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Local Community Through Theatre

Reflections of a Long-Time Board Member

Rob Albro

As I wind up my six years as an ETC Board Member – has it been that long? – here are a few reflections on the rewards of such direct participation in a vibrant community-facing arts organization like ETC.

My Board activities have encompassed diverse roles, including Chair of the Development Committee (helping to support the company’s grant-seeking efforts) and Treasurer (supporting both the Executive and Managing Directors in the development and monitoring of annual budgets). For anyone conversant with the nonprofit art world, these are familiar roles. Years spent working in an academic research center, which negotiates similar terrain, was good preparation for these duties.

But while oversight might be an important dimension of the Board’s work – typically concentrated around quarterly meetings – that doesn’t really convey how Board members fit into the overall scheme of ETC’s theater-based engagement with the many communities it serves in NoVA and beyond.

Effective board members are proactive and community-facing, and for a small company like ETC the Board often operates as an extension of ETC’s staff and broader universe of affiliated artists.

Board members pitch in to help drive giving campaigns, organize restaurant fundraisers, and annual fundraising events. But they also represent ETC at many of its performances – including mainstage shows in area schools – T-shirt sales events, virtual game nights during the pandemic, and, lest I forget, as part of occasional ETC flash mobs (dancing skills very optional)!

But this still doesn’t quite capture the rewarding community engagement encompassed by my work as an ETC Board Member. I’m a local, and memorably participated in what was then the Children’s Theater of Arlington (my turn in The Beeple, with its Alan Parsons soundtrack, perhaps the highlight). Performing in local theater was a part of the DNA of my 1970s childhood.

After significant time elsewhere in the world, my wife and I returned here while our three children were still young. Our kids were eager participants in ETC shows at what was then McKinley Elementary School. For two of them, ETC galvanized their inner thespians, providing a scaffold throughout their K-12 education. They became “theater kids,” with one going on to major in musical theater in college. The other worked as an ETC counselor during summers, which helped prepare her for an early career choice as a teacher.

For them, ETC was a formative experience. For me, first as an ETC parent, as someone himself often on stage in local community theater, and later as a Board Member, ETC has been a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with my inner 1970s theater kid.

ETC is a dynamic reminder that the theatrical Arlington I grew up in is alive and well.

It reintroduced me to the local universe of teaching artists, arts managers, community theater participants, young actors, and school administrators that, together, have been a source of enchantment and creative hallmark among Arlingtonians (and NoVA) for at least five decades.

ETC, in short, represents a highly imaginative version of community and the possibility for collaborative expression and creative well-being that, for me, has always been a distinctive feature of the community that raised me. As a Board Member, I’ve had the opportunity to witness first-hand and participate in this community once again, for which I am grateful.

- Rob Albro


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