From the outside the Boards of non-profits can be viewed as monolithic, a group cloistered in a conference room judiciously handing down approvals and disapprovals. The assumption can be that members all are wealthy with either too little or too much interest in how the organization is run. At least, for Theatre Three that’s not really case. While there is still more work to be done, Theatre Three has strived for a diverse board with each member bringing something unique to the group whether that’s financial support, expertise in a field, or just general enthusiasm for T3 and the arts. Here’s the second installment of our Board series about Scott Kirkman’s journey to the Board. I think it will dispel some myths about what it means to join a Board and, perhaps, entice some new members to join!
The arts have been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. Even though I grew up in a very small town with limited arts or culture (it was actually a retirement community), my parents always believed exposure to the arts would enrich their children’s lives. As soon as they felt I could sit still for long enough, my parents brought my sister and I (what seemed to be annually) to the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center for a touring Broadway production. In elementary school, I got involved in the school chorus and the bell choir. Band and theatre (albeit in the non-speaking role of the Ghost of Christmas Future in A Christmas Carol) entered the picture in middle school. Even though I was the nerdy band kid, having a connection to the arts had become a fundamental part of who I was.
As a freshman in high school (a small fish in a big pond), I stayed involved with band but was intimidated by the choral and theatre programs. That all changed after “skit night” during homecoming week. I played Austin Powers in one of the club skits and, shortly thereafter, the choral/musical theatre director approached me for a role in the high school’s production of A Christmas Carol. Not only that, but he asked me to play the part of Fred Holywell (Scrooge’s nephew – a speaking part!!!). The rest, as they say, is history – I was in eight productions culminating with the role of Jean Valjean in Les Misérables. The choral director took a chance on me as a freshman that shaped my high school career and further cemented the indelible place the arts has in my life.
For whatever reason (I guess it was probably the high salary and supposed fancy lifestyle) I went to college set on investment banking. Once I actually learned what investment banking was and how miserable it could be, I went back to the drawing board. The success I had in high school theatre and the joy I experienced on the stage led me to the university’s musical theatre program. After only one week of coursework, however, my Type-A “control freak” personality got the better of me and I jumped ship to the more “secure” path accounting supposedly offered. While a career on the stage wasn’t in my future, I hoped that becoming a career “theatre-goer” would give me the outlet I needed.
I started my career as a tax accountant in NYC and experienced my first on-Broadway production. I then found myself in Atlanta for the next 9 years and was lucky enough to be a volunteer usher at the Fox Theatre (seeing countless productions – including ballet, pop concerts, and orchestra – and learning about the inner-workings of a large venue). Then work brought me to Dallas in 2016 – a place I had never been.
Moving to a new city in your 30s is tough – personally, socially, and professionally. As my wife and I sought a sense of community, we turned to local arts venues around the city. After a couple years, I had the opportunity to participate in the Business Council for the Arts Leadership Arts Institute and, from that experience, learn more about non-profit board leadership for arts organizations. In truth, I stumbled upon Theatre Three as I was seeking out local art venues and exploring potential board opportunities. Its mission of illuminating “the human experience with exemplary, intimate theatre by nurturing authors, artists, and audiences” perfectly mirrors the experience I’ve had with theatre and the experience I hope others to share.
I’ve been on the board for 1.5 years now and the past 9 months, as with everything has been challenging. Not only has remote working been tough, but we also have a 15 month old running around in need of lots of attention and need an occasional “date night” – even if that is just a nice bottle of wine around a fire pit. Balancing personal, professional, and civic involment has definitely been a struggle at times, but it has been an honor to be on the board and play even a small role in spreading theatre to the community.