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Mid-level missed opportunities

Ah the life of the "Mid-career" Director! This is really an important issue for our craft in this country- especially in terms of addressing elitism. These programs are gateways to larger markets, and the next level of employment in my field, but the current age-related "emerging" requirements shut out experienced and trained directors who are not recent graduates of the most prominent programs, and it creates a brain drain in the Directing field. I was 23 years old when I earned my Master's in Directing in another country. For those who don't know, that is a pretty young age relative to most MFA directors. Many of the "emerging" programs when I left grad school and returned to the states almost 20 years ago were for students who had not completed their MFA, and so I was over qualified. I am also a woman, and trust me, parity was not on the menu back then.Then that trend shifted to age-determined requirements, and I was suddenly over the age of 30, and too old to apply. I managed to remain dedicated and determined enough to eventually be hired out of obscurity in this country by a couple of large companies, but like earning a Masters at 23, that was atypical for a working class artist like me, and when I moved homes to smaller market, those companies did not exist in my area.

90% of the theatre that is made in America is in the small-mid level sized companies in places that Yale and Carnegie-Mellon have never heard of. How innovative and diverse would the American theatre be by now if the connection between established organizations and directors like me, who have independently worked at companies of every size for almost 20 years in various regions both domestically and internationally? I am not "emerging" by any stretch of the imagination, but after years of dedication to my vocation as a theatre artist wherever I happen to find myself, what I have learned in service to the diverse Main Street artists and audiences is valuable experience, and the scores of Directors like me should be an integral part of the collaboration and contribution to the well-established American theatre. They pay for an awful lot of studies at the top to try and figure out what I could have told them already based on what I've witnessed, and made work, through out my career. Great candidates for future leadership, and fresh ideas do not necessarily only come from fresh, younger bodies. Our best work emerges from the widest range of backgrounds in collaboration.

Sarah O'Connell BIO

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