Category Archives: General

Please silence your phones

Please Silence Your Phones: True Confessions of a Multitasker

By Colleen Cook

I used to pride myself in my ability to multitask. I could be watching a show on TV, making dinner, discovering a new recipe, checking email, replying to a text, and carrying on a conversation with my husband all at once – what a marvel!

Yet, what I’m feeling is anything but “marvelous.” I feel tired, exhausted by the constant stream of information and ideas and notifications. I feel like I never have time to do anything. I have a friend who recently reined in her habit of checking social media throughout the day to only once per day and she was able to read 10 books in a month in that same time.

The longer we live with devices in our hands and our pockets, though, it seems that ability to “multitask” is just a recipe for overwhelm and disengagement. When you’re doing everything, you’re focusing on nothing. No one gets your full attention, you’re engaging with the world in a way that is broad, but extremely shallow.

While many of us can remember a time before the internet, we are quickly approaching a world in which the adults have never lived without digital technology as a part of their everyday life. Michael Harris writes about this in his book The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection and in this Huffington Post Article, “Why We Must Teach Digital Natives How to Be Alone:” 

“Emily, 13, wakes up and rolls over to kiss her smartphone good-morning. Not an actual smooch, naturally, but a virtual kiss of attention, a kiss of grazing fingertips as she calls up 34 missed messages. The swarms of comforting “contacts” deliver new material — texts about a sleepover, photos of Slurpees, links to new cat videos — and the possible solitude of the morning is banished. The question that drives her is not “what shall I do today?” The question (more passive) is: ‘what did I miss?'”

The reality is, we’ve only had the internet in our pockets for less than a decade, and the generations living today haven’t yet developed best practices for moderating this luxury, so what’s happening is a form of digital obesity – we over-indulge in this endorphin-releasing technology and when we do that, we’re missing out on the real life right in front of us. Psychologists and neurologists are finding evidence to exactly this:

Psychologists have hypothesized that the constant demands of emails, notifications, and general busy-ness put a significant burden on the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the region involved in multitasking and higher-order thinking (like critical thinking and problem solving). Those small demands add up to drain our attentional resources, making us distracted and cognitively fatigued—which in turn makes it more difficult to focus, think deeply, and come up with new ideas. – Carolyn Gregoire, “The New Science of the Creative Brain on Nature”

When you come to the theatre, we implore you, “Please silence your phone,” for a very practical reason: it’s disruptive to our performance to have noisy, shiny devices going off among a crowd of hundreds. But, maybe the performing arts have had this right all along. Perhaps our constant connection is disruptive to our day-to-day, and it’s time to put our devices in their place.

When we turn off our phones, spend time with those most dear to us, and simply engage with a piece of art, it’s like giving ourselves a breath of fresh air. It’s allowing our brains for once to “uni-task,” to disconnect, to be fully present in time and space with the people we love. And, our children depend on us learning the values of silence, solitude, togetherness, and full engagement so that they might be passed down to future generations.

Further listening: one of my favorite podcasts, Sorta Awesome, has a great episode talking about this topic that you can check out here.

Year In Review

Highlights of 2016, Looking into 2017… and a BIG announcement!

by Mike Miller, President & CEO

This has been one of the most exciting and expansive years in my history with the Renaissance, and it’s all thanks to our incredible staff, board, volunteers, donors, and patrons! We have truly got the best team of people working together to bring outstanding arts and culture to Mansfield, and I am proud to be a part of it.

This year, the Renaissance has reduced its total debt down to $150,000, down from $1.2 million when I took the helm in 2010. We’ve done this through streamlining our operations and programming, fundraising for debt reduction, and improving our business practices. We want the Renaissance to exist in Mansfield forever, and adopting a sustainable business model and operating within our means was critical, and we couldn’t have done it without our incredible team.

Another highlight for the Renaissance was Michael Thomas’ original production of Hot Mess: The Musical. Never before have we sold out a production before it even opened, but that was the case with this hysterical new musical that showcases Michael’s adept skill for musical comedy. Even more exciting, renowned Broadway producer Cameron Mackintosh has taken interest in the production and we will be taking our cast to workshop it in New York City in April 2017, following our spring revival of the production on our stage in Mansfield. We couldn’t be more excited for our artists at the Renaissance!

Our Mansfield Symphony conductor search has been a remarkable process, with over 100 outstanding applicants from all over the world for the position of music director! This speaks to the quality and reputation of our orchestra to have such a wealth of individuals vying for the position. Having the opportunity to showcase three of those conductors on our stage this season has already been a treat for our community.

And now for the big announcement…!!!

For me, one of the most exciting things of 2016 is only first being publicly announced right now, and that is our acquisition of a 15,000 square foot building at 166 Park Avenue West. Despite our large building, we have so many educational programs, performance groups, ensembles, and productions rehearsing in our space that we are constantly running out of usable rehearsal and performance spaces in our building. When we approached our board about a building that was for sale by the Richland County Land Bank for $89.00, but required $150,000 in work just to make it usable, rather than back away our board ran in and raised and supplied the funds in 10 days, fully funded through cash and in-kind donations. In particular, massive thanks go to Bill Hope of Alumni Roofing for providing a new roof for the building, and Ary Van Harlingen of Shaw Ott Medical and his team for remediating the extensive mold in the building and gutting it, as well as one anonymous funder.

Over the coming months we’ll talk a lot more about this space with you. We’ll be conducting a feasibility study, thanks to support from the Richland County Foundation, in order to determine what the community needs from this space. We know we’d like to see more rehearsal space, a more intimate performance space, and education classrooms. Keep your eyes open for a lot more conversation about this space soon. If you’d like to hear just a little more, you can listen to the Renaissance Podcast episode the Chairman of our Board, Rand Smith, and I released this week.

The Renaissance is committed to being the cultural hub for our community. We are energized by the partnerships we’ve formed with our region’s non-profits and we are delighted by the support we continually receive to keep our program vibrant and expanding. Thank you for making this the greatest job on earth.

Mansfield Symphony Cellist photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

What to Expect When You Come to the Symphony

by Colleen Cook and Chelsie Thompson

Something we hear from our patrons a lot is that one of the reasons they hesitate to come to a symphony concert is because, well, they just don’t know what to expect. Doing new things can be intimidating, especially if your perception of the experience is outside of your comfort zone.

So, here are some answers to some of the frequently asked questions about attending a symphony concert:

What should I expect?

Expect that you’re in for a treat! If this is your very first symphony concert, you might be a little nervous because this is all new to you, but that’s okay – you’ll soon realize that your role as an audience member is one of the best: to sit back, relax, and enjoy the experience. After all, the orchestra is playing this concert for you.

What should I be paying attention to?

Notice the beat of the music, and the way the tunes make you feel.Let your thoughts go, and instead, allow yourself to simply focus on what you hear. For just a couple of hours, you can pretend that there is nothing else in the world except the musical moment that you are experiencing at the time.
Here are a few things to look for:

    • The bows that the string sections use to play will always be moving in the same direction within their section.
    • Woodwinds will be adjusting their instruments and reeds, perhaps changing out their instrument to a smaller or larger model to play higher or lower notes.
    • The percussionists will be moving from instrument to instrument and changing the mallets that they use to play each one, with the timpanist occasionally tapping the drums lightly while holding his ear to them to make sure they are in tune.
    • The brass will be emptying their spit valves – yes, this happens, although any brass player will confirm to you that the “spit” is actually condensation that builds up in the instrument as they blow air through it. The French horns will be the most noticeable in this, as they are notorious for annoying their fellow brass players by purposely emptying up to ten slides in a row.
    • After solos, you might see the string players tap their bows lightly on their stand or the wind players tap their foot on the ground, or hand on their knee, to show their appreciation to the soloist during the music.

What do I wear?

Well, what do you like to wear? There’s no dress code for the symphony, so you’ll see everything from jeans and tees to cocktail dresses and suits. Going to the symphony is all about experiencing the magic of a live orchestra, so you might even notice that the orchestra dresses in all black so as not to draw your attention away from the music. Wear something that’s comfortable to you, and feel free to dress up as you see fit.

Where do I park?

You’re in luck – the Renaissance Theatre, which is the Mansfield Symphony’s home, has its own large parking lot, which connects directly to the back main entrance of the theatre (you can’t miss it – you’ll see four glass doors marked “Theatre Entrance” on your right as you walk towards the building). On busy nights, you may end up in one of our secondary lots: the two adjacent lots just West of the Ren on Park Avenue, and the gravel lot behind the main parking lot, next to the Sons of Italy building. You might also find parking on the streets in front of and behind the theatre.

Will it be interesting to watch?

There’s quite a bit going on during a symphony concert, which can have anywhere from 60 to 100 musicians onstage, so there’s plenty to see – in fact, when we add the chorus, the number of musicians onstage at one time can reach 170! The conductor is in command of all of these musicians at once, so his arms, hands, and the rest of his body are perpetually in motion to make sure that everyone is always on the same page.The musicians themselves are enjoying the music, too, so you’ll see some who are smiling, some with looks of intense concentration, and some moving to the beat.

Will I know any of the songs?

You might! You’ll probably know some of the music, and some of it will likely be new to you. Even if you don’t think that you are familiar with orchestral or classical music, chances are good that you hear it on a daily basis – it’s in commercials, movies, and in the background of radio ads. Since music speaks for itself, it’s used quite frequently to convey a mood or elicit an emotion in these formats. In fact, even current pop and hip-hop music often uses familiar melodies from classical pieces. Don’t believe us? Check out this list of just 25 of them on ClassicFM. (In case it isn’t obvious, our personal favorite is Nas + Beethoven).

Who are the musicians?

The Mansfield Symphony is an exceptional group of professional musicians from right here in Mansfield, as well as Cleveland, Columbus, and everywhere in between. They are professional musicians, music teachers, graphic designers, college professors, managerial professionals, and even music students who are currently completing their Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees. They are all different in many ways, but one thing they have in common is that they love to play music for you, the audience.

Will anyone be singing?

We have a fantastic chorus, and they do accompany the orchestra on a few different occasions each year – the Holiday Pops is a perennial favorite, and we often perform at least one additional large-scale work each year that features our talented vocalists. In addition, the Mansfield Symphony Chorus is active in the community, performing an annual “Sing Out! Choral Extravaganza” with several area schools each fall – and this year, the chorus will perform their inaugural “Sing into Spring” concert in April. Shameless plug: if you love to sing, then this is the group for you!

Can I bring my children? Will they like it?

Children are always welcome at the symphony, but you’ll find that some concerts are better than others. Many regular season symphony concerts are almost two hours long, which can be hard for the little ones to sit through without getting antsy and distracting your fellow audience members and musicians. Concerts with lots of extra action onstage (like the Holiday Pops concerts)are a great first symphony experience for the family, as the multimedia and interactive aspects offer more to catch kids’ eyes and keep them engaged.

You can also give us a call to ask whether a specific concert might be okay for kids – we can give you some insight on the music and length of the concert that may help you make your decision. And if you’re still not sure, why not try out our interactive Teddy Bear Concerts with members of the Mansfield Symphony? These concerts are slated for afternoons three times each season, and offer a small group or soloist from the MSO accompanying an original story or children’s activity.

When should I clap?

Okay, this is a very common question, with good reason! After all, no one wants to be “that guy” that clapped at the wrong time. There are a few easy spots to remember:

  • At the beginning of the concert, the Concertmaster (a.k.a. the first chair violin) will enter the stage to tune the orchestra. As he or she enters, clap to welcome him or her.
  • When the orchestra is done tuning and the Concertmaster sits down, the Conductor will enter the stage, so you’ll clap to welcome him or her as well.
  • If there is a soloist, they will enter the stage when the orchestra is ready to play their piece, and the audience claps at that time.

It is also appropriate to applaud at the end of each piece – and this can be a little tricky, since some of the songs you’ll hear have multiple parts, which are called “movements.” The movements are listed in the program, and the orchestra and conductor prefer that the audience does not clap between movements, as they need that time to concentrate on the next part of their music.

A good rule of thumb is to watch the conductor: the conductor will turn around when it’s time to applaud. If the conductor’s hands are still in the air, or is still facing the orchestra, then most likely they’re still concentrating and need quiet. When the conductor’s hands drop, and he or she turns to face the audience, the orchestra is ready to hear your appreciation and applause. If ever in doubt, just hang back a bit – regular symphony-goers will help you know what to do by starting the applause at the right time.

How do I buy tickets?

Easy-peasy: you can purchase tickets through the Renaissance Box Office by calling (419) 522-2726, or visiting in person. The Box Office is open 12-5 Tuesday through Friday, and 2 hours before every show, but you can purchase online anytime.

We hope this is a helpful guide for any symphony-goer. Did we miss your question? Comment below and we’ll happily answer you! If you’d like to see what performances are upcoming in our Mansfield Symphony’s season, you can find that out right here.

SchoolBusesOBB_Web_PhotoByJeffSprang

Why Your Ticket Purchase Isn’t Enough

by Jessica Dulle, Director of Development

Ever ask yourself, “Why do many theatres ask for donations when I already purchased tickets?” The truthful answer is several theatres are nonprofits and unfortunately your ticket purchase doesn’t cover the costs to keep the theatre open.

Running a theatre is an expensive business. If your favorite theatre is historic, it costs even more to keep the doors open.

“What are some of the costs,” you might ask yourself. Like any other business, theatres must think about administrative, maintenance, technology, and marketing costs. Getting you to our productions requires lots of dedicated professionals working long hours for months. No worries, we don’t mind. You leaving the theatre memorized by seeing one of our performances make it all worthwhile.

Many theatres also dedicate some funding to giving back to your community. This investment regularly goes into educational programming. Research proves that children who are exposed to the arts regularly earn higher grades, have bigger career aspirations, and are more civically minded. Adults and senior citizens also benefit from being engaged in the arts.

Armed with this knowledge, theatres invest dollars into educating members of our community and many times won’t turn them away if money is an issue.

Another unknown factor is several theatres don’t know how many audience members will show-up until almost show time. Unlike other businesses that produce items based customer demand, theatres will put on the same performance no matter how many people show up. This means theatres sometimes lose money producing some of your favorite shows.

Nationwide, theatres estimate having 60% audience capacity to their performances.

This is all wonderful information, but you may wonder, “how do theatres keep their doors open if my ticket purchase isn’t enough?” The answer is lots of diverse revenue streams. Funding can come from individuals, corporate sponsorships, endowment gifts, foundation grants, state funding, as much more.

These wonderful contributors also keep your ticket prices affordable so you’re not spending $150 to purchase one ticket.

While running a theatre is a complex business, supporting one doesn’t have to be. Consider making an investment in your community the next time your box office ask “would you like to add a donation to the theatre with your ticket purchase?”

White Christmas, 2015. Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

A Few of Our Favorite Things: Mansfield Holiday Gift Guide

by Colleen Cook, Director of Marketing (and mom of 2 little ones)

The holidays are upon us and if you’re like me, you’ve already been listening to your Christmas playlists on Spotify and have begun your holiday shopping. One of my goals this year is to simplify – less of everything. Less stuff, less busy-ness, less stress – just, less.

So, this year we’re starting a tradition in our house that will reel in the insanity when it comes to gifts for our kids. (I didn’t invent this, just came across it on the internet) the philosophy is that you buy just 7 good gifts per child, each representing a category:

  1. Something to wear
  2. Something to read
  3. Something you want
  4. Something you need
  5. Something to do
  6. Something for me (think: keepsake)
  7. Something for family

The Renaissance is so proud to be a part of an innovative, incredible community. So, we wanted to take an opportunity to highlight just a few of the area’s greatest finds for this holiday season.

Small Business Saturday is coming up on November 26th and Mansfield shows up in a big way! Many local businesses have terrific specials on that day, so be sure to include them in your holiday shopping.

(Quick note: the Renaissance is supported by and partnered with many local businesses as a part of how we support the programming for our non-profit. This post was not in any way influenced by those relationships, but some of those supporters may show up in this gift guide, and others are well-deserving, but might not fit this list this time.)

Here’s our shortlist for where you might want to do your holiday shopping this year:

Something to wear:

With winter putting a chill in the air, keep those toes warm with a great pair of boots from The Boot Life, with an incredible inventory of boutique options unmatched in our region. Visit their store at 36 West Fourth St. in Downtown Mansfield.

Something to read:

Main Street Books is your one-stop shop for a carefully curated selection of incredible books. Their “book lady,” Llalan Fowler is one of the most interesting and thoughtful people in Mansfield, so be sure to ask her for her recommendations when you stop in. They’re located right by the Carrousel in Downtown Mansfield at 104 North Main Street.

Something you want:

Visit the Mansfield Art Center for a unique and one-of-a-kind gift. Their classes for kids make an awesome grandparent gift, and their pieces for sale are memorable gifts perfect for anyone on your list this year. You can visit them at 700 Marion Avenue in Mansfield.

Something you need:

Did you know that Relax, It’s Just Coffee has some of the best coffee around? Their innovative and delicious (not to mention beautiful) drinks are a requirement for any groggy winter morning. A bag of their fresh-roasted coffee or a gift card makes a pretty awesome gift! Visit them at 105 North Main Street in the Carrousel District of Downtown Mansfield.

Something to do:

We’d be remiss if we didn’t put in a plug here for our Renaissance Gift Certificates! They never expire, and can be used on anything in our season – from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood to Diamond Rio, and more. We’ll be offering discounts for Small Business Saturday, as well as extended hours this holiday season. Visit our box office from 12-5, Tues- Fri. at 138 Park Ave W.

So that we’re not just self-promoting with this list, we’d also like to recommend Tog Loft’s great photography classes and photo sessions! Our staff took the Intro to DSLR class about a year ago, and we’re still using their great tips on a regular basis – this would make a great companion gift for someone getting a new camera this year. Their mini sessions are the perfect way to squeeze in a photo shoot when your family’s too busy to schedule a session. You can visit them 41 B East 4th Street in Downtown Mansfield.

Something for me:

One thing that separates a local, independent jeweler is the opportunity to find that perfect keepsake that is unique and special, just for the person you love. Our friends at Miller’s Diamond Jewelry have just the thing to make your season a little more sparkly, and incredibly special for the one you love – even if you don’t have a huge budget! Visit them at the Appleseed Shopping Center at 1442 Lexington Avenue in Mansfield.

Something for family:

If you haven’t visited the Little Ren exhibit at Little Buckeye Children’s Museum yet, you are in for a treat! We love this special place for families to experience and explore in Mansfield, and a family membership for a year only costs $100 – you actually can’t beat that! Visit the in the Carrousel District of Downtown Mansfield at 44 West Fourth St.

 

Happy Holidays!

Web_Renaissance-Theatre-photo-by-Jeff-Sprang

New ways to connect with the Ren!

by Colleen Cook, Director of Marketing

When you’re a staff of 13 and have 40,000 people coming through your doors, things can get a little impersonal. But you can be sure, there are some really interesting (and maybe slightly weird) people behind the Renaissance Theatre.

In addition to our staff of arts administrators, technical and artistic teams, gigantic corps of volunteers, dedicated board, we have hundreds of donors and community supporters ensuring the long future of rich, live arts in our region.

We’ve been looking for ways to connect with you in a more meaningful way. Engaging with you on our Facebook page, on Twitter, on Instagram, and even on Snapchat (@rentheatre) is awesome – but doesn’t always offer us an opportunity to really delve into the stories behind the productions and programs we offer.

The brand-spankin’ new Renaissance Blog and recently launched Renaissance Podcast are just two of the ways that you’ll be able to connect with the Renaissance in a more personal, immersive way.

We’ll be regularly posting on Tuesdays and our podcast releases an episode every two weeks on Fridays. Of course, we’ll also pepper that with some special glimpses when the opportunity arises (like, when Mark Sebastian Jordan gives a great pre-show lecture we don’t want anyone to have to miss!).

So, welcome – we’re glad you’re here. Grab a popcorn, and stay tuned!