“Once we made the choice to produce our plays, not to recoup an investment but to recoup some corner of the universe for our understanding and enlargement, we entered into the same world as the university, the library, the museum, the church, and became, like them, an instrument of civilization.” —Zelda Fichandler

Zelda Fichandler, the founding artistic director of Arena Stage, uttered those words as part of her 1968 testimony in Congress to win 501c3 nonprofit tax status for theatres. As we approach the 100th anniversary of Zelda’s birth, we’re taking inspiration from her with Instruments of Civilization: Advocacy Hill Visits & Governance Round Table. This event is part of the first-ever Theatre Week from April 9-11, where TCG and our friends at the Professional Non-Profit Theatre Coalition are taking to Capitol Hill to fight for what we need to thrive.

On April 9, TCG will kick-off Instruments of Civilization at GALA Hispanic Theatre with hybrid governance sessions focused on mission-critical issues theatres are facing. We’ll alsodeepen the conversations on new governance models from our highly rated 2022 Strategic Retreat on Governance. In-person attendees will also take advantage of DC’s abundant theatre season, with trips to local performances.

On April 10, Instruments of Civilization will continue at Arena Stage with a morning advocacy training culminating in meetings with our Members of Congress. These Capitol Hill visits will build on TCG’s decades-long experience in advocating at the federal level for theatre, including the 2016 visits that connected over 225 theatremakers with their Members of Congress. Our issue briefs will include: increased support for the NEA and for arts education at the U.S. Department of Education, improved visa processing for artists from abroad, increased tax incentives for charitable giving, ticketing reform, and gig worker protections. 

We’ll return from Capitol Hill for a reception at Arena Stage the evening oif April 10, where our arts advocates will meet with members of the Professional Non-Profit Theatre Coalition (PNTC) to share advocacy stories and celebrate Theatre Week and our collective power. On April 11, the Coalition will lead a cohort of managing and artistic leaders to advocate for the STAGE Act.

All theatre people, regardless of professional role, are welcome to join us for Theatre Week and Instruments of Civilization: Advocacy Hill Visits & Governance Round Tables, and we especially encourage teams of trustees and theatre leaders to attend. We’re providing multiple ways to engage—from virtual participation to day passes for the Hill Visits—to ensure as much participate as possible. Members of PNTC are welcome to attend both Theatre Week events, and you can learn more about PNTC here

In a pivotal election year, Instruments of Civilization will bring our collective energy to where it is needed most. We’ll also celebrate the launch of The Long Revolution: Sixty Years on the Frontlines of a New American Theater, a collection of Zelda’s writing, edited by Todd London, with a free book event the evening of April 8. Zelda’s writing galvanized the artistry, advocacy, and governance of the founding years of our resident theatre movement, and her words will help inspire and ground us as together we forge the next sixty years. 

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