Monthly Archives: August 2014

Get it together!


Monday evenings from 6:00pm to 9:00pm: September 22, 29 & October 6.
UnStructed By: Mitch Weiss

Who can you trust? You – and only you. This course is designed to understand the roles that will help shape your career – manager, agent, publicist and other advisors. Understanding these roles will help get control of your career and keep it.

Three classes. Cost: $250. ENROLL


Filed under Just Learn Something, Uncategorized


What’s wrong (and right) with our nonprofit theaters and arts organizations?

When asked why he chose not to produce The Elephant Man, producer Joseph Papp, founder of the New York Shakespeare Festival (at one time the most successful non-profit theater company in the world), said he just didn’t believe that non-profit monies should be used on projects that could easily find a commercial producer. “That’s not what non-profit monies are for,” he said.
During his career, Mr. Papp produced free and ethnically-diverse Shakespeare in Central Park, hundreds of inexpensive new and experimental works at the Public Theater, an annual Latino Festival, film and jazz programs. He transferred dozens of important original works to Broadway because, “they deserve a wider audience.” Many of those plays and musicals seemed risky at first, and are now classics in the American dramaturgy.
What is your non-profit theater producing? What do our non-profits do that’s so special that they deserve a tax exemption? Do your leaders indulge their own egos, or a greater social mission? What makes a good non-profit administrator and where do they learn their craft? Do your leaders consistently spend more than they have, or do they first define a plan while maintaining fiscal responsibility?
One great show a year may affect our culture more than twenty shows of no consequence. How high can we set our standards as an institution? If our mission is to educate, how do we do it better than anyone else?
A theater’s educational programs can have great power, based on anecdotal evidence. A group of troubled teen refugees were encouraged to write their own plays based on their lives, and the results were transformative. This is good use of nonprofit money! And it is very inexpensive. This can’t be the source of a non-profits constant debt. There should be no pride in a sustained legacy of being in debt.
Artistic directors argue for more money to produce their dream shows. Meanwhile the public is asked and sometimes hounded for large contributions (tax deductible) to keep the non-profit company alive. On the surface, this does not appear fair, equitable, or necessary.
In addition, many leaders lack experience and/or training in crisis management, and tend to leave one failing institution to be hired by the next and the next. Universities have been teaching arts administration for a few decades, yet none of them teach crisis management at is most difficult. Arts administration is a creative field and needs people who have been trained to think outside of the box.
Teaching our future arts administrators Quickbooks, finances, and basic marketing is not enough upon discovering your theater is losing $100,000 each year. Hiring a company manager to take care of housing, transportation, and parties, but failing to provide training before they start work is not acceptable. Our best leaders do not come from the classroom or most summer internships. We learn from the most inspired among us.
Finally, we all know that raising money is very difficult. I have founded my own non-profit theater and managed others. I have struggled to raise funds from foundations, government agencies, and private citizens, while maneuvering our mission to respond to the grant-givers requirements.
I honestly believe that theater, music, dance, and art can make a difference in our lives, but our goals must be guided by the highest standards, all within a reasonable and sustainable budget.
Bigger is not always better. Funding capital campaigns does not make the work of an institution better. It may actually divert the institution from the mission. Along with the rest of our society, we need to live within our means, and do excellent, not average, work.
I have found the quality of original work of a handful of non-profits to be thrilling. It’s overwhelming how much money is needed to present this level of quality work. They are the true reason for 501(c)3 status. The other nonprofits are just beggars.
I suggest that the Board members at these many institutions take a hard look at their programs. Perhaps fundraising will take less effort because of their importance to the community and our culture.

  • Mitch


Filed under Just Learn Something, Mitch Weiss

Ah, Beginnings and Beginning Again…


Tuesday evenings from 6:00pm to 8:00pm: September 16, 23, 30 & October 7.

UnStructed By: Bruce Hawkins

Learn how to approach your new career, seek representation and find work. Make a wise initial investment in beginning your new career, find out how to promote yourself, where to perfect your talents and learn how to avoid the many financial scams and pitfalls that exist at the starting line.

Four classes. Cost: $265. ENROLL


Tuesday evenings from 6:00pm to 8:00pm: October 14, 21, 28 & November 4.

UnStructed By: Bruce Hawkins

Re-connect, Revise and Re-discover your former career.  Learn to take positive pro-active steps to begin again with a fresh, new start.  Learn how to plan a new direction, how to network now using social media and how to reconnect with your former contacts and opportunities.

Four classes. Cost: $265. ENROLL


Filed under 2014, Just Learn Something, Uncategorized

Writing In 3D with Robert Waldman


Monday evenings from 6:00pm to 8:00pm: October 29, 27, November 3 & 10.
UnStructed By: Robert Waldman

Unlike writing for print, writing for television and film uses more than just words. You have sight, sounds, including music, as tools as you create a script, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction.  As a starting point, students would bring in print pieces they’ve written, be it a short story or an article.  It could even be a newspaper article that they thought could make a good script. We will then adapt it on paper into a mock segment for news magazine program, or create the opening scene of a script adapted from the original short story.

Four classes. Cost: $265. ENROLL


Filed under 2014, Just Learn Something, Uncategorized


Some days I wake up, beautiful sunny day. I’m ready for the world. I’ve got an early start and I’m armed with all that I know from the many jobs I’ve had and the experiences I have lived. I grab the three essentials, phone, wallet and keys. I close the door to my apartment, walk down the stairs, walk out of the front door and I forgot one thing. Quick mental check of the essentials…I forgot to ask whether the world was ready for me? I pause, I say to myself “Is the world ready for me?”

Have you ever asked the world this question? Is it even prepared for what I’m about to bring to it? Has anything I have learned or experienced assisted in devising a delivery system for the world to receive? I can think back on many situations where I would say, “I am too much for this room.” I’ve sat in staff meetings and board meetings, quietly observing the process. After a while, it becomes clear that I have not chimed in on anything. I am asked to speak and what I have to say is so simple yet, so far over the head of all that are present.

I do not say this to present any sort of conceit, usually, the room is filled with people who skills I admire. But, I often have a hard time understanding why the simplest approach is not the first option when planning. I can remember a staff meeting for a theatre company I use to work for where the topic of discussion was how to raise awareness for organization. At the time, I ran the box office. I reported to the director of marketing. I rode the bus to work. I noticed that while the bus stopped directly in front of this iconic theater, the announcement was for the street and no significant landmark.

So, I ask, “Is there a way to get the transit authority to announce the theater when it stops at the corner?” There was no answer. It was like this was the first time this suggestion had ever been presented. Did I mention that the organization had a member of the transit authority on their board of directors? Why did this leave the table dumbfounded? It seemed like a simple yet, obvious way to raise awareness. This was not the first idea I presented in my lowly position at the entrance of the building.

Later, I would come in with a 10 – point marketing plan to raise awareness using the resources of the organization that were already in play. Suggestions like creating a dance troupe out of the students learning dance that would participate in parades around the city. Another suggestion was to take the students learning to sing and create a choir that would perform on the stage as a fundraiser. After I presented all 10 points, the only question that came up was, “Where did you go to school?”

Needless to say, none of these ideas were researched or even implemented. Shortly after this meeting, the organization laid off most of the staff and I was out of a job. I am often told to slow down. For some reason, there is no real urgency in the organizations I tend to work for. In this case, I was ready for the world but, the world was not ready for me. Many people my age tend to feel this way about organizations that are so set in their way.

When new people enter an organization, they tend to shake things up. If the leader of the pack is not interested in trying new things, their talent is wasted. The only organizations I have worked for that met my pace were organizations that had no structure and hired me to create one. Even though I felt under-qualified, my ideas were fresh and on the ground floor. That is why I became a consultant.

Now, I walk into every organization with the mindset of seeking out what is wrong and I immediately get to work on solutions of change. This presents a challenge as you may have guessed. No one wants to be told what to do, let alone from someone who is fresh off the line. This goes the same for many who have just graduated from great institutions where the most dynamic instructors have empowered them with high standards to be unleashed on a world that is not ready. It seems like, once you step out into the real world, you must lower your standards in order to fit in unless you plan to run your own company.

If this is the case, why are the standards listed in job postings so high to begin with? Why are we asking for a level we are not ready to reach? We are wasting talent, keeping brilliant people down in roles that do not challenge them and ultimately frustrate until they either conform or leave with a sour taste in their mouths. Why can’t we just keep it simple? If you just want a placeholder, simply say that so the dreamers can go off and seek out a challenge! Who writes these job postings anyway, don’t answer that.

The goal is to find the balance. Sure, we want to learn as much as we can but, unfortunately, the world is an hypocrisy. It claims to move at a fast pace, as so many job postings claim but, it is set in a way and too many things have to happen in order to effect change. The millennial generation wants to “move your cheese”. They are ready to help you find new sources of cheese. While I am technically not a millennial, I embody the spirit.

One day, the world will catch up and be as fearless as the artist who has a message to deliver. Infuse us into you work force and let’s speed up this process right now! I’m ready, are you?

  • Darnelle


Filed under 2014, Darnelle Radford

“If you can walk…you can dance salsa!”


Sunday afternoons from 12:00 noon to 2:00pm. September 28 & October 5 PLUS Wednesday evenings from 6:00pm to 8:00pm. October 1 & 8.

UnStructed By: Harrison Lee

“My body is not meant to move like that!”…says who?  If you can walk, then you can learn to dance Salsa! The secret is in the rhythm. Learn the basics of this sultry sexy dance. This course helps students find the “one” in Salsa music, which will be the first step to learning Salsa and having fun with movement. Once you are familiar with identifying & counting the rhythm, you will always be able to get back on the right foot no matter how badly you mess up.

Four classes. Cost: $265. ENROLL


Filed under 2014, Just Learn Something, Uncategorized



I am a creative artist, that is the rush. I do not know any artist who is not in a constant race against time. Whether we are trying to meet unrealistic deadlines or just trying to document a good idea brought to life through a dream, there is a sense of urgency that has nothing to do with money. If you are like me, you probably have notes everywhere. Ideas in little notebooks that leaped off the shelves of some bookstore and told you to buy them or you may be more tech savvy these days using systems designed to keep your notes wherever you are, in front of whatever piece of technology may be occupying your brain and protecting you from the real world.

The rush is urgency. We have a need to be heard. This may come from childhood. We may have been ignored or the class clown at some point. We grew up and realized that we could use our powers for good. So, we transitioned into a more structured way of getting attention. You may have a blog, you may be killer on social media, you may be an obsessive with texting. However, you may also realize that your message tends to fall on deaf ears.

When I graduated high school, I walked away from 7 after school activities including Drama Club, Poetry Club, Marching Band, Choir, Cross Country, Tennis (short-lived) and I was the school mascot. The closest I wanted to be to a book was a play script or sheet music. I had so much energy that I didn’t know what to do once I graduated. I didn’t receive much guidance from the counselors at school about post-graduation. That was 1998. I ended up going to a community college (13th grade) in 1999.

Here, I fell into the same routine at college only, I joined the Performing Arts Club, the literary magazine, the Student Government Association and I formed a poetry group. Even though I had a full calendar of classes and activities, I also had two jobs. I attended this college for one year until I transferred to the Art Institute of Philadelphia in 2000. Here, I studied web design. Whenever someone asked me what I planned to do when I graduated, I would say, “I’m going back to school for theater”. Why couldn’t this be my path from the beginning?

I have always known what I wanted to do. If I could rent an apartment in a theater, I would be at home. There is something about the lighting and the stage the makes me feel at home. However, due to years of being miss-guided, I would stand “outside” of the theater in an attempt to make it work in so many other jobs that left me unfulfilled at the end of the day.

In fact, the only time I felt complete in my life was when I was coming home late from a rehearsal thinking “how will I find the money to produce this show” in my head along with the blocking notes from that rehearsal. Of course I also needed to figure out the press release which should go out in the morning to a make-shift mailing list of the publications that came off the top of my head. This is what happens when a dream is deferred, you play catch up!

The rush was the fact that life had led me down so many roads in search of a shortcut to the only place I ever wanted to be. I was making up for lost time. All of the money spent on a degree program that was not a good fit, the four colleges I went to just to seek the validation the world so needs you to have. The rush for me is the long game. Instead of stepping back to take the path I wanted all along, I decided to sprint forward and compile all of the experiences I missed.

My bookshelves are filled with theater books, scripts, playbills and stories. When I wake up in the morning, they are the first things I see. So, why do I keep following the world to jobs that are so far from the source material? Why did I allow so many things to stand in my way? I sometimes wish that someone had encouraged me to pursue my dreams and take the path towards theater when I graduated high school. Instead, the world told me to “fall back” on something more secure.

Little did they know, the “fall back” would only be a setback. So, what’s the rush? I’m making up for lost time. And, though I am a young 34, I still feel like I missed the boat and I have to swim across to catch up. This rush is my drive. It’s why I do what I do. It’s why I need to ensure other people that may be stuck in similar situations that supporting your dreams will secure your future in reality.

Present, I now have NYU credit. Did I need it? For myself, I have already discovered my path. I know what I want to do with my life. Now, I have to convince the rest of the world that I am capable of doing this, or do I? Will it actually make a difference? Whenever you ask someone what the benefits of secondary education were, “Networking” is always at the top of the list.

My social networks were not compiled by hanging out on college campuses…well, not completely. I met all of these people along the way. They helped me to define my own validation standards.

So, I’ll buy a new pair of running shoes, lace them up tight and get ready. I’ll rest when I’m dead and I’ll die when I know I have truly lived. Consider myself validated. No more looking back on the past. Now, which way is forward? It’s my choice, my way.

  • Darnelle Radford, Co-Founder


Filed under 2014, Darnelle Radford, Just Learn Something


Trashing our educational system seems to be a popular pastime. Yet so many of us consider ourselves well-educated and well-rounded. How did that happen if the system is so bad? What important information did we miss out on? (Does this dangling participle matter?) What can be done in the current unionized and politicized state of American schools?


First of all, there’s a lot of learning available to everyone outside of the school walls, but it is not evenly scattered across America. Appalachian children have no access to New York City museums. Detroit children may never see a Broadway musical or witness the making of a Hollywood film. Some children are not given accurate textbooks or have access to the Internet. And yet, we invent ideas, art and businesses with and without these so-called advantages.


No one system of learning works for everyone. It seems to me that 75% of America can learn almost everything even while standing on their heads in the corner of a classroom. It’s the other 25% of America that suffers significantly under our public and private school systems. Of course everyone, from genius to average to challenged, deserves an improved and more relevant learning process, if we can agree on it.


I have visited “A+” schools with a team of dedicated, smart and effective teachers and administrators. They are well-funded with excellent tools including up-to-date technology. This is expensive and tends to exist in only a few communities. I have also witnessed crime-ridden schools of “lost” students and teachers fighting to maintain decorum and sneak in a bit of worthwhile learning while being regulated by irrelevant curriculums.


It’s not about creating “equal opportunity” of schools, but more about finding the best ways to teach real and worthwhile lessons to people of all ages so that they want to continue to learn and grow and improve as human beings. Everyone is different. Everyone learns differently. The skills and knowledge that sticks is either drilled into our heads (i.e. multiplication tables, “1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue”) or learned from our peers (i.e. survival, smoking, bullying and pop culture).


Here are my thoughts on the most troubled aspects of our school system.


1) We are all defensive and fearful. Teachers are afraid to lose their jobs. Administrators are defensive about the hard work they have put into making a good environment. Parents are defensive about their children. Let’s be clear: all children have problems. So do all communities, families and schools. This is not the important issue. The discussion must become: how does my child learn and can s/he learn more relevant and supportive information?


2) Teachers must know more than their students. Not every teaching applicant should be allowed to teach. Finland is credited with the world’s most effective schools due to the high level of expertise in the teacher’s field. American college professors must have advanced degrees in the subject…but not public school teachers. Why not?


3) Junior high school and the early years of high school are about social development, and yet we either ignore it or we aren’t good at addressing it  “Moby Dick” is a great book but is rather irrelevant to a 14 year old who is being bullied. We must focus on the student’s strengths at each age and adjust our curriculum to their capabilities.


4) In 2014, no one can succeed in America without a computer and Google. A classroom has its value, but understanding how to use the Internet to find information, knowledge and wisdom is essential for life skills. It is no longer an option, but a basic necessity.


5) Survival skills education has not progressed much further than “Home Economics”. How do you budget your life? What value is the stock market to keeping a family afloat? How do you save money if you’re being paid minimum wage at McDonald’s? How do you balance a checkbook? How can you not drive your parents crazy, and should you? Should you read newspapers (online or printed)?


6) History is often white-washed. My public school history courses included three years alternating between European and American history and never ventured past World War II. The Korean and VietNam Wars, and current events were minor blimps in the curriculum, probably for fear of too much political controversy. Immigrant history and the slave trade were discussed in conversation but there was nothing about the rich history of African, Native, Hispanic and Asian Americans. The old adage that without the study of history, we are destined to repeat it, seems to hold no weight with some school boards.


7) American culture is a melting pot and a powerful force throughout the world. Yet arts education is designed as a fun after-school program rather than the essence of American business, science and teaching arts. The same collaborative skills taught by team sports is available through theatre, dance and music. And the lifelong tools from these subjects can be used in every job. Additionally, the visual arts and creative writing have great powers to heal emotional turmoil and develop the soul.


8) Science is not the devil. Neither is faith. When school boards deny the possibility of evolution, climate change, sexual health issues and religious faith as valid avenues of study, then education fails us all. Education should discuss everything and anything. And parents should be invited into every classroom (they have much to learn too).


9) No one learns reading or comprehends mathematical concepts at the exact same age. Some teachers encourage parents to hold their children back from first grade until they mature an extra year in order to prevent the stigma of failing at such a young age due to no fault of their own. Many parents don’t heed this advice because of the “social stigma” of having an older child in first grade. The concept of grade level expectations is wrong. A student progressing  at their own pace is a better idea.


10) Grading is a terrible idea. There are many reasons for not being able to complete a course of study, including family and personal problems. Why penalize students with a permanent mark against them? Other options: take the course over, written evaluations, personal discussions. Evaluation is helpful. Grades are not. But this is a competitive society, you say, and students must learn ‘survival of the fittest’ rules. A youngster does not need to believe s/he is a failure, but must learn to be the best and do the best s/he can in every situation. I believe that’s a better spirit of competition…from within.


To be continued….

  • Mitch



Filed under 2014, Just Learn Something