As a starting point, let's begin with this from Quinn:
Old minds think: If it didn't work last year, let's do MORE of it this year.
New minds think: If it didn't work last year, let's do something ELSE this year.
Let's be new minds thinking, shall we? Let's leave the old meme behind, at least for a while. Instead of trying to tinker with the theatrical system to make it work "better" for us, let's just mentally walk away from it for the time being and consider alternatives and see what happens. And for our purposes, let's think of whatever we come up with in terms of a non-NYC environment of your choice. In other words, let's think in terms of places that are not awash in theatre, where perhaps the price of real estate is more reasonable, and the pool of people to draw our audience from is smaller.
The goal is to think of ways we can do the kind of theatre that inspires us and our audience, and do it in a way that might inspire a deeper connection between audience and artists, create a more viable financial model for the artist, and disconnect theatre from the marketplace in the minds of the audience.
OK, let's start with a little piece that is nonetheless crucial to the way we offer theatre. And remember, we're brainstorming, so no squashing ideas, but feel free to offer ideas of your own.
Old minds think: We must sell more tickets than we did last year.
New minds think: What if we didn't sell tickets at all?
OK, so the thought experiment is: if we didn't sell tickets to a performance (or a season), how might we survive as artists? One caveat: whatever ideas we generate don't necessarily have to provide a 100% living income for everyone involved in the project (as it is, many, many small productions lose money and pay those involved almost nothing). The idea simply needs to bring in something that helps the company to live.
I'm going to offer a few ideas as starting points, and then I hope that others will throw in ideas of their own in the comments section.
Instead of selling tickets, what if a production company:
- Sold memberships to a theatre club that offered free attendance as part of the membership. You could come as often as you like, and bring guests -- sort of like a country club.
- Asked audience members to bring food that would be distributed to the company members in exchange for the performance.
- Had a pre-show potluck dinner for company and audience.
- Bartered for items needed by the company -- a list of items would be provided in the program.
- Asked willing audience members to "adopt" a company member for a day, providing them with food (and shelter?).