Shortly after I arrived in San Francisco, I founded Crowded Fire Theater Company and went on to serve as its artistic director for ten years. In that time the company grew from an all-volunteer ensemble to one of the Bay Area's most highly regarded small theater companies and is still going strong today. At Crowded Fire I developed, directed, and produced challenging new plays by a wonderful array of playwrights. Nothing is more exciting to me than collaborating with a writer on a story that’s never been told before. From my very first after-college job as an assistant director at the Royal Court through developing premieres at Crowded Fire to my directing work today I continue to work best with a playwright by my side.
But after a while I began to wonder who else should be in the room. Who decides who gets to share their stories? If theater is the way I choose to make the world a better place, then our rehearsal rooms and artistic processes have to reflect the kind of just space we’re striving for. I joined California Shakespeare Theater (Cal Shakes) committed to expanding who participated in theater-making onstage and in the audience. Over the next five years, I was able to catalyze a major shift in the theater’s programming, help diversify its audiences, and incorporate different methods for community-engaged theater-making. I developed a community touring program taking classic plays to prisons, homeless shelters, and senior centers. I invited leading artists with community experience to partner with non-profits to create collaborative performances. I learned how to listen to, and advocate for, people from communities who had never been part of mainstream theater before.
While producing these programs I continued to deepen my practice as a director with community-centered projects like Daylighting at Shotgun Players, a new play based on two years of story circles with Berkeley residents. I directed Dogsbody by Erik Ehn, part of his Soulographie cycle of 19 plays dealing with genocide in Rwanda, Uganda, and Central America and incorporated stories from Eritrean refugees into the production. I traveled to Los Angeles to direct a new play about the history of Venice Beach for Cornerstone Theater and to Minneapolis to direct Euripedes’ Electra for Ten Thousand Things.
Running Crowded Fire not only jumpstarted my directing career but also gave me a crash course in arts management, teaching me how to raise funds, write grants, create marketing plans, and manage staff and budgets. Alongside my artistic career I’ve had the opportunity to engage deeply in work that serves the arts sector. I was the director of development and strategic initiatives at Theatre Bay Area, served as the interim program officer for the arts at The San Francisco Foundation and have consulted for a number of other arts non-profits and foundations. I’m particularly interested in helping artists and arts organizations build better structures to support our changing field. I often speak and write about field issues. I’m particularly proud of my essay “Please Don’t Start a Theater Company” which has been read and shared more than 30,000 times.
To view or download my arts management resume click here.
To view or download my directing resume click here.
The most meaningful "review" I've ever received was from two women who saw a performance of Tempest in a Federal prison:
“[Prospero’s] final monologue was sent through time from Shakespeare by her to us. She looked Danielle and me in the eyes and reminded us that we still matter, that we are still part of the world. ”
Click here to view the entire letter.
Click through to read other articles and reviews:
“You can tell a show is genuinely radical when it somehow both scares you and instills in you the thrill of power”
-SF Chronicle on Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.
“Rebecca Novick orchestrates the layers of reality and the action on those chairs to create an almost breathless onrush of compelling drama.”
— SF Chronicle
I was selected as one of 20 contributors to 20under40: Reinventing the arts for the 21st century.
The essay I wrote for the book (Please Don't Start a Theater Company) has received more than 30,000 views since it was published online by Grantmakers in the Arts.
I was a contributing author to Counting New Beans: Intrinsic Impact and the Value of the Arts.
That essay was re-published on Howlround.com here.