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Not Planning to Cross Dress This Time…

Essay by



The last time I wore a skirt was in 1987 for Junior Parents Weekend in college. In some moment of self-awareness, seeing myself in full makeup and girl clothes, I knew I had to address the dissonance between the expectations of my gender and who I felt myself to be. I tossed out my dresses, my flats, my lipstick, and my pantyhose—until a few months ago. In an effort to garner votes for our Culture Coin initiative I borrowed some things from my spouse Lynette and did some of my best girl impressions that included skirts and lipstick! I even dusted off an old prom picture for your entertainment. I’m grateful to say that you supported our efforts (and my performance) with 10,000 votes!

Cross dressing for HowlRound was easy… Well, kind of. HowlRound was born out of a similar dissonance in our field, the difference between how we sometimes behave and the values we purport to espouse. It was born out of a desire to create a space for dialogue where artists’ voices are front and center, and it was born out of an interest in highlighting bright spots—best practices that we all can learn from. HowlRound started because of the efforts of a few that included a handful of staff, committed web developers, a game-for-anything advisory committee, and a foundation that seeded an idea with start-up funds.

But HowlRound no longer reflects the ideas of a few. In more than two full years of operation 300,000 unique visitors have been to this site, 500 theater makers have contributed to the journal, blog, and NewCrit, over 100 organizations have livestreamed HowlRound TV events, and viewers of HowlRound TV have logged over 50,000 hours of watch time. The New Play Map now features over 1,800 organizations and 1,800 artists. 400 people have joined us in person for convenings around key issues of concern.

HowlRound went from the “I” ideas of a few to the “we” ideas of the many. We are HowlRound and we are at an important turning point in our history. Our seed support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation requires a final year matching of funds.


It was born out of a desire to create a space for dialogue where artists’ voices are front and center, and it was born out of an interest in highlighting bright spots—best practices that we all can learn from


More importantly, we require of ourselves the ability to make a case for our relevance.

We do not believe HowlRound is entitled to live in perpetuity and we will always take our cues from theater practitioners who say yes to the continued work of creating space for a theater commons.

Our small staff of four—Jamie Gahlon, Vijay Mathew, Srila Nayak, and I—is working tirelessly to raise that match by the end of this fiscal year, June 30, 2014. We have a multipronged effort in place and with the support of Emerson College and our colleagues at ArtsEmerson have raised $170,000 of the $350,000 needed. We hope a part of this match will come from the theater practitioners who contribute to and use the shared tools and resources of HowlRound.

Your participation in this effort will allow us to affirm to ourselves and to our other stakeholders… Yes, we are a we and we’re doing this together.

Our goal is to raise $50,000 from small individual contributions to make up part of the $180,000 left to raise. We’ve worked with our web developers this past month to make giving online to HowlRound easy. Your willingness to make a small monthly contribution or a one-time donation will allow us to make a much stronger case for why HowlRound matters.

HowlRound will remain free. It will continue to live in the commons, accessible to all. Like any startup, our goal over the next few years will be to look for a sustainable business model, but that model cannot include putting information that is meant for everyone behind a pay wall.

I’m not planning to cross dress this time for your support—you’ve seen enough of me in skirts!—but HowlRound will continue to make room for the dissonance, the dialogue, and the bright spots. Over the months to come we’re going to keep working hard to listen deeply to your needs, while asking humbly for your partnership. 

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Don't get it. What has HowlRound to do with cross-dressing? Why did you toss out your flats? Why not your heels? Is that picture you in girl clothes or not in girl clothes?

I'm proud to be a supporter of HowlRound. Thank you for keeping all of us connected and sharing the 'We" ideas. Also, I love the "I'm not PLANNING to cross dress this time for your support" - making the cheesecake photo attached seem almost accidental.