Getting Engaged

Engagement. It’s a commitment, an agreement that you are going to give up something – freedom, time, opportunities – with the hope of gaining something in return: sustenance, insight, love.

Nuptial engagement is the first one that comes to mind. But all sorts of other engagements don’t involve that level of commitment – taking on a new employment engagement, agreeing to a dinner engagement, being offered a speaking engagement.

I’ve just started working as the Community Engagement Manager for Firehouse so I’m thinking a lot about what it takes for someone to become engaged. When I asked my then-girlfriend to marry me back in 1990, it was after years of working through both the specific and esoteric aspects of compatibility. When I consider an engagement for an evening, I balance my state of mind and the level of my sleep deprivation versus the expected value, usually intangible, of whatever the activity is going to be. Big or small, engagements involve evaluating the value proposition of the commitment.

So how do people evaluate the value of theater? One of my big pet peeves is that so many Richmonders will spend $75 – or nearly $100 when you count online fees and parking – to see a touring ‘Broadway in Richmond’ show but won’t spend half or even a third of that on a locally-produced show. That’s money that largely leaves Richmond, doing next to nothing to support the local economy.

Why do so many people think that the tours are worth it while the local shows aren’t? Is it just advertising? Are the majority of Richmonders just ignorant of the choices? For one reason or another, thousands are convinced that the value proposition for a touring production makes it worth their time and money. What would it take to convince more locals of the value of our homegrown shows?

You can help. Tell me: What do you think about when you commit to these kinds of engagements? What sways your opinion, pushes the decision needle toward the ‘yes’ or away from the ‘no?’ If you’re reading this, you have some level of engagement with theater in general and/or Firehouse specifically. How did you get here? I’d be grateful if you’d be willing to share your thought processes with me (

In the meantime, I’m going to be exploring new ways of engagement, possibilities for enhancing the relationship between our theater and you, citizen of Central Virginia. Announcements of specifics will continue through December and into next year. And I hope this blog will be an ongoing two-way conduit of information, an opportunity for dialogue so together we can figure out what can be done to build the local theater audience, giving you more compatriots to hang out with next time you come out to a show.

Last time I proposed an engagement, it led to 26 years (so far) of wedded bliss. I don’t have the same expectations for this new job of mine, but I am hopeful that progress is possible. So, I’m going to pop the question: are you willing to engage in my exploration of community engagement? I know this proposal is kind of sudden but, if you say ‘yes,’ you’ll make me the happiest…employee at Firehouse Theatre. Thanks.

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