One of the most compelling parts of the European Devised Performance Practice program to me is the business portion. In fact, this sets our program apart from any other like it in the country. Sure, we can learn more and better ways to create theatre, but how do we sell it? How do we create sustainable companies to produce that work?
Now that our second year is in full swing, we are learning how to answer these questions through our Entrepreneurship and Business Creation class, taught by Jason Stephens. The class is shared by the EDPP and Masters in Arts Management students, which has already been great in helping our cohort expand from our ten-person bubble. Each week Professor Stephens brings in a guest speaker with expertise in some aspect of creating a new business, like start-up investment or arts law, and the second half of class is spent discussing and implementing concepts we’re learning. We have already begun our biggest assignment, which is to create a small business venture.
This, at first, was a bit intimidating for many in our cohort, and I won’t lie that it still is at times. How are we supposed to work on a business when we are still exploring the types of art we want to create? But Professor Stephens wants us to get the tools off the page and into our hands, so that we know how to use them; we can always change ventures. It’s actually a great way to fast-track our disillusion with the business world.
So, then, how do we choose?
It turns out, just like with creating art, what we have already can be exactly what we need.
Many of us are taking experiences we had prior to Columbia and using them, whether they’re related to theatre or not. For example, one of our classmates, Rachel, is using her long-distance relationship with her German partner for inspiration. Others, like Richie and Raquel, are connecting their thesis projects to their ventures so that they will leave our second year with a way to market their creations.
At first, I wanted my venture to be something totally new and unrelated to what I was working on. The problem I faced, though, was generating passion for an infant idea, which is a major part of what will draw people to a new business proposal.
At the end of the first week, I came to my senses. I have decided to work on a venture that I started three years ago and would now love to spend more time and energy on. Since time and energy is in short supply outside of grad school (since each day lasts from 11 to 13 hours), why not use the time and resources I already have? I feel good about the decision—so good that I will give you my business pitch below!
Heels Over Head is a physical performance variety show and networking event that takes place every month at the Actors’ Gymnasium in Evanston. Each show brings together performers from all experience levels across many artistic disciplines, from dance, to physical theatre, to clown, to puppetry, to circus. We offer audiences an affordable array of exciting entertainment and foster collaboration between artists of all kinds!
If you’re in the Chicago area, our next show is on September 28 at 8pm!