Dear SVS Family,
You don’t usually hear directly from me. As Executive Director, I’ve run the business of SVS by operating somewhat behind the scenes — which is apt since I started in theatre on the technical side backstage. I left the public face of SVS to the artistic folks; after all, the art is why SVS exists. You’re not here to watch me type in spreadsheets. But here I am, starting the new year with some important organizational news.
When I joined SVS as Executive Director in early 2015, it was an organization striving to maintain all its best things amid big changes and challenges. The group’s identity was shifting from Shady Shakespeare to Silicon Valley Shakespeare. Its co-founder/Executive Director was leaving the continent. The entire staff was part-time; all of us had day jobs.
Six years later, SVS has grown and evolved in ways too numerous to recount here. We’ve engaged in partnerships with other organizations, most recently Montalvo Arts Center for a second summer camp and additional performance venture. We were exploring adding another outdoor venue, put on hold when 2020 hit. We’ve endured much, we’ve innovated more.
We’ve grown enough to gradually add a full-time Managing Director and full-time Manager of Development and Education, as well as year-round part-time positions of Marketing Director, Production Manager, and Technical Director. They all work with the consistent backbone provided by our Artistic Director, Angie Higgins, whose unswerving persistence is also largely responsible for my being here in the first place.
All this is to say that I believe SVS — despite 2020’s challenges, and perhaps because of our ability to survive and thrive through them — is in a strong place. So much so that I’m confident in SVS’s future even as I announce the end of my time as Executive Director.
Last February, as most of us were learning how to spell COVID, my shortness of breath was diagnosed as cancer. I’m in full remission now, thanks to modern medicine and medical practitioners, and to the various SVS staff and others who supported me throughout in many ways. It’s no exaggeration to say there are people here who saved my life.
Three main factors played into my decision. First, early last fall I approached the board chair about the potential for organizational risk if I suddenly relapse, which is not statistically impossible. Second, I must give more time and focus to my welfare particularly because, while I’m progressing well, full recovery from treatment is a long haul. Third, and organizationally most important, it’s time for SVS to have a full-time Executive, which is something I could never do given my career in high tech management.
I uncharacteristically say all this personal stuff to assure you that my standing down doesn’t imply any doubt about the organization. Quite the opposite — it pains me to leave when so many things we’ve worked at for years are coming together. Nevertheless, with all these factors in mind, I asked the board to begin the process of finding a successor.
They didn’t have to look far. You’re getting a new Executive Director who’s actually more experienced with SVS than I was when I started. Someone dedicated, ambitious, energetic, analytical, and artistic. In just over a year as SVS’s Managing Director, Annalisa Tkacheff has used her corporate experience and artistic background to exceptionally advance the business of the organization, continually improving its ability to support the art SVS exists to provide. Impressively, she did so having spent her first few months training and preparing for a normal year and then rapidly adapting as 2020 went sideways for us all.
Starting in April, Annalisa will take over as SVS’s full-time Executive Director, continuing our trajectory upward toward the future. I hope you welcome her to it as much as I do. She has my every confidence. I’ll spend my final few months on staff ensuring a smooth transition, made easier both by Annalisa’s skill and by how much she already knows and owns in her current role.
After that, I’ll join you again as a patron, a supporter, and a volunteer in the seasons to come. I’ll also be around in an advisory capacity, to both help and give the space needed to ensure Annalisa’s, and thereby SVS’s, success.
The SVS staff has my immeasurable thanks. Angie, Melissa, Tonya, and Doll have been here since before I started. They’re the eternal foundation. April, Kevin, and Annalisa have arrived since and each has been a gamechanger. Thanks to the SVS board, especially Michelle Galloway and Sasha Abrams, the current and previous board chairs — you have no idea how very much they do.
Especially, though, thanks to you. The audience, without whom SVS would have no purpose. The supporters, without whom SVS wouldn’t exist. The volunteers, without whom SVS couldn’t do all we do. The artists and educators, without whom SVS couldn’t entertain and educate. SVS survived 2020 for you, in good standing because of you.
The future is bright for SVS, thanks to each of you. Everything we’ve provided you during my time here, you made it all possible.
Once more unto the breach, dear friends. And once again. And again.