Bruce W. Thompson
Under Oregon law, a nonprofit board member’s first obligation is to protect and strengthen the financial health of the organization. What steps will you take to ensure the financial health of Pentacle Theatre?
Participating in the development and oversight of Pentacle’s financial planning is critical to sustaining the health of the theater. My education and past work experience in financial management positions provides me with the skills helpful to the Board’s planning and decision making for Pentacle’s future. Carefully managing expenditures and exploring new avenues of revenue is integral to this endeavor and Pentacle’s continued livelihood.
Describe how you will represent the theater.
As an avid Pentacle Theater goer and supporter, I look forward to sharing what Pentacle has to offer with others. I welcome the opportunity to talk with student organizations and at senior centers to share Pentacle’s ongoing activities and encourage their participation. I have already been investigating new ways to market Pentacle via digital billboards to expand our presence in the community.
What volunteer work have you done for Pentacle Theatre?
Prior to this year my volunteer work involved assisting in delivering posters for a few months. This year I am participating on both the Pentacle Theater Development Committee and the Finance Committee.
What is your day job? What is your level of responsibility at this job? What other relevant experience or education will you bring to board service.
I am retired. I served 22 years in the US Army and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. My career included being part of the Nuclear Surety Program, a Personnel Manager, Chief of Software and Wargaming Development at the Army War College, and finally a Senior Program Manager for intelligence databases at the Defense Intelligence Agency. Upon retirement from the Army, I worked 15 years for the MITRE Corporation (a research and development center for the Department of Defense). As an Associate Department Head, I managed all aspects of the work program to include staffing and financials.
Please describe the skills and core competencies that you will bring to the board.
I have both a BS and MS in Computer Science as well as an MSBA from Boston University. The skills learned from writing and managing large contracts should be useful in assisting with the development and exercise of Pentacle’s financial program. Especially as we face the many challenges ahead to include reopening the theater while still confronting the ongoing Pandemic.
What do you like most about Pentacle Theatre?
There is nothing more rewarding than being in the audience during a live performance. It’s heartwarming and amazing to see all the love and enjoyment expressed by the actors, stage crew and others supporting a production. This is especially enhanced knowing it is all being done by volunteers. The fact that Pentacle has endured so well is testament to both the theater members and the community which has supported it.
Tell members why you want to be a member of the Pentacle Theatre Governing Board.
I intend to represent the audience member’s perspective to the Board – in particular, looking at opportunities to improve the audience’s experience. Before retiring to Salem in 2012, we spent 25 years in the Washington DC area and had subscriptions to four different theaters ranging from the Kennedy Center to Arena Stage. This gave us insight into how each theater interacted with its patrons. I intend to draw on those experiences in making suggestions to the Board.
Pentacle has endured for 68 years. This is evidence of the dedication and personal commitment of the all the theater members who give of their time to put on the wonderful productions. It is also a tribute to the community members who have sustained their support by buying tickets. I want to be a part of this continuing legacy and assist with resolving the many challenges that lie ahead.
Please describe your goals for your three-year term, if elected.
My primary goal is to ensure that Pentacle can rapidly return to its stated vision: “be a significant and trusted cultural resource for the community.” To accomplish this, we need to:
- Get back to live performances. This requires gaining the confidence and trust of the public to return to the theater. To that end, getting the word out to the public that “Pentacle is back” is essential. Testing new forms of advertising such as buying snippets of time on strategically placed digital billboards and using banner flags at the theater’s entrance are worth exploring.
- Nurture the audience. Pentacle’s current audience is primarily composed of seniors. We must continue to support their access and look for ways to increase their enjoyment as was recently done by offering hearing assist headphones. Beyond this, we must also look for ways to grow interest in the theater from the younger generation. This is important if we want to survive in the future. One approach to encourage a younger audience would be to offer a special discount for students. Another would be offering discounted tickets for the night-of-performance at both the main office and box office (like TKTS on Broadway). To increase our community presence, presenting a short play or doing a selection of musical numbers from past shows at the new bandstand downtown would be a great form of community involvement and publicity. Any actions that result in putting more people in seats will improve the theater’s long-term viability.
- Maintain a sound financial foundation. Effective planning and budgeting are essential to sustained operations. Carefully managing expenses is only half of the equation. Looking for potential new forms of revenue is the other half. Exploring state of the art concepts like live performance pay-per-view would expand the beath and accessibility of our audience. It also provides an alternative avenue for watching performances for those not able to attend in person due to health limitations or not yet comfortable with returning to the theater because of the pandemic. Teaming up with the local public TV channel might provide a possible approach. Another form of new revenue might be selling theater merchandise (e.g., theater logo t-shirts and other memorabilia could be sold in the lobby or online). To be sure, implementing any new income approach has many challenges, side effects and costs to be considered. After careful evaluation, some may prove not be viable – but not evaluating them ignores their potential benefits.
Pentacle Theatre is in the middle of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative. Please describe your commitment to this kind of work and why it is important in an arts organization.
In my career, developing an atmosphere of respect has been essential to the organization’s success. Pentacle’s new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative is an excellent start. When the grant ends, maintaining an atmosphere of inclusion and respect will be a never-ending process.
Another area to be addressed is understanding the different expectations and acceptable standards between generations. What one generation takes as acceptable may not be the case for another. Unexpected conflicts may arise from these differences. Working to ensure that these differences are better understood is important. Quickly addressing and resolving such conflicts is vital to the health of an organization.
My commitment to this endeavor is illustrated by our decision in 2019 to sponsor “The Cake.” The subject matter is difficult for some, but it is a reflection on our society and deserving of being heard. We were honored to be a small part of it and applaud Pentacle’s decision to produce it.