I recently had the opportunity to intern at the non-profit theater company, Crowded Fire Theater for the past 5 months. I went to intern with them without really knowing what I was getting myself into. I was familiar with the type of work they put on after watching their production of Truck Stop last year for one of my classes, but honestly I didn’t know anything else about them. I was very hesitant interning at a non-profit theater company because, after having worked in one before and ending in bad terms, I had the thought that the majority of non-profits were poorly run and had a lot of office drama that seemed to never end. But after my first work day, I knew that their Theater Company proved my non-profit ideas wrong, and that they should be praised for their success in the shows they produce and their lovely ability to work together.
The first day I was introduced to Tiffany Cothran who is the managing director of Crowded Fire, was a hectic day. She explained that we would be going to several meetings regarding grants, productions, and updates which seemed typical, but I honestly didn’t know how far apart they all were or how much she really handles by herself. We were running from building to building and from meeting to meeting and even though I was just following her around and sitting quietly listening most of the time, I was exhausted by the end of the day. I was surprised to see how much energy she still had left in her, while managing to keep everything organized. During several of the meetings we tackled that day I also met Mina Morita who is the Artistic Director and Stephanie A. Henderson who is the Production Manager of Crowded Fire. Each one of these driving women who help run, support, and aid in the growth of Crowded Fire Theater honestly take more of what their job titles stand for.
I quickly learned that every day that I worked there, they are also very friendly and kind to one another, and it was just a big difference from the “cut-throat” experience I had at the last non-profit theater company I worked for. They supported each other and tackled issues in their company by talking it out in very calm and supporting tactics. It was so lovely, I felt like whenever they had a meeting we were joining in on a hippie happy circle where they talked about how awesome everything was going and how great they are at whatever they are doing and supported each other if one was having a bad day. It was confidence boosting.
Mina, Tiffany, and Stephanie are all very organized and driven to make their mission of producing new plays on the West Coast that are by “the hottest up-and-coming playwrights”, and “contributing to the creation of a contemporary canon that reflects the diverse world in which we live”. It amazes me that the history of Crowded Fire Theater, is that is was founded in 1997 and had 4 changes of Artistic directors, which is a lot for how long they have been open, until 2002 when Tiffany Cothran and Mina Morita took over and it has been growing and producing more new work ever since. And as I continued to intern I realized that they are all very hands on in the productions they choose to put up, and help aid the artistic process in really moving forward in producing the issues the plays address and give the audience an opportunity to think critically about the play afterwards. For example, when they were producing “I CALL MY BROTHERS” by Jonas Hassen Khemiri, they were very involved in setting up discussions in production meetings about the racial inequalities that muslims face in America and how that is a central theme in the production and how they want the muslim American community to be represented on stage.
They are all very aware of what they do and how they work in producing new shows that address social issues that are not only happening in the Bay Area, but nation and world wide. I am very proud to have been working with such a motivated and friendly group of people. They have taught me a lot about the administrative side of a non-profit theater company, how much hard work goes into it, and how it can be a fun and relaxing environment to be in, if everyone enjoys everybody else’s company and cares about their well being and artistic visions.