In Suite C: Grand Opera House Exec. Director Mark Fields
April 11, 2022
You might also like
Although he was never able to put down roots for long, Fields always felt at home in the theaters of his schools. The scene has not changed.
“It was one of the things that kind of kept me grounded. I was always involved in acting,” he recalls. “I was lucky enough to go to a number of secondary schools that had very good drama programs.”
Although he explored his passion for acting in high school, once he graduated he wasn’t one to leave for New York or Hollywood. Fields attended DePauw University in western Indiana, preparing to graduate to become a high school acting teacher and spend time at the institution’s then-newly constructed performing arts center.
“I never really thought about acting seriously as a career just because I knew how hard it was to succeed. During my college years, I began to realize that there was a way to combine my interest in writing and my interest in the arts, which became the first 20 years of my career in arts marketing,” he said, noting that he eventually got a degree in communications . diploma.
After graduating, Fields took his first marketing job at the Indiana Repertory Theater in Indianapolis. He would move six times in eight years to try to advance his career in bigger theaters and roles, living in Indiana, Michigan, New Mexico, Tennessee and Pennsylvania.
This stint working in marketing taught Fields a fundamental lesson about show business: It’s not just about the show.
“It’s not enough to have a great artist or a great production. If people don’t know it, if they don’t understand what it is, if they don’t understand why they should be there, then it’s an incomplete experience. You can’t have a live performance event if there’s no audience,” he explained.
Fields grew to enjoy the challenge of marketing productions and his career took him to southern New Jersey, where he worked at the South Jersey Performing Arts Center in Camden and the Glassboro Center for the Arts at Rowan University. , before assuming the position of Executive Director.
“I never wanted to be a general manager. I inherited the position because the former general manager left to take up another job and I was the main administrator. But it turned out that I rather liked it, I was good at fundraising and I was good at negotiating contracts,” he recalls.
In 2006, he took time off to start a consulting business and moved to Wilmington with his family. It was there that he met Steve Bailey, then acting executive director of The Grand Opera.
Bailey didn’t want the top full-time job, but convinced Fields to join as general manager and he would stay. Fields said their 16-year partnership “has been the most meaningful and collaborative professional collaboration” of his career.
They worked together for eight years, then changed titles in 2014, with Fields taking over as head of the historic nonprofit.
“I’ve been in this business for 40 years and I can tell you that Le Grand is a special place. It’s this incredibly historic, rich and beautiful building, but it’s also what’s going on here in this building and the people who make it happen,” he said, noting that artists often see it. also, playing much longer than they originally planned. “Country singer Kathy Mattea said it best, ‘When you sing in the Grand, the Grand sings with you.'”
This relationship with the public was tested during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the Grand had to close for over 600 days. This did not prevent the organization from fulfill its mission however, as it hosts drive-in concerts, drive-in movies, Christmas light show, live concerts and more.
“The arts always find a way to survive, whether there’s a pandemic or an economic downturn or a fiercely competitive market or a lack of resources, it doesn’t matter,” he said.
Now entering a post-pandemic normal, crowds are returning to The Grand and the Playhouse in Rodney Square, but the organization is offering only about half as many shows this year as before the crisis. Fields said he hopes to return to around 100 productions per year between concerts, theater and more over the next two years.
“I think more and more people want to get out and be part of the world again. Not everyone is there yet, but that’s human nature. We will get there,” he said.
Recover your password.
A password will be e-mailed to you.