Next Step: Community Outreach
Any organization as new as Orphic could tell you that they have a lot of hoops to jump through. Making the leap from a small nonprofit with a tiny group of interns, creative directors, and playwrights into a sturdy, self-sustaining organization takes time. But, all too often, time can be brutal on startups, whose resources can quickly deplete and whose people come and go.
In order to weather these storms, a small nonprofit ought to look to other, more established groups as sources of stability. Whether through material contributions, like the donation or lending of performance spaces or costuming resources, or through networking support, like the kind of connection-building that can lead to grant-writing advice and exciting artistic collaborations down the line, or through something else entirely, groups like Orphic can benefit in so many ways from having a deep-running relationship with other Portland-area organizations.
The first step of this kind of outreach is to — as the name suggests — reach out to potential partners. Finding this information may take time, and knowing what organizations to contact requires a bit of institutional understanding. As soon as one request is made, though, the network will begin to grow, drawing Orphic into the world of Portland theatre in a serious way. I hope to see Orphic attempt to connect with organizations like Caldera Arts, the Portland Institute for Contemporary Arts, local colleges and universities, community theaters, and other arts-based initiatives to expand the scope of the project just enough to have a support system on which to fall back, should the need arise.
Part of this project harkens back to Orphic’s Mission Statement. With its clear statement of purpose and its thorough explanation of process, including its desire to focus in on the 36 tragedies of 5th-century Athens, its structure of nontraditional play composition, and its commitment to educational growth and cultivation. Keeping to a set canon of original source texts requires that Orphic partner with other theaters committed to performing out of canons of a similar type. Its eye to contemporary variations on traditional themes brings it parallel to much of the work done with PICA, through their work with the “inter”s of modern art (international, intersectional, interdisciplinary, interstitial, to name just a few). This pedagogical structure sets it in line with organizations like Caldera and Literary Arts, two Portland-based organizations that promote arts education, free expression, and the development of works by more mature, professional creative thinkers. And finally, the performed nature of Orphic’s final product requires some kind of connection — whether with the owners of an outdoor space, like Reed College’s Cerf Amphitheater, or with the owners of an indoor performance space, like the organization Xhurches, which converts unused churches or religious spaces into performance venues.
Outreach to and research of other organizations like the Regional Arts and Culture Council or The Oregon Community Foundation or The Collins Foundation would also set Orphic up for success as an institution with the know-how to produce grant applications that would perpetuate its financial support. And, of course, outreach to any smaller-scale local groups would help to establish Orphic as a name in the community, giving it the audiences and the attention it needs to continue. Finally, making connections with local community media, like radio stations and publications, will help to boost our name and to find the publicity from which any organization would benefit.
As we head into the future, my core question for this project is this: If we decide that reaching out and forming these connections is an important and potentially future-giving part of the process of starting from where we are, where should we go first? Is it most important to connect with smaller groups or large organizations, financial supporters or practical mentors? Our time now is especially valuable. How do we use it well?