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Every week, the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute elects a Startup of the Week. We invite the founders of these startups to share a blog post with our community. These posts can be inspirational, educational, or entertaining.
This blog post was written by Caylin Waller (Steinhardt '22), CEO and Co-Founder of Theatre Advocacy Project.
Theatre Advocacy Project (T.A.P.) is revolutionizing HR for the performing arts industry, by creating the first external HR system designed by theatre experts for theatre experts. Our mission is to create safe and equitable working conditions for all theatre professionals.
T.A.P. was born out of my experience working as a performer at an equity theatre. While working there, there was an environment of routine sexual harassment, condoned racist behaviors, and workplace abuse, with no reporting structures in place to address the issues at hand.
After interviewing and surveying fellow theatre artists, I discovered that more than 65% of those I spoke to had experienced workplace abuse or harassment, and less than 6% felt they had access to adequate resources when facing these urgent and sensitive matters. Alternatively, as I conducted research in my Performing Arts Administration studies at NYU, I realized this problem was not even only present for the artists and contracted workers.
As the roots for Theatre Advocacy Project started to grow, I was lucky enough to be joined by Jillian Weimer, Chief Operations Officer and Co-Founder, Colette Gregory, Chief Learning Officer and Co-Founder, and C.J. Malloy, team member and Accessibility Specialist. Jillian has expertise in theatre, producing, and entrepreneurial management. Colette has over a decade of expertise working in administration for several of the country’s foremost theatres. She is also an educator for a leading collegiate theatre program and an independent diversity and inclusion consultant. C.J. currently works in technology merchandising, has a background in theatre performance and American Sign Language, and has worked with New York Deaf Theatre.
“What excites me most about T.A.P. is that it provides a solution for unsafe and costly working conditions that is not only innovative but also affordable.” - Colette Gregory, CLO
Our team participated in NYU’s Startup Bootcamp and Startup Sprint, completing months of customer discovery with managing and executive directors of regional theatres across the country. During this time we realized that out of more than 100 regional theatres, 85% did not have formalized HR or reporting structures in place. As we heard in one customer discovery interview: “Not having a formalized HR department will be the downfall of our industry.”
“I’m thrilled to be a part of such a passionate organization working to help shape the industry’s work environment into something that better reflects our values of safer conditions for everyone.” - C.J. Malloy, Accessibility Specialist
Being accepted to and participating in the Startup Bootcamp and Startup Sprint pushed us to get out of the mindset of creating a solution, and instead focus on understanding the problem and who deals with it. We also learned that when we’re taking on large systemic issues such as the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and racism in American theatre, we must identify an individual person with an acute, urgent problem, rather than trying to address the whole system at once.
“I’m very proud to be part of the T.A.P. team. Theatre is an antiquated industry that needs to be updated to protect the people that make up the industry and reflect the values of our current culture.” - Jillian Weimer, COO
T.A.P. was recently accepted to NYU Summer Launchpad and is in the process of putting together our Pilot Program with a consortium of theatres. These theatres will have access to our hotline for anonymous reporting, a handbook update, our comprehensive DEIA trainings, and an accountability partner who will work one-on-one with the organization. To learn more about the work we’re doing head to www.theatreadvocacyproject.org.
Caylin, CEO and Co-Founder of T.A.P., has a BFA in musical theatre performance with a minor in journalism, emphasis in social media marketing and graphic design. She began her career working regionally as a performer, and Off-Broadway in marketing and development. She is currently working on her MA in Performing Arts Administration at NYU Steinhardt. Caylin was accepted into the first Female Founders Circle with the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute and recently won the 9th Annual NYU Steinhardt Research and Scholarship Showcase for her original presentation on the topic of creating accountability in American theatre. In addition to being a full time student and CEO of T.A.P., Caylin works in early childhood education, focusing on social-emotional growth and participating regularly in anti-racist and equity, diversity, and inclusion workshops.