Lynn Meyers, artistic director of the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, started off the conference with a keynote address that was timely and relevant and wonderful, and discussed the role her theatre played and continues to play in the community of Cincinnati, specifically the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.  While being light-hearted and genuine, Lynn simultaneously managed to drive home the point that with perserverence, optimism, and dedication, a theatre can help to transform “the worst block in three states” into a hip, lively neighborhood.

The impact of theatre on a community is one of my research topics here at the conference, and Lynn did a great job of conveying what it is like to be on the front lines of that often long and heart-breaking process.  She recounted having to board up the windows and vacate the building on police orders during the civil unrest that took place eight years ago, as well as a surreal phone call with the police concerning a dead man next to her car.  But the pride and satisfaction in her voice were unmistakable as she reported record-breaking sales figures for the last season at the ETC, and to be able to hear a first hand account of someone who used theatre as a tool to start the revitalization of a community was, in my opinion, the perfect start to the conference.

However, this account of one theatre’s struggle to survive against the odds was meant to be an encouragement for all theatre designers, technichians, go-ers, and lovers in general during times of ecenomic uncertainty for an industry many naysayers claim will be the first to suffer from a nationwide purse pinch.  And really, what Lynn was trying to say is, it’s all about context; whether you are the artistic director of a theatre on the block with the most crime for miles and miles, or a university theatre struggling with a tightened budget, everyone is in the same boat, and we are all using theatre to help steer us in the right direction.