Author Topic: Serving on a Board of Directors and Stage Managing for the Same Company?  (Read 5325 times)

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SMJess

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Hi, I'm new, but I've been lurking here for awhile.  I'd like to mine the many years of wisdom here for opinions on an ethical question:

Background:  I'm currently the PSM for a small not-for-profit musical theatre company.  I've worked with them from their first production, and I have the position "for as long as I want it."  This is a part-time gig for me (as it is for the rest of the company); I also have a full-time day job, but I'd like to make stage management my career.

Dilemma:  I've been offered a position on the Board of Directors.  I would really like to take it and feel that I could make meaningful contributions to the company as a Board member.  I've declined to take it so far, because I am concerned about the appearance of a conflict of interest of being the cast's advocate as SM, while also being a part of the body that employs them.  Not that any actual conflict would necessarily arise, but I want my casts to be able to trust me and come to me with issues without fear of anything getting back to the board.

Now, the theatre community in this town is small, and most people in it wear many hats, so I may be making a mountain out of a you-know-what.  Any thoughts on whether it is possible to wear both of these hats and still be an effective SM?  Thanks!

ChaCha

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I have a friend who has done exactly this and has never had a problem. I am sure that board members agree to disagree on occasion. Besides I cant think of anything better for the actors than having someone who intimately understands their needs and situation who also has a voice on the board. I personally think it is great that the stage manager is being asked to serve in this role, and think you shouldnt hesitate a moment longer. The company obviously value you highly -as they should.
ChaCha

Mac Calder

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I know people who are in a similar position on the Board.

When chatting with one, I did pose the same question as you - Do conflict of interest issues arrise. Her response was that in any situations where she feels she may have a conflict of interest, she leaves the board room, and in any vote taken over the issue, she is marked down as an abstination. However, I was told that the issue rarely every came to a head, as the board were usually happy to take a back seat, unless something major occured which may affect the entire company.

MarcieA

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The LORT that I left last spring required a company member to be present at all meetings. For 2 years this has been one of the PSMs and he hasn't had a problem.

He's not allowed in executive session (ie anything involving money) but he's there as an advocate for the artistic company. I personally felt that having him in the loop made me much more involved in the everyday operations of the theatre because I found out about administrative operations in a professional manner, not through gossip.
Companions whom I loved and still love, tell them my song.

ljh007

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The only issue that has come up for me when I've been involved with the Board of a company I have also gigged for is the question of payment. As a Board member, I strongly believe that it is my job to raise money and save money for the company. Not only do I participate in the administrative and artistic oversight of the company, but I actively solicit donations and scrutinize the budget. The bottom line is the bottom line. Whenever I have been involved in the Board or upper management of a small theatre like the one you are with, I have donated all my SM fees right back to the company, whether or not I paid dues as a Board member. Honestly, the SM fee was so small it was worth more to this poverty-ridden company than it was to me. For some reason, this seemed like a big deal to me and was an issue on which I just couldn't compromise. Other people might see it a different way. But it might be something to think about as you decide whether to adopt these dual roles in the company.

SMJess

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Thanks, everyone, for your thoughts on this.  You've given me much to think about, especially with regard to my PSM paycheck.  I'm still mulling it over, but I'm leaning toward accepting the Board position.  I'll let you all know what the final outcome is.

stagemonkey

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The only issue that has come up for me when I've been involved with the Board of a company I have also gigged for is the question of payment. As a Board member, I strongly believe that it is my job to raise money and save money for the company. Not only do I participate in the administrative and artistic oversight of the company, but I actively solicit donations and scrutinize the budget. The bottom line is the bottom line. Whenever I have been involved in the Board or upper management of a small theatre like the one you are with, I have donated all my SM fees right back to the company, whether or not I paid dues as a Board member. Honestly, the SM fee was so small it was worth more to this poverty-ridden company than it was to me. For some reason, this seemed like a big deal to me and was an issue on which I just couldn't compromise. Other people might see it a different way. But it might be something to think about as you decide whether to adopt these dual roles in the company.


This brought up an interesting thought but I dont know how it woudl work.  You said you donated your SM fees back to the theatre.  So in a sense you did the work for free but on paper they paid you $X and then you donated $X to them.  In this sense if they are a not-for-profit would the funds you donated to them be able to be seen as a tax deductable donation? 

malewen

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Yes, any donation that ljh007 made to the theatre company would be tax deductable (assuming the theatre has not-for-profit status with the US government - the section most commonly associated with theatres is the 501(c)3 section of the US tax code).  It shouldn't matter if he/she is an employee or how much they donate.

ljh007

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Any donation to a 501(c)3 is tax deductible. (But note: you must itemize your deductions to take advantage of this. If you don't make many donations each year, it's probably not worth it.) So, yes, I could claim things like this on my taxes.

But aside from my personal taxes, I wouldn't exactly work "for free" for any company because it was important for them to set aside an SM fee in their budget. If the SM wasn't someone on whom they could count to hand back the fee, they would indeed be paying out money. As a business leader in the theatre, I'd rather see a balanced budget (spend $500 in SM fee and make $500 in donations) and then improve that budget by getting a "surprise" $500 donation (=$500 in SM expense and $1K in donations). This is a healthier business practice. It is also important to show "real" expenses when submitting company budgets for funding, like grant applications. This could lead to a win-win-win situation: get a $500 grant to cover SM fees for a show, pay $500 in SM expenses, get $500 normal donations, and then get the $500 SM fee donated back = net $1000 for the company.

philimbesi

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As long as abstain from votes that could cause a conflict, and leave the room when you feel uncomfortable it shouldn't be an issue.  Im a member of the board of directors, a SM and one of the resident directors in my theater company and it hasn't been an issue yet. 

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