Brad Erickson to leave Theater Bay Area after 18 years as de facto spokesperson for the theater industry
Theater Bay Area Executive Director Brad Erickson is stepping down at the end of 2021 after 18 years on the job, the nonprofit announced at its online gala on Monday, June 21, announcing a major change in defense of the region’s arts and how its theater companies and artists are supported.
Even theater fans might not easily understand what a theater service organization like Theater Bay Area does because they don’t do art themselves, but their role in baseball doesn’t mean that their influence does not. is not huge. Erickson compares TBA to a regional theater chamber of commerce that serves both companies and artists. As Executive Director, Erickson has been the de facto spokesperson for the local industry, and his departure means that a new leader has the chance to reshape how the local theater looks and what its priorities are. (Full disclosure: I worked at the Bay Area Theater from 2013 to 2015.)
“Brad has been an extraordinary artistic leader for California and a longtime member of the board of directors of Californians for the Arts,” said Julie Baker, executive director of the organization. “His commitment to advocacy has improved conditions for all workers in the arts and creative industries in California. “
Erickson’s tenure was marked by deep intellectual curiosity. He is deeply at home in the egg world that tries to quantify the emotional reactions of audiences to the theater, as in the Theater Bay Area study of so-called “intrinsic impact” and his book resulting in “Counting New Beans”. But he can communicate these ideas in a conversational way and with the showmanship of a theater actor.
He also knows how to inspire and pull political levers, says his longtime colleague Dale Albright, former deputy director of TBA.
“He has boundless energy which is contagious and makes people want to be a part of his vision,” Albright said. “He is savvy enough to really understand the underpinnings of the various bureaucracies that affect different pressure points in and around our community and always seems to know the best way to navigate them.”
Erickson said a combination of factors had prompted him to retire.
In the first few months of the pandemic, he felt he had “crystal clear clearance” on what TBA needed to do. “We’re going to do whatever we can to help the ground get through this pandemic and this closure, and that was the Performing Arts Workers Relief Fund for Individual Artists, the reopening guidelines, the advocacy for the money for artists and businesses, ”he said. “The other was that we really had to work on tackling systemic racism within our system, within our community, within TBA itself. If it’s not one of those two things, we don’t.
But then his board asked him what his vision was after the pandemic. “I was like, ‘You know what? I don’t know,” he recalls. “This is clearly the time when we need a new leader.”
Another factor in Erickson’s decision was an unexpected legacy from the family of her husband, Brian Protheroe, a godsend that allows the couple to fulfill their long-held dream of creating an artist residency at the Erickson homestead. in Charleston, SC.
Erickson, who is also a playwright, has seen his own work benefit greatly from the four or five residencies he believes he has had, including two at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Woodside (although his second stay there was cut short due to the COVID-19 epidemic).
“It’s not just that you’re missing; anyone can do it, ”Erickson said of pensions. “It’s partly about the community of people, other artists who are also there to devote concentrated time to their work, but also to do it in community with other people. It’s the return after a long day and a dinner together and a few glasses of wine together – the bond that is created and the sharing of ideas.
He also plans to devote time to consulting and executive coaching, in addition to focusing on scripts he has in development, including a project with the New Conservatory Theater Center.
Among Erickson’s accomplishments in Theater Bay Area is the co-creation, with sister organizations Dancers’ Group and InterMusic SF, of the Performing Arts Worker Relief Fund, which has distributed over $ 600,000 to local artists who have lost their work. during the pandemic. Under Erickson’s leadership, TBA advocated for the adoption in 2018 of Proposal E, which restored the link between hotel tax and arts funding, and created the TBA Awards to honor local theater with a gala glowing and peer-to-peer awards each year.
In the early 2000s, TBA spearheaded the local version of a national program, Free Night of Theater, offering approximately 35,000 tickets over seven years.
The organization organizes regional conferences and professional development workshops and general hearings; it also provides grants and publishes artistic journalism.
Theater Bay Area plans to select Erickson’s successor by early 2022, hoping to announce a national executive search firm soon.
After expressing gratitude for Erickson’s tenure, TBA Board Chair Debbie Chinn said in a statement, “The Board views this transition as an opportunity to thoroughly assess every aspect. of the Theater Bay area at a critical time in history with high stakes for artists and arts organizations.