#CULTUREWORKING with Jill Harrison


How did you get involved in the Cultural sector?

I've been working in professional theatre for about 15 years.  I worked in NYC for some time as a freelance director and then came to Philly in 2009 for the MFA Directing program at Temple.  It was there that I discovered my affinity for producing theatre. After graduation, I worked for Simpatico Theatre and Philadelphia Theatre Company in a producing capacity and had another discovery. There was a need for artists with arts administration and entrepreneurial interest and skills in our community to connect, support, and elevate local theatre directors, the artistic leaders and visionaries in Philly theatre. 


With this discovery and the support of Fractured Atlas and the Wyncote Foundation, I launched Directors Gathering (DG) in 2014.  (DG) is a start-up non-profit that incubates and elevates local freelance and resident theatre directors in order to impact the entire theatre community. If you support a director, you support ALL of their collaborators, theaters, and patrons. It is a model meant to compliment, augment, and even push the current company model here in Philadelphia.  Not all directors are founders, not all directors start in Philly, not all directors direct traditional plays, and some directors are all three; however, I can guarantee that all directors are impacting the larger cultural sector in significant ways. Theatre directors are making work at the Barnes and on the streets of Fishtown, they are producing necessary international and local voices at their companies, they are rendering inclusive productions and festivals throughout the city that implore all of us to see and stand up for underserved and marginalized people in our community.  Theatre directors are truly the reason why I am still in the cultural sector and plan to be for the foreseeable future. 


What’s the future of arts & culture of Philadelphia?

Theatre directors! At the risk of being redundant, I mean it.  There is great interest in design thinking and creative cross-pollination in the start-up and for-profit sectors and this is exactly what theatre directors do.  It's vision, collaboration, coding and de-coding, offering, and keeping an eye, ear, and heart on the pulse of the needs of others through story-telling.  The future of arts & culture in Philadelphia is also the constant rise of circles, generations of inclusive and cross-pollinated visionaries and makers, whether they be directors, dancers, painters, coders, or CEOs, working together to push all our mediums forward in communion.  Culture Works is at the forefront here. So is the creative programming happening at Arts & Business Council, Cultural Alliance, Pennovation at UPenn, Artists U, FringeArts, Drexel, LaSalle, and UArts' arts administration programs and many more.  I am honored and thrilled to be among and aspiring to these cultural and innovation centers in Philadelphia.


When exploring the arts in Philly, what’s your one must-see?

If not a project involving a theatre director, the Barnes.


Elizabeth Sytsma