"Finding a True Win-Win in the Theater" by Padraic Lillis

Fifteen years ago I became a member of a theater company that has over one hundred members that work at the highest level in the theater. My goal at that point was to be a working theater director. At that time, as a way to make money, the company began offering classes. Members would teach the class for a small stipend. I love teaching so I was happy to do that as a service to the theater company. I was also asked to be on the education committee to help design the program and manage it. This was a volunteer position. I was on the education committee for ten years. I led it for five. We taught over a thousand students. Many students that went thru our education program went on to create successful projects, have careers of note, and some became members of the theater company. I loved the program. I loved empowering students and watching them gain the confidence to succeed to the next level. I saw the value of mentoring for the students. After ten years, my role with the education committee gave me the skills and confidence to start my own company.

My theater company, The Farm Theater, named after the 'farm' system of baseball, cultivates early career artists. My goal was no longer solely about being a working artist. It was about being able to facilitate opportunities for myself and other artists to grow and develop. I witnessed the value of empowering individuals and cultivating community through volunteering as a teacher and artist - and that became a founding principal for The Farm Theater. Our primary program is developing early career playwrights by developing a script in collaboration with three colleges across the country during an academic year. The Farm Theater is five years old, it has been written up in national publications, and I have been invited to be a guest lecturer in London to talk about play development through collaboration. Out of the initial impulse to do service for a theater company I gained a vision and inspiration for a life's work.

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