Not only is EALS dedicated to creating a forum for the hottest topics in arts management, but we pride ourselves in learning and experiencing everything we can about the exciting topics coming your way for EALS 2014.  That is one of the many reasons we went as a committee, along with some other fellow students, to see Company E‘s production of “Voices” last weekend.  Company E is a Washington-based dance company whose mission is to build diplomatic relationships through dance residencies and co-creation all over the globe.  We were so fascinated by this rare stateside performance and couldn’t wait to learn more about their mission from one of this year’s EALS panelists and Company E dancer and Company Manager, Tara Compton.

Of course, we were so awestruck by the riveting performance that we couldn’t help but respond… through what else, but ART!  Our very own and oh-so-talented committee members, Christina Girardi and Joshua Midgett, shared the following art reactions with me and I couldn’t be more impressed.  Both pieces reflect on Company E’s “Alma”.

Watercolor illustration by EALS Finance Assistant, Christina Girardi
Watercolor illustration by EALS Finance Assistant, Christina Girardi

Apples. Everywhere.

In the market they mean what they mean.

On stage, I suppose they’re more.

Am I seeing original sin? Magritte’s The Son of Man?

In my mind I see the teacher’s gift.

I see childhood summer treats, when the ice cream man didn’t come.

I see youth.

And so I watch as dancer’s fight to move and grasp this youth.

I feel how hard it is to gather memory and move amongst it.

And I see the frustration of trying to share these with those you love and watching them chew and spit them out.

Youth is hard to let go of. Aging makes love difficult.

All this spelled with difficulty on the bodies of two splendid dancers.

-Joshua Midgett, EALS Finance Chair

Another diplomacy-in-action feat I’m thrilled to share is from our Executive Assistant, Jessica Ferey.  She recently returned from a whirlwind week in Versailles, which she recounts here:

One thing they might not tell you about grad school is the importance of the connections you make through classmates. I never thought I’d be heading to France as part of my experience at AU, but there I was, standing in the same theatre where Marie-Antoinette once stood. This all came about when Charlie Rohlfs, a current Arts Management student, former EALS committee member, and now employee at Opera Lafayette, knew that I spoke French and asked if I’d like to interview for a production assistant/translator position to help during the company’s upcoming residency in Versailles. This was one of those opportunities you just can’t pass up and I was soon on a plane to France.

As soon as the stage managers and I arrived at the theatre, the technical director looked down at our shoes disapprovingly and said, “Those won’t do.” Due to a recent accident in the theatre, Opéra Royal had become very strict about security measures, so we were required to purchase steel-toed boots and always wear a construction helmet while working backstage. The French crew was an amazing dedicated bunch, working tirelessly to ensure that our set went up, props were organized, costumes were steamed and ready, and that our show would go off without a hitch.

A view of the stage from the audience’s perspective.

My job, then, was to ensure smooth communication between the US team and the French crew. Luckily, I had interned in a French theatre back in undergrad and had a basic knowledge of French technical theatre terms. It was important to be as clear and specific as possible. Despite a few minor misunderstandings, we managed to find ways to communicate with one another, even if it meant using over-exaggerated hand gestures and speaking “frenglish” half the time. And sometimes it wasn’t even worth trying to think of a French word because they were already using the English word (the person in the light booth, for example, is called a “lighter,” and when you have an extra prop it’s called a “spare”… go figure).

The best part of this experience was learning about the special welfare/unemployment system set up specifically for artists and technical crewmembers working in the performing arts called “intermittent du spectacle.” From what I understand, these folks have to prove that they can work a certain number of hours for a performing arts company, and once they’ve done so, they earn the title of “intermittent” and receive unemployment benefits when they are not currently working on a show (as long as they still work a certain number of hours within the year). This means that artists, designers, and technical crewmembers can focus on artistic work instead of waiting tables. Of course, this system is constantly threatened by France’s struggling economy and it is unclear whether it can be sustained. In the meantime, the crew I worked with seemed pleased with the fact that they could work within the performing arts without worrying too much about how to put bread on the table.

Another major cultural difference has to do with work ethic and the notion of taking breaks. Here in the US, we tend to just go go go and rarely find the time to enjoy lunch away from our desks. In France, however, lunch and dinner breaks are not just an option, they are often mandatory. At around noon or 1pm everyday, the French crew dropped what they were doing and took an hour-long lunch break. Many of them were surprised when the US team and I worked through lunch and all we did was gobble down a granola bar. While many are quick to say that the French are lazy because of this, I disagree. By taking breaks, the French crew was much more effective and still got everything done. It was a good reminder of the old saying, “The Americans live to work and the French work to live.”

All in all, that whirlwind week was an unforgettable experience and a great lesson in cultural diplomacy!

Me and part of the crew. This was taken after striking the set – what a great team to work with!

-Jessica Ferey, EALS Executive Assistant

You can see that we’re getting our hands dirty by participating and responding to Arts and Diplomacy.  These experiences just leave us wanting more, which is why we are counting down until the Arts and Diplomacy panel at the Symposium on March 23rd.

Check out who will be joining us for the panel:

Arts & Diplomacy Panel

Our world continues to shrink while our collective creativity abounds. Washington DC, a hub for international activity and exchange, boasts some of the most influential diplomacy organizations and programs in the world. This discussion will center on how we, as a leading nation, link to other countries and cultures through artistic mediums. How can music, theater, dance, and the visual arts evolve our dialogue and bridge cultural gaps? Representatives from arts organizations making significant diplomatic contributions will fuel this discussion on how art crosses borders.


Dr. Curtis Sandberg (Senior Vice President for the Arts, Meridian International Center) holds a B.A. in Classical Archaeology from the University of California, and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Harvard University. He has been involved in archaeological projects in the Middle East, Europe, and the United States. Sandberg has extensive museum experience in a variety of fields, including research, curation, collections oversight, and archival management. He is an expert in coalition building among cultural entities, which includes creating over 200 collaborations with international and domestic institutions. Sandberg has lectured widely on these topics in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

Prior to joining Meridian in 1996, he taught at Harvard University and at the John Burroughs School, Saint Louis, Missouri, and has lectured at national conferences, as well as at museums, diplomatic missions, and cultural organizations throughout the United States. Sandberg was a Rotary International Fellow, a Fulbright-Hayes Fellow, a Harvard Sinclair-Kennedy Fellow, and a Whiting Fellow.

Tara Compton (Company Manager/Artistic Associate, Company E) is currently a resident of Washington, DC where she is one of the founding staff members of Company E. She resided in Tampa, FL for five years prior, getting her BFA in Dance Performance and Choreography from the University of South Florida and working with the Tampa Bay Ballet and Cirque du Soleil. Tara has spent time studying and choreographing in multiple locations throughout Europe and the Americas. She has been an assistant teacher at Broadway Dance Center in NYC and is currently a guest faculty member for Dance Masters of America.

She has choreographed and acted as a rehearsal director for multiple performances in her hometown of Louisville, Ky at the Kentucky Center for the Arts and has been recognized by Dance Masters of the Bluegrass as one of the emerging choreographers of the Midwest. Tara’s profound interest in art and international relations, as well as experience in marketing and communications, have all come together in working for Company E, and she is very excited to be a part of the artistic excellence that graces the Washington dance scene.

Stephen Estrada (Fine Artist) worked for two years as Project Coordinator for the US Department of State’s Diplomacy Center before taking over as Director from 2005 – 2012. Previous roles include Chief of Design for the National Air and Space Museum, Senior Designer for the National Archives, and work with the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery.

As an artist, Mr. Estrada has had exhibitions at Cornell Museum of Art, ArtSpace Gallery, Delaplaine Art Center, Gallery 555, Gala Arts, Dadian Gallery, Wholefarth Gallery, 901 E Street Gallery, and Easton Arts Center among others.

A graduate of American University and the Corcoran School of Art, Mr. Estrada taught for three years in George Washington University’s Museum Studies Program.


Joshua Midgett  is currently a Master of Arts in Arts Management candidate as well as pursuing his Graduate Certificate in International Arts Management, both at American University. He’s only recently returned from an academic sojourn at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, where he studied Cultural Tourism. He holds two undergraduate degrees from Keene State College in Economics and Directing. Prior to studying at American, Joshua served in various managerial capacities with the Utah Shakespeare Festival, Glimmerglass Festival, Oasis Productions, and Foodplay, Inc. Since coming to D.C. he has had the pleasure of working with the DeVos Institute at the Kennedy Center, GALA Hispanic Theatre, and the Young Playwright’s Theater. He is an amalgam of organizational and creative passion and has an unrivaled love of cereal.

For more Arts and Diplomacy and other topics that are sure to peak your interest, join us at the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium on March 23rd, 2014.  Click here for more info.

Erin Clark is a 1st year MA Candidate in Arts Management at AU and the EALS Events Assistant.