This article was making the Facebook rounds yesterday:
Please, Don’t Start a Theatre Company
“Neither the field nor the next generation of artists is served by this unexamined multiplication of companies based on the same old model. The NEA’s statistics on nonprofit growth, set against its sobering reports on declining arts participation, illuminate a crucial nexus for the field, a location of both profound failure and potential transformation. The proliferation of small theater companies sits at the intersection between the necessity to imagine different structures for making theater and our field’s failure to provide career paths for the next generation of artists. Since the Ford Foundation’s investments kicked off the regional theater movement fifty years ago, there has been tremendous collective buy-in to what has become a fossilized model of a particular type of nonprofit theater. Within this structure, there is now a critical lack of opportunity for emerging artists and leaders, leaving the next generation of artists no alternative but to start companies of their own, companies that often replicate the problems of established theaters on a smaller scale. “
So it seems we know what’s wrong with the current model, but aren’t able to do anything but participate in the current (some would say broken) model because funding and expectations are geared towards the current model, namely “a building with staff and a season, subscribers and youth programs, and a healthy mix of earned and contributed income.”
The cycle continues.
So what do we do? Go read part two of the article it’s got some interesting ideas. I also think we have to change our picture of what success looks like – is being a venued theatre a badge of success if you can’t afford the building? Is a large subscriber base a badge of success if you’ve gone from producing edgy avant-garde work to “crowd pleasers” to keep the doors open on the unaffordable venue?
And are we a success as a community and industry if we, as some of the most creative people out there, cannot change because the current model is the only one we know?
At Clayton Lord”s presentation this week the question was raised, which is more important, economic or intrinsic impact? Why, intrinsic, of course.
Then why does only economic get a form to fill out in the grant application? Budget form, earned revenue form, subscribers vs single ticket, foundation vs government. Economic gets a very important form in the grant application.
Where’s the form for intrinsic?
Then today a Quick Riff from Mission Paradox: “I find the whole “people should stop forming arts organizations” conversation to be interesting. It’s interesting because people make a very logical case for not starting. The issue is that starting an organization is an emotional issue. It isn’t driven by logic. By the way, this isn’t a good or bad thing . . . it is just reality. My own point of view is that if it is in your heart to start an organization then you HAVE to do it. The world may need it.
But if your heart isn’t in it. If you aren’t committed. Don’t even think about starting.”