Event Details
  • Build Back Better
    July 29, 2021
    5:30 pm - 7:30 pm
We're sorry, but all tickets sales have ended because the event is expired.
Building Back Better: The Cautious Reopening of Not-for-Profit Theater Companies

Thursday, July 29th - doors open at 5:30 pm for networking, panel starts at 6:00
Still virtual, still on zoom while we get ready for a post-pandemic world.

Speakers to include Chad Austin, artistic director of Abingdon Theatre Company; Debra Ann Byrd of Harlem Shakespeare Festival; Frances Hill, founding artistic director of Urban Stages; Ralph Lewis, co-founder of Peculiar Works Project.

As theaters begin to reopen, many theater companies are bringing the lessons they learned during the pandemic with them into the future. They're reevaluating "best practices" to determine what still works and what needs to change, now that the nation is different from when we closed our doors. Moving forward may involve returning to basics: defining and focusing your theater's vision and purpose, creating an infrastructure with clearly defined roles, understanding the purpose of a board and how it can support the success of your company. We will also look at fundraising and audience building strategies, and the importance of branding for attracting supporters. Throughout, our panel will confront the question: How do you balance the tried-and-true with the need for flexibility and adaptability that we have learned the hard way? 

Doors open at 5:30pm for networking and roundtable introductions of everyone in the room ‚Äď come prepared with your best 20-second summary of who you are, and what you need. Panel will start at 5:30pm. Free for TRU members; $15 for non-members. Please use the bright red reservation box here on our web page, or email or phone at least a day in advance (or much sooner): e-mail TRUStaff1@gmail.com / phone 833-506-5550


    is the Artistic Director of Abingdon Theatre Company in New York City. Chad joined ATC in 2016 as the Associate Director and during that time helped to develop works such as the World Premiere of The Mother of Invention by Academy Award Winner, James Lecesne, Chess Match No. 5 directed by Ann Bogart and Eve Ensler’s Fruit Trilogy. In 2018, Chad took over as Artistic Director of Abingdon and now continues to develop and produce brave, new American work by emerging and established artists. In his time as Artistic Director, Chad created Abingdon’s One Night Only series which gave a stage to Wade Dooley’s The Prompter, starring Academy Award winner Estelle Parsons. In this series, Chad also shepherded a production of Steel Magnolias, featuring Tony Award Nominees, Brenda Braxton, Sandy Duncan and Nancy Opel. With Chad at the helm, Abingdon also co-produced the critically acclaimed off-Broadway run of Jacqueline Novak’s Get On Your Knees. In addition to all of his work at Abingdon, his highlights as a director and choreographer include, the Emmy award winning Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert on NBC, starring John Legend and Sara Bareilles; Love! Valour! Compassion! at Theatre 71; the World Premiere of STET by Kim Davies; And the World Goes 'Round, honoring Bebe Neuwirth; Alone in the U.S.A at SUNY New Paltz; Who Are You? at the New York Music Theatre Festival; Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel and Chess both at A.T.A NYC and Peter and the Wolf with the Hampton Ballet Theatre. Chad also choreographed the musical movies Walk the Walk, Landed and Winning New York (official section 2016 young film maker series).


    is the Founder of Take Wing And Soar Productions where she currently serves as Chief Executive and Producing Artistic Director.¬† Ms. Byrd has guided the company's growth from its birth in 1999 into a viable support organization serving women, youth, classical artists of color and theater arts groups throughout New York.¬† As an actor, producer, arts manager, and business leader she has received more than 20 awards and citations, was recently selected for inclusion in the 2012 Editions of Who‚Äôs Who In The World and Who‚Äôs Who of American Women; and is the recipient of the 2009 LPTW Lucille Lortel Award and the 2006 Josephine Abady Award for Excellence in ‚ÄúProducing works that foster diversity‚ÄĚ.¬† This award winning theater arts professional received a BFA Degree in Acting from Marymount Manhattan College.¬† Debra Ann graduated from the 2001 NYSF Shakespeare Lab at The Public Theater, the 2005 Arts Leadership Institute, at Teacher‚Äôs College/Columbia University, and completed producer training with The Broadway League at the 2007 Commercial Theatre Institute.

    began her theatrical career in California as an actress. Since 1983, Ms. Hill has overseen more than 600 staged readings/workshops and over 100 productions of new works for the stage. She has directed over 30 workshops and productions. Her favorite directing credits include Gino DiIorio’s Apostasy, Roma Greth’s Our Summer Days, Jim Lehrer’s Chili Queen, (directed at Urban Stages and Kennedy Center), John Picardi’s Seven Rabbits on a Pole and The Sweepers (directed at Urban Stages and Capital Rep); Comfort Women by Chugmi Kim (Urban Stages 2004), 27 Rue De Fleurs,  My Occasion of Sin, Mabel Madness, Dogs of Rwanda. Two of her plays have been produced, Our Bench and Life Lines. Under the guidance of Ms. Hill, Playwrights’ Preview Productions/Urban Stages have moved two plays into commercial Off-Broadway successes. Minor Demons opened the new Century Center Theater, and Men on the Verge of His-Panic Breakdown won an Outer Critic’s Circle Award while playing to capacity audiences at the 47th Street Theater. Urban Stages’ Confirming the Search that Girl is in there Somewhere by Nadine Mazon  won eight Audelco Nominations, one award, and Coyote On a Fence received two Drama Desk nominations and a Pilgrim’s Project Award. Eisa Davis’s Bulrusher was one of three nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. The 2010 production of Langston in Harlem won several drama desk nominations, a John Calloway award, and several Audelco nominations, including a win for best music production of the year (2010), along with several other awards. Recently Character Man by Jim Brochu (2014) was nominated for a Drama Desk, and Outer Critic’s Circle award. While Honky and Unseamly ( 2016, 2017) were New York Times Critics Pick, Honky was produced on HBO.   Mabel Madness by Trezana Beverley (2016) was nominated for an Audelco Award as was Bars and Measures (2019) for best ensemble production.  The virtual one act festival Heroes and Villains (2021) won a Telly Award.   Currently being produced at Urban Stages is CHARMED LIFE from Soul Singing to Opera Star by and starring Lori Brown Mirabal. 


    creates original theater as conceiver, director, writer, teacher, and actor, as well as producing diverse, multi-disciplinary works in unique, non-theater venues throughout NYC and beyond. Recipient of NYIT’s 2018 Caffe Cino Award, he has been the co-director of Peculiar Works Project, an Obie Award-winning producer of site-specific performance, since 1993. Most recently on Zoom, he created Janes Calling for the 2021 Jane’s Walk (Municipal Art Society), and directed Fengar Gael’s Smile Like A Knife (Ego Actus). His virtual tour of NYC’s first theaters, Behind the Curtain, has been workshopped by both the Episcopal Actors’ Guild and Untapped Cities and has been picked up by NY Adventure Club for a monthly open run on LiveStorm. Already selected for 8 festivals, Covid-created Language Games, including Best Shorts Competition (Best Experimental), On Women Festival (3rd prize), New Wave Film Festival (Best Woman’s Empowerment), and thanks to Covid is his first video project since the 2005 documentary, Welcome Aboard the Tripbox. Pre-pandemic creations include Afterparty: The Rothko Studio in the landmarked 222 Bowery; 2 Jane Jacobs for Village Preservation at the Cherry Lane Theater; and Planet X for the 2018 [Re]Happening Festival at the legendary Black Mountain College, NC. Other directing includes American Hamburger, Mother Suck, and 3 Robert Heide Plays (Howl! Happening); two Climate Change Theater Actions for Artichoke Arts; and America’s first play, Androboros, in both Fraunces Tavern Museum and Overthrow’s boxing ring; as well as terrific plays by William M. Hoffman, Megan Terry, Larry Gelbart, Paul Foster, Tom Murrin, Marina Shron, John Patrick Shanley, Hallie Flanagan, Dostoevsky, Aristophanes, and Dr. Suess, among others. When not making theater, Ralph lives in a 200-year-old Federal house on the Bowery and volunteers with the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors, NYC Loft Tenants, and Henry St. Food Pantry. NYU-TSOA, AEA, SAG/AFTRA, LCT Directors Lab.