A qualitative examination of a university/theatre partnership based on Kanter's partnership phases

Ty A Furman, University of Pennsylvania


The benefits of campus-community partnerships have, in recent years, been well documented (Harkavy, 1996; Holland, 2004; Maurrasse, 2001). However, there still exists little research on university/arts partnerships beyond narratives of campus organizations or departments working with community organizations on short term arts projects to either beautify the neighborhood or educate and entertain children (Dean, 1999; Hunt, 1999, Zemel, 1999). In 1990 the Baltimore Theatre Project and the Theatre Department of Towson University established a "collaborative affiliation" (Arnoult, 1992, pp. 57) which continues today. Effective and fruitful collaborations between universities and professional arts organizations, which are not bound by strict contractual arrangements, are few. Some models exist in which the institutions share resources, for example, a building, as is the case for Princeton University and The McCarter Theatre Company and Syracuse University and Syracuse Stage. In both cases, professional not-for-profit companies grew out of university programs. However, both The Baltimore Theatre Project and the Towson Theatre Department maintain separate facilities, budgets, programs, and staff, thus, the heart of the collaboration lies within the personal relationships and specific programs and initiatives. Considering the longevity of this particular partnership, it provides a ready source of information regarding the process and benefits of such collaborations. The research questions guiding this qualitative inquiry are: (1) what was the process of developing and maintaining this partnership—particularly through multiple leadership changes? (2) What have been the expected, unexpected and unmet outcomes of the partnership? (3) Can this partnership serve as a model for other similar organizations considering such a relationship? Kanter's (2002) five phases of development for business relationships provided the conceptual framework for exploring the development, process and outcomes of this affiliation. Kanter (2002) argues that businesses move through relationships much like people, from courtship to engagement, housekeeping, getting along and finally to accommodation—a phase in which each partner realizes the partnership has produced internal changes. Data for this study was gathered through interviews with participants from both The Baltimore Theatre Project and Towson University. Questions pertained to the development, management and outcomes of the partnership. Additional data was gathered from institutional documents.

Subject Area

Theater|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Furman, Ty A, "A qualitative examination of a university/theatre partnership based on Kanter's partnership phases" (2008). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3310489.