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Moonshot is a unique and innovative research project that is exploring how nonprofit theatre companies make the highly speculative forecasts and decisions that determine the plays and seasons they produce. These risky, foundational decisions live at the intersection of the art and the business of theatre. They have deeply consequential implications for both artistic trajectory and organizational sustainability, and they must be made with little or no conventional “data'' about their potential as art for audiences. They have not been the subject of research before; and they are not on the curriculum in theatre schools. 

 

Five case studies of Chicago theatres form the heart of Moonshot. Commenced in late 2018, they are anticipated to conclude by the end of 2021.

 

Rivendell Theatre Ensemble was founded in 1998 and is dedicated to advancing the lives of women through theatre.

 

The New Colony was founded in 2008 and is devoted entirely to new work utilizing “The TNC Process”. 

 

Remy Bumppo Theatre Company, formed in 1996, is an ensemble-driven company committed to producing “the great plays of the past and the important plays of today.” 

 

Lifeline Theatre, founded in 1983, adapts books and other literary works to create “stories that move us beyond the margins of our own lives.”

 

UrbanTheater Company, founded in 2005, is deeply rooted in Chicago’s Latinx community and Humboldt Park neighborhood. Its goal is to sustain and preserve the Puerto Rican experience in Chicago.

 

Careful review of multi-disciplinary research about complex decision making and forecasting complements the case studies. Though none of this research has been focused on the arts, it has identified principles associated with better decision making in other domains. The research team is working with the case study theatres to determine how those principles express themselves in their decision making and how to maximize their value in the theatre context. 

 

In January, 2021 the New York Times published a piece arguing that artists need relief desperately, and the country needs the arts desperately - that the catharsis the arts can provide is a necessary balm for what is ailing us. It may seem a bit surreal to study repertoire decisions at a time like this, but Moonshot’s objective is to contribute to theatres’ efforts to achieve that needed catharsis more regularly.

 

Moonshot has been generously supported by grants to case study theatres from the Arts Work Fund for 

Organizational Development, The Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust, the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, the Elizabeth Cheney Foundation and the Driehaus Foundation.

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