When A Comic Book Writer Walked Into a Room Full Of Theatre Managers...
I was seven when I auditioned for my first play. I got the dance steps wrong, I dropped the makeshift harvest prop, and all my classmates and teachers laughed at me. Needless to say it could have gone better, but despite my horrible experience there was something about plays that drew me in. Sure auditioning for plays meant skipping chemistry class, but my fascination for theater and theater folk continued well after school and college. Which is why I knew I had to apply the moment I saw the call for applications for the Theatre Management Fellowship by Kaivalya Plays.
Finding My Way In Theatre Circles
Fascination aside, I joined the fellowship for two main reasons. Being a children’s writer who’s scripted plays in the past, I wanted to get a feel for the way actors interacted with scripts and stage directions. I also wanted to dabble with children’s content that could be performed over video calls, and finally I guess dipping my toes in the river of theater management felt like a nice vacation away from publishing—I’d just finished a long stint as commissioning editor—and I honest to god wanted to know how other creatives lived lived their lives. Far more glamorous than writers it turns out, but that’s going to be too much of a digression. You’re just going to have to ask the rest of the fellows and the Kaivalya team about crew parties and alcohol budgets.
I wish I’d taken a before and after picture of my work desk, because I can’t think of anything that better exemplifies my journey with Kaivalya than my desk decluttering over time. I’d like to think of the fellowship as a creative management fellowship with a focus on theater. And the reason I think of it this way is because almost everything I learned, I could pick up and apply to my writing and editing. From Gaurav’s sessions on email automaton, to Varoon’s production management, there were very few sessions that I didn’t think I could use. The fellowship to me was a neatly laid out buffet, there were sessions on social media, website and database management, google docs and sheets, grant writing, archiving, curation, finances and production. I picked the skills I wanted the most, and observed and enjoyed the sessions I didn’t require. I got to write grant proposals, worked on my personal website, and remember my desk I wouldn’t stop talking about? I’ve moved from ominous post-its and scraps of paper that remind me about impending deadlines and pending payments, to ominous spreadsheets that remind me about impending deadlines and pending payments.
Stepping Up; Managing My First Theatre Project
During my time at the workshop, I got to peek behind the curtain and watch the Hans Christian Anderson production evolve, undergoing multiple iterations based on feedback from the actors. I watched it go from a collection of abstract ideas, to something with form, and finally a seamless transition that retells some of the authors most bellowed stories using artists across different arts backgrounds. I got to work on a few children's theater modules with Varoon, and I applied for a whole lot of grants as a direct influence of the workshop. The other fellows and I had a wonderful time listening to the external speakers share their expertise, we absorbed the tech and management sessions, and had fun working on projects along the way.
Learning From Theatre Practitioners with Masterclasses
My biggest takeaway from the external speaker sections were the unique insights it provided me with from experts in the field. For instance, the section with Menaka on fundraising, gave me insight into the world of donor relations, but more importantly it also helped me to narrow down what donors look for in grant proposals. The session with Adv. Niranjan Kaur and Adv. Rishabh Sharma left me thinking about rights and permissions, and has alerted me to better pick out certain clauses that can be detrimental to creatives.
To expand a bit more on our internal tech sessions, Gaurav’s session on knowledge management was priceless. I particularly enjoyed the tips and tricks Gaurav taught us with google sheets, something that I’ve become obsessed about and have dug into a little deeper after the fellowship. As a result of which, I’ve begun cataloguing my work, sorting them into separate sheets for published, completed, and incomplete manuscripts. Just having them all linked to one place has made application and just resuming work on them all the more easy.
I also enjoyed the session on email marketing and picked up usable skills pertaining to making and scheduling email campaigns, as well as automating emails. Admittedly I haven’t put all of it to use yet, but I’m trying my best to take it one step at a time. Finally, I really found Gaurav’s session on payment gateways interesting, this is something I’ve never considered exploring in the past, but the session has certainly opened my eyes to its possibility.
In the end, the Kaivalya fellowship felt both short and as though it had gone on for a year. And as I struggle to end this somewhat meandering post, I can’t help but think of how altruistic the fellowship actually was. The fellowship gave us so much and asked for very little in return, and I for one can’t wait to work with Kaivalya Plays again.
Interested in learning more about the Theatre Management Fellowship by Kaivalya Plays? The next cohort will begin in December 2021. Learn more and sign up for updates here.