pretend we never set them).

But first, you might be wondering -- who are "we", really? There are three of us behind the main Up Next operations (which consist of theater communications, organizing events and outreach, marketing, and more): Alona Bach, Saskia Levy-Sheon, and Kenya Granich. (You can read more about us here.) And if you know us, or know of us, or just read about us, you'll know this: we're all teens. Though we technically have several legal adults in our ranks, we have no adult-adults working with us. And we think this is important, at least for our first year -- because we don't want to be adults telling teens that they should think that theater is cool. We want to be teens telling our friends that we think theater is cool, so hey, chill with us at a show instead of a movie, because you might find it cool too. Yeah. Maybe not in those words. But that same idea.

So here's to the past year that got us up and running, and to the upcoming adventures in the new year -- because we know what we are, but know not what's up next.

Highlights of the past year...
- We became fiscally sponsored by Fractured Atlas, and thus became an official non-profit.
- The wonderful Rob Dario designed our logo.
- Tim Bauer, a local playwright, wrote a lovely post about us on his blog.
- We made a splash at Cal Shakes' The Verona Project, where we numbered more than any other teen group that night -- and the show was awesome.
- We held a panel discussion on teens and theater-going, featuring teens Miguel Gamalinda and Naomi Zingman-Daniels, as well as Melissa Hillman (AD of Impact Theatre), Rachel Fink (Leader of Education programs at Berkeley Rep), and Simon Kaplan (theater teacher and Camp Director at Stagedoor Conservatory).

This coming year...
- In partnership with different theaters around the Bay, we'll be organizing a program called 8Rate, which will offer student rush tickets to card-carrying Up Next members for $8 (less than a movie ticket) -- more on this soon!
- Membership cards will be mailed out. (Want one? Go here!)
- In the works: a May Teen Theater Festival in a park, possibly?
- The fabulous Clio McConnell will switch over from her Teen Advisory Board position to the head of our Teen Reviewer program -- more on this soon.
- We'll sit down to write those press releases that seem so scary and send 'em off!
- We'll make a new website. A website that's more user friendly. And works in all browsers and on mobile devices. Which means that we need to...
- Seek out a web designer that can help us.
- You can now find us on Google+, though we're still primarily communicating through Facebook and Twitter.
- We'll figure out a better working model for the Focus Actor program -- our Teen Advisory Board selected two amazing Focus Actors (Reggie and Elena) for 2011-2012 season, but the program itself fell a bit to the wayside this past year while we focused on the more technical/legal aspects of running a non-profit. So we're going to get back on that horse, and hopefully get it in gear for the rest of this season!
- T-Shirts. Or sweatshirts. Or some other form of Up Next swag. It's coming.
- Perhaps some restructuring of our programs -- Next Night Outs seem to work, but not "Thumbs Up" events...hmmm.
- We hope to strengthen the Teen Advisory Board and make it a bigger part of our decision-making and development processes.
- Most importantly, we want to engage with the Bay Area teen community more, in person and online.

This past year, we focused on US -- how we could implement our own plans, how we could develop our own infrastructure. This coming year, we want to expand our focus more to YOU -- whether "you" means teens, arts administrators, teachers, or arts enthusiasts. We want to learn what fellow teens want in terms of theater-going, and then work on making those things happen. We want to hear your feedback.

Here are some of the questions we're facing as we move into a new year:
- How can we build up a strong infrastructure so that Up Next can function effectively? What should the role of the Teen Advisory Board be?
- What's the best way to structure the ticket-buying process? How can we find the right medium between advance reservations and wiggle-room (in case someone's homework load gets unexpectedly heavy)?
- How can we effectively engage and partner with schools?

And finally, we'd be remiss if we didn't thank lots of individuals and organizations who have helped get us on our feet this past year: Melissa Hillman, Jim Kleinmann, Erin Bregman, Jack Bauer, Valerie Weak, Laureen Mahler, Marilyn Langbehn, Tiffany Cothran, Michelle Dissel, Rob Dario, Simon Kaplan, Molly Aaronson-Gelb, Glenn Carroll, Sara Heitler, Focus Actors Elena Wright and Reggie White, Shotgun Players, Impact Theatre, Just Theater, Crowded Fire Theatre, and so many more -- not to mention adventurous teens. Thank you, thank you, thank you. We're looking forward to continuing to work with all of you in support of teen theater-going for many years to come.

- Alona Bach and the Up Next Team

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