Texas Nonprofit Theatres was formed in 1971 to encourage programmatic and managerial excellence in the nonprofit community and professional theatres of Texas. The state association functioned for the first nine years with a volunteer statewide board.
During the formative years, activities were restricted to producing a rather spasmodic mimeographed newsletter, the biennial Festival of American Community Theater, and an occasional conference. Under the leadership of Roland Myers, the Board of Governors began identifying existing theatre arts organizations by contacting every Chamber of Commerce in the state and by contacting individuals in various communities. This survey specifically named 129 theatre arts groups in Texas in 1979. These names were transmitted to the Texas Commission on the Arts for inclusion in their state list. Updating and correcting the information has become an ongoing task. At the present time there are almost 500 identified nonprofit theatres in Texas.
In 1980, the Texas Commission on the Arts granted $8,000 in matching funds to establish a part-time executive office, matched in-kind with facilities at Midland Community Theatre. Enid Holm was named Executive Director, a quarterly newsletter was implemented and a statewide TNT conference was hosted by Midland Community Theatre.
In 1981-82, The Moody Foundation of Galveston awarded a $30,000 three year diminishing grant to support a full time executive office and initiate on-site workshops for theatres throughout the state. Under the State Arts Plan for Networking, the Texas Commission on the Arts elevated the status of TNT, declaring the theatre organization a Partner for the Arts. In this program, a $20,000 grant placed TNT in active partnership with the Texas Association of Museums, the Texas Arts Council (Now Texas Alliance for Arts & Education) and Southwest Alternate Media Project. The Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts and Texas Coalition for Quality Arts Education plus several others were later added to the list of statewide service organizations. Each of the partner organizations is dedicated to implementing its own articulated goals as well as assisting the Commission with its priorities.
Under the 1981-82 funding cycle, TNT divided the state into Quads - four distinct geographical regions. Division into Quads facilitated the development of interim mini-conferences and improved the communication among theatres within particular geographical area.
In 1982-83, the Houston Endowment and the Meadows Foundation of/for Texas joined the Texas Commission on the Arts and The Moody Foundation in supporting TNT. With this quadruple support, TNT continued on-site assistance to individual theatres, offering board workshops in the areas of organizational structure, funding, and writing codes of operation for both artistic and governing boards. Funds from these groups also allowed the establishment of a permanent office for TNT. Sensing a need for a more central location, the organization relocated to Fort Worth in December 1985.
Enid Holm, as Executive Director of TNT, traveled some 150,000 highway miles and numerous air miles providing direct on-site assistance to theatre organizations throughout Texas. In 1995, Ms. Holm completed her book, Theatrically Speaking: A guide to operations for the nonprofit arts organization. In order to devote more time to the promotion of her book, Ms. Holm turned the leadership of TNT over to Linda M. Lee in April of that year.
Every two years since the 1970s, TNT has implemented the AACT Festival for the state of Texas. Through an adjudication process, two productions from each of four Quad festivals are chosen to advance to state level. At the state festival, final selection is made for two productions to move on to the regional festival. On non-festival years, TNT hosts one central conference where the emphasis is on workshops, demonstration performances and networking.
In 1995, TNT started the Multicultural Initiatives Summer Theatre Paid Internship Project, placing two to four theatre/arts management students in paid internships during the summer.
In 1996, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram donated access to the Internet to nonprofit organizations in the North Texas area, and TNT began to develop its website. Now TNT uses its site to provide information to its members and promote theatre statewide. TNT produces an online directory of all identified nonprofit theatres in Texas, has a job posting site, an audition listing page, and a Marquee that lists all shows being produced by member theatres around the state. A bi-monthly e-newsletter keeps theatres and TNT members informed of statewide activities and opportunities.
Also in 1996, TNT added the Youth Conference to its list of annual activities, and began the Playwright in Residence program, encouraging theatres to ‘adopt’ local playwrights. In 1997 TNT started a lending library of plays for perusal by theatres across the state. In 2002 the TNT POPS! New Play Project was added, and in 2007 TNT partnered with Tickets to the City to provide free online ticketing for member theatres. In 2010 the TNT Virtual Warehouse began, linking specific resources with theatres’ needs, and in 2012 TNT established the Texas Playwriting Hall of Fame. 2016 will see the advent of a scholarship for developing directing skills for those involved in community theatre, plans for the TNT College Prep Clinic, and the emergence of the Fort Worth Fringe Fest.
Texas Nonprofit Theatres has grown from a scant half dozen organizational members in 1979 to approximately 160 in 2015. Efforts are ongoing to identify existing and emerging theatres, enlist their participation in TNT, and provide the developmental services needed to ensure survival and quality programming. TNT welcomes all theatres and individuals interested in theatre to join us - become a member today!