The End of the Trail for me as Rogue Festival Executive Director

Official statement-like stuff:

JEFEndOfTheTrailYesterday was my last day as the executive director of the Rogue Festival. I gave the board of directors notice in January and my term finished with the second quarter board meeting last night. When I was brought on board to guide the festival in May of 2016, I promised the board of directors two festivals because I had an inkling of how immersive the experience of administering a festival would be. I knew I’d want to get back into my own headspace again, both as a creative artist and personally.

The board and volunteer staff have been a joy and a pleasure to work with, and helming the “beautiful beast” (as I call it) has been the most challenging arts administration experience of my 20 years’ experience. It has a rich culture and a deep well of spirited support. And like so many grass-roots organizations, it also struggles with having enough people, time, energy and resources to manage its needs. There is a rewarding community of people surrounding the Festival who enjoy its art and atmosphere year after year, and I urge each and every one of them to find a way that they can contribute to Rogue Festival on a sustainable basis.

I’m not planning on fully stepping away from Rogue Festival. It is a tough addiction to give up. I’ve promised the board I would mentor whomever they nominate to guide them through the requirements of the job. I will also likely be stepping back into my volunteer status, perhaps as a publicist or perhaps in another capacity. Those details are not yet nailed down.

The Rogue Festival Board of Directors are considering all options for moving forward with the Festival in 2019. They are a smart group of Rogues, and I know that they have a deep commitment to keeping the Rogue Festival sustainable for the foreseeable future! To all of the Rogue volunteers, core staff, board of directors, and performers. . . thank you for coming back to the Tower District in March again and again!

***

Unofficial reflection-like stuff:

One of the things that many people don’t understand about running an arts organization, from July – April after a full-time day -job, is how much brain-space it takes up in one’s life. It isn’t just a discreet set of tasks (although checklists help!).

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Helming an organization like the Rogue Festival is like leading a wagon train. The director has to have the vision for where they are going to end their journey in her head the entire time, despite stretches of boredom and irredeemably mundane work. That image must be afixed to the horizon as a lodestone, pulling her in the right direction. But to get to that point on the horizon, she must also map out the terrain in all directions. She must speak clearly and invitingly to the experts on that terrain, listen to them, and help them make the best decisions possible. She must work with the folks driving the wagons and herding the animals, to set a pace that everyone can handle successfully. She must oversee those managing the food and resources to make certain that all needs are met as well as they can be. She must be able to interpret the information coming from the wind: the smells of smoke, of coming rain, of potential threats. She must make sure all of these issues are dovetailing together and not working against each other. But she also has to look around at the details, at the people and the toll the work is taking on them, be on her guard regarding fatigue, illness, and fear. She has to organize all of the information from every aspect of this delicate, slow-rolling powder-keg, keep it all in her head, make decisions, take responsibility, and lead everything forward. Because one wrong turn can take everything off of the trail. And one broken wagon wheel can mean hobbling into the next town — or never getting there at all.

By the end of the journey, there isn’t a lot of energy left for a deep-dive into Hedda Gabler or for grieving my mother.

So, aside from a commitment to understudy the role of M’Lynn in Steel Magnolias at the 2nd Space Theater and my fun projects with the Jane Austen Society of North America, I don’t intend to put anything major on my calendar until the end of the year. I plan to continue to focus on my health goals, to read a lot of books, and to get back to seeing more plays on the regular. Get back to getting inspired, in other words.

I want to thank everyone who encouraged me through these two years, including Jaguar, The Costume Sisters, The Fools, The Core Rogue Staff, and anyone who offered a sympathetic ear.

Tootle pip!
HP

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2 comments

  1. Servetus · · Reply

    Observing from afar, it seems like you did your share / pitched in where needed. For what it’s worth: when I decided my ultimate goal was to leave academia I wrestled for a long time with friends who wanted me to stay, or do some academic task in particular in particular, because they thought I was good at it or that I’d be unhappy without it. I think years later I’m still disentangling myself and figuring out what (a) I’m actually good at in relationship to what my time is really best spent on — I mean, yes, I’m a good administrator but is that really what I should do? — and (b) what I want to do, which is not always fully overlapping with (a). I wish you the best as you figure all this out.

    I also saw this today which I thought was interesting: https://hbr.org/2018/05/why-talented-people-dont-use-their-strengths I have often felt like both the hiring process and my decisionmaking process about work obscures these things.

    1. Thanks for this, Servetus. Yes, I also struggle with the tension between being a good administrator and needing/wanting/preferring the time and space to do my artistic work. It is never as simple as “this or that” and I’m definitely still working it out!

      And thanks for the article. Certainly rings true in my experience, too.

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