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Artistic Director | About Face Theatre (Chicago, Illinois)

About Face Theatre is one of the nation’s most respected companies dedicated to the exploration of the human experience through the lens of gender identity and sexuality, and is a major force in Chicago theatre.  At its core, About Face is a queer theatre company that seeks to be a center for queer art; is committed to and known for artistic excellence; cultivates, promotes and produces LGBTQIA+ stories and artists; provides a brave space and a creative outlet for LGBTQIA+ youth; and educates, challenges, and entertains audiences. The company was founded in 1995 by Eric Rosen and Kyle Hall to create exceptional, innovative and adventurous theatre and educational programming that advances the national dialogue on sexual and gender identity.  The company sustains these values through three programming arms: an award-winning mainstage season, a nationally recognized youth theatre and education program, and innovative Out Front and First DrAAft developmental programs to promote new work through workshops and readings.

About Face is well-known for its commitment to new work.  Over the past 21 years, About Face has developed and produced 72 productions, including 47 world premieres by nationally recognized and emerging artists.  Plays developed and produced by About Face have been seen across the country to critical acclaim, including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Tony Award for Best Play, 15 Joseph Jefferson Awards, and 14 After Dark Awards.  About Face has collaborated with Chicago’s leading cultural institutions, including Steppenwolf, Goodman Theatre, Chicago Dramatists, American Theater Company, the Museum of Contemporary Art and Chicago Parks District.  About Face has also received prestigious recognition for its leadership in Chicago’s LGBTQIA+ community.

About Face Youth Theatre (AFYT) is an award-winning nationally recognized activist theatre that increases the safety, empowerment and leadership capacity of LGBTQIA+ youth to catalyze youth-led civic dialogue and action within schools and communities.  Through the creation and performance of ensemble-based plays in dynamic collaboration with accomplished adult artists, we encourage and support our youth to become powerful agents for change.  As a result of this program, AFYT has developed and performed 12 original mainstage productions.

About Face Theatre’s mainstage Equity productions are under an AEA Chicago Area Theatres (CAT) Tier 2 contract.  About Face Theatre is in TCG Budget Group 2, with an annual budget ranging from approximately $650,000 to $800,000.

THE OPPORTUNITY

In 2016, About Face celebrated its 20th anniversary, and is now in the midst of a momentous 21st season.  We are seeking the next Artistic Director to lead the organization to even greater heights by remaining committed to the mission of advancing the national dialogue on sexual and gender identity.  About Face seeks to be the vanguard of queer theatre; to strengthen and expand its youth and education programs; to reinvigorate and expand its engagement with artistic associates to cultivate and promote new work, and to represent the LGBTQIA+ community authentically through dynamic programming, all while maintaining the highest standard of theatrical excellence.

Reporting to the Board of Directors, the Artistic Director is responsible for the organization’s artistic vision, leadership, budget, and management of About Face staff, artists and production personnel.  The Artistic Director will work collaboratively with the Board and all staff to understand and drive the organization’s mission and strategic plan, to manage budgets, raise AFT’s profile and cultivate relationships within the organization’s constituencies, external arts organizations, and education and cultural organizations, particularly in Chicago.  The Artistic Director will engage with fundraising initiatives and ambassadorship, including meeting with and cultivating donors.

In addition to the Artistic Director, the About Face staff consists of three full-time and three part-time employees: Managing Director (F/T); Education & Outreach Director (F/T); Director of Individual and Major Giving and Special Events (F/T); Director of Institutional Giving (P/T); Marketing Coordinator (P/T); and Education Coordinator (P/T).  The Managing Director manages the company operations and budget partnering with the Artistic Director to achieve the artistic vision and goals in a fiscally responsible and professional environment.

Major Responsibilities

  • Artistic Vision – Develop and implement the artistic vision and focus for About Face Theatre’s season of productions and educational programming as aligned with About Face’s values.  Foster collaboration among Artistic Associates to help identify programming that serves the mission and to cultivate new work. 
  • Productions – Produce all theater productions and new play programs.  Supervise production managers and provide process guidance (e.g., budgeting, hiring, contracting, design).  Hire show personnel.  Collaborate with Managing Director on author agreements and rights negotiations.  If appropriate, is generally expected to direct one mainstage production each season. 
  • Ambassadorial & Relationship Building – Cultivate and sustain relationships with local and national artists, community organizations, and all AFT constituencies.  Serve as the primary spokesperson to internal and external stakeholders, and work to fortify and elevate the theatre’s image both locally and nationally.
  • Board Engagement – Keep the Board apprised of significant artistic and organizational issues that affect the company.  Serve on the Board of Directors and its Executive Committee, and attend all Board meetings.  Assist with Board recruiting.
  • Financial Planning & Analysis – Collaborate with Managing Director to complete the budgeting and planning process.  Balance short- and long-term priorities.
  • Marketing/Advertising & Fundraising/Development – Approve institutional and programmatic marketing, branding, advertising, and public relations and development strategies, fundraising campaigns and initiatives.  Support annual and special campaign fundraising initiatives (e.g., galas, cultivation events, solicitation of major donors [individual, corporate, foundations]).
  • Staff Leadership & Management – Hire, manage and evaluate all artistic personnel and AFT administrative staff.  Work in collaboration with the Managing Director and staff to promote professional and effective office environment and operations.
  • Strategic Plan Leadership & Implementation – Work proactively with the Board and Staff in all of the company’s strategic planning and implementation processes.  Current strategic planning goals (2015 – 2018) include:  raising AFT’s artistic profile; promoting diversity and inclusion in all facets of the company; raising the profile of the youth theatre; achieving an unrestricted budget surplus; expanding AFT’s audience reach; and providing a creative hub to support other theatre artists that align with AFT’s mission and values. 

CANDIDATE PROFILE – IDEAL CHARACTERISTICS

Passion for the Mission - Artistic Vision & Experience - Activism & Community Engagement

  • A passion for About Face’s mission, and a clear artistic vision that creatively challenges the status quo.  An effective advocate for the theatre and its mission.
  • An accomplished theatre artist with a proven track record of success as a playwright, director, producer, generative artist, and/or innovator.  Will continue to evolve About Face’s leadership role in the arts.
  • A strong vision for all programming arms of the company, including the youth program. Will engage, nurture, and promote a diverse network of LGBTQIA+ artists to foster the development and production of new work.
  • Demonstrated success in leading and managing staff and budgets, and leadership experience as a theater artist with strong external relations (i.e., media, donors, community).
  • Knowledgeable and passionate advocate for LGBTQIA+ issues and stories, committed to social justice issues and experienced in social activism and/or leadership related to LGBTQIA+ issues. Committed to fostering diversity and inclusion throughout the organization and in raising the profile of intersectionality issues.
  • Demonstrated experience of valuing and prioritizing LGBTQIA+ youth issues, and the education and development of young artists.  Committed to the success and development of the youth and education program.
  • Demonstrated history of mentoring and nurturing the creativity of others, and ability to foster collaborative artistic relationships.
  • Blends artistic excellence with strong social justice and activist roots.  Having authentic connections with a diverse array of artists and communities in Chicago is strongly preferred.

Leadership - Fundraising - Ambassadorship

  • A creative, dynamic leader who ignites passion and inspires engagement, and encourages enthusiasm among all of About Face constituencies. 
  • A positive and proactive problem-solver with a collaborative leadership and working style; creates an open and inclusive environment.  A demonstrated consensus and community builder with excellent interpersonal skills both when viewpoints align and conflict. 
  • Respects and mentors the capabilities of a dedicated staff that operates in a close, fast-paced, and familial setting.  Approachable, motivating, patient, demonstrates grace under pressure, and models excellence and high standards in the work place.
  • Balances strategic risk-taking and innovation with fiscal responsibility.
  • A strategic thinker with the ability to transform a vision into plans and into measurable results.  Demonstrated ability to balance short-term needs with long-term sustainability.
  • Strong fundraising skills are an essential requirement, plus the ability to expand constituent and revenue bases while effectively managing costs.
  • Willingness to invest time and resources in building a superior organization capable of supporting AFT’s mission.

PROCEDURE TO APPLY        

AFT is an equal opportunity employer.  We strongly encourage candidates of any race, color, gender identity or expression, national origin, age, religion, genetic information, or sexual orientation to apply.  Salary and benefits are commensurate with experience and competitive with similar positions at a midsize theatre.  To express your interest, please submit the following information within a single PDF file to:  artisticdirector@aboutfacetheatre.com.  Inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

  1. Detailed cover letter describing your background, and explaining how your artistic philosophy and vision is a good match to lead About Face Theatre.
  2. resume or Curriculum Vitae;
  3. (3) three professional references.