Thursday, 19 July 2018

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Samyuktha Punthambekar

Our Professional Theatre Training Program (PTTP) offers financial support for unique and flexible training with a chosen mentor in any theatrical discipline (except performance.)

Samyuktha Punthambekar training in arts management with Mitchell Marcus at Musical Stage Company in Toronto

Samyuktha Punthambekar is a Bharathanatyam dancer, arts educator and arts administrator. Samyuktha won the Volunteer Award for Arts and Culture Toronto in 2016 for her outstanding volunteering contributions. As an arts administrator, she has worked for Dancer Transition Resource Center and Sunny Artist Management, Toronto Arts Foundation, lbs/sq” performance and Tapestry Opera. As an arts educator, she has conducted workshops and also is a resident arts educator for TDSB and continues to teach and conduct workshops for other institutions and festivals.

Samyuktha has graduated with Honours from Humber College's Arts Administration and Cultural Management program. She received the OAC's grant for her studies at Humber and also won the Dean's Award, Jerry Smith Scholarship as well as a Best Student Nomination for the program in 2016/17. She has sat on grant juries for many arts councils. Her interview article ‘Breathing Fresh Air’ was published on Dance Current’s online magazine. Most recently, she has been featured on Humber’s Alumni Success Stories and NOW Magazine. She also obtained the Effective Fundraising and Leadership in Arts and Culture certificate from The University of Leeds. Currently, Samyuktha is shadowing Shannon Litzenberger as part of the OAC’s Compass Grant. She is working as an Associate for LeSage Arts Management. Samyuktha continues to be deeply invested by acquiring more knowledge and gaining professional development as an emerging arts leader.

(April 19, 2018)  I am very happy and excited to have been selected as one of the recipients of the Theatre Ontario PTTP grant. I’ve chosen to pursue an Arts Management internship with Mitchell Marcus, Artistic and Managing Director of the Musical Stage Company.

Mitchell Marcus was one of the top 3 people that I always wanted to work and learn from. The workshops of Mitchell’s that I have attended, have been an eye opener in many ways. His meticulous planning, minute attention to detail and his clear vision is something that has intrigued me very much. As a person myself who aims for perfection in everything I do, it is important for me at this stage of my career to mentor under Mitchell Marcus. This will certainly enhance my expertise and exposure for more ‘on the ground’ strategies. I met Mitchell many times after PLN and expressed my interest in mentoring under him and he was open to the idea to mentor me! After a couple of meetings and discussing ideas/work plans - I also realized that Mitchell is extremely sensitive to human emotions and feelings. This also reflects in his plays and productions that he chooses to showcase through his company. Like me, Mitchell is also very organized and loves to be ‘all consuming’ with his work. These factors, I personally feel makes us the right fit to form a mentor-mentee relationship.

I have identified a few key areas that I would further want to focus on and learn from Mitchell, which are:

Main Interests 
  • Fundraising - I have realized that this is a very important aspect in the arts. As Fundraising/donations - either corporate or individual, form an integral part of an organization's functionality and funding model, I am very keen on exploring The Musical Stage’s funding strategy. 
  • Marketing, Communication and Sales Pitch - Musical Stage has an excellent marketing strategy. I have understood this through social media, interacting with Mitchell, his staff and watching their productions. I have stated the term ‘Sales Pitch’ here as I feel from what I have observed in the arts that this is very important, especially when one wants to collaborate with large institutions such as CanStage, Mirvish etc. (as The Musical Stage Company does). I do not feel confident in this area as I need to acquire more robust and practical/ ‘hands on’ experience for me to better understand this aspect. Marketing, Communication and Sales Pitches also in the long run, helps in Partnerships, Board Relations, Donors and Corporate Sponsorships
  • Grant Writing - I love to write. Prior to this grant, I have written other grants and have been successful. I have written for the Dance Current magazine and also started my first online blog. However, I feel to sharpen this skill is very important and hence would like to train and understand more on grant writing, which is also another area of fundraising. 
Simultaneous Learning and Interests 
  • Project Planning and Producing - Creating a Musical is a huge endeavour and hence I am interested in understanding the project plan aspect of how to create and manage big productions, budgets etc. Artistically I would like to learn what it takes to be a Producer 
  • International Associations and Financial Management - Musicals have a global reach and gather a diverse audience. I would like to observe and learn from Mitchell the international approach and how to pitch projects on a global level. I feel Financial Management also is key to understanding this aspect 
  • Education Outreach and Community Engagement - I have been teaching and being part of community engagements for over a decade. It would be good to increase my knowledge to observer this aspect under Mitchell. 
I would like to extend my deepest gratitude and thanks to the committee for selecting me. My aim with the support from Theater Ontario’s PTTP is to further enhance my skills towards leadership positions. It will also support me with ‘on the ground’ strategies, skills and bringing equity to the arts community which is one of my biggest missions both personally and professionally.

(June 21, 2018)  So far, my mentorship has been nothing short of amazing. Working with Mitchell Marcus is probably one of the best things that has happened in my career so far. I am truly privileged to be working with such a knowledgeable, organized and giving person. Thanks to Mitchell, It is after almost five years, I feel a sense of pride, achievement and have found my true identity in Arts Management.

My internship objectives have been distributed between all the staff members of The Musical Stage Company. I was part of a fundraiser which comprised of the Board members of the company. This event gave me first-hand experience of how an event of this magnitude is managed.  It also gave me a deep insight into how the face of the Company i.e. top management presents the mandate and invites potential funders and donors to contribute to a shared cause. It was after this event that I had my ‘aha!’ moment in arts management. 

In terms of production and project management, I was designated as project lead to supervise The Living Arts Centre’s 2018/19 season launch. I was responsible for the coordination between artists, the technical team as well as the management. Two fantastic singers, Divine Brown and Sara Farb presented a portion of Uncovered. Organizing this event as Project Manager, gave me an excellent experience in coordinating as well as overall management. 

I have also had the opportunity to draft artist contracts with Equity. It has given me an insight into the nuances, details as well as the importance of how and why the contracts are drawn out based out of the Equity framework.

Most recently, I was given the role of Front of House Manager for ‘Dr. Silver’. This show, in partnership with Luminato Festival and The National Arts Centre, was scheduled from June 14 to 19th. I was also involved in the pre-preparation by observing the rehearsals from June 4th onwards. During the show, my responsibilities included audience management, ensuring that the seating arrangement at the Heliconian Club was accurately maintained, volunteer coordination as well as take down of sets at the end of the show. It was a fantastic experience overall.

For an establishing immigrant who has transitioned from Indian Classical Dance into Arts Management, Mitchell is very caring, compassionate and giving mentor. He has taken very close care of my needs and is determined that I get the most out of my internship with The Musical Stage Company. His attention to detail and keen listening is something that I marvel at and strive to achieve constantly. Every two weeks, we have a one on one touch base to go over objectives. The weekly staff meetings have also been an effective way to understand everyone’s roles better. 

I have also had a brief understanding of Musical Stage’s company budget as well gained perspective into a General Manager’s duties. The team of Musical Stage is so thorough with their work, that it inspires me to do my best at every duty that I take on. I am currently working with the team on drafting a production cover letter, newsletter and a press release. In fundraising, I am also doing an in-depth research on Musical Stage’s upcoming projects. I have also been reviewing operating grants, social media and strategic planning of the company. 

Personally, I feel much more confident, energized and ready to take on duties without any hesitation. I also know that Mitchell Marcus and Musical Stage will be there as my constant support system. 

I once again thank Theatre Ontario’s PTTP and OAC’s support in enabling to achieve a very important milestone in my career.  

The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 1, 2018.

Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program is funded by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

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