Saturday, January 05, 2008

FYI: List of LORT Theatres

1 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre A Contemporary Theatre (ACT)
2 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Actors Theatre of Louisville
3 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Alabama Shakespeare Festival

4 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Alley Theatre
5 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Alliance Theatre
6 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre American Conservatory Theater
7 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre American Repertory Theatre
8 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Arden Theatre Company
9 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Arena Stage
10 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Arizona Theatre Company
11 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Arkansas Repertory Theatre
12 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Asolo Repertory Theatre
13 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Berkeley Repertory Theatre
14 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Berkshire Theatre Festival
15 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre California Shakespeare Theater
16 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Capital Repertory Theatre
17 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Center Theatre Group
18 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre CENTERSTAGE
19 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre City Theatre Company
20 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Clarence Brown Theatre at the University of TN
21 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre The Cleveland Play House
22 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Court Theatre
23 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Dallas Theater Center
24 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Delaware Theatre Company
25 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Denver Center Theatre Company
26 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Florida Stage
27 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Ford's Theatre
28 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre GALA Hispanic Theatre
29 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre The Geffen Playhouse
30 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre George Street Playhouse
31 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Georgia Shakespeare
32 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Geva Theatre Center
33 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Goodman Theatre
34 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Great Lakes Theater Festival
35 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Guthrie Theater
36 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Hartford Stage
37 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Huntington Theatre Company
38 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Indiana Repertory Theatre
39 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Intiman Theatre
40 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Kansas City Repertory Theatre
41 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre La Jolla Playhouse
42 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Laguna Playhouse
43 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Lincoln Center Theater
44 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Long Wharf Theatre
45 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Maltz Jupiter Theatre
46 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre McCarter Theatre Center
47 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Merrimack Repertory Theatre
48 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Milwaukee Repertory Theater
49 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Northlight Theatre
50 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre The Old Globe
51 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Pasadena Playhouse
52 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre The People's Light & Theatre Company
53 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Philadelphia Theatre Company
54 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Pittsburgh Public Theater
55 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre PlayMakers Repertory Company
56 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Portland Center Stage
57 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Portland Stage Company
58 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
59 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Round House Theatre
60 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Roundabout Theatre Company
61 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre San Jose Repertory Theatre
62 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Seattle Repertory Theatre
63 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Second Stage Theatre
64 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Shakespeare Theatre Company
65 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre South Coast Repertory
66 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Syracuse Stage
67 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Theatre for a New Audience
68 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre TheatreWorks
69 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Traveling Jewish Theatre
70 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Trinity Repertory Company
71 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Virginia Stage Company
72 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre The Wilma Theater
73 (2006-2007 Season)
LORT Member Yes
Theatre Yale Repertory Theatre

Friday, January 04, 2008

Excellent Blog

Check out Adam Thurman's "The Mission Paradox." Adam writes about arts marketing, and has a lot of good stuff.

Trust

So as we see from the previous two posts, the health of the American theatre depends on the production of new plays by American playwrights, and the American regional theatres have almost completely abandoned any sense that doing so is part of their job as non-profit organizations supposedly serving the public good. The next question is why.

Why has America's regional theatres resorted to an almost total reliance on "classics"? I'm certain that many artistic directors will argue that the American theatre audience is conservative and doesn't want to see new plays. Like Noah Smith, they point to symphony orchestras and opera companies as being in a similar situation. But can this fear of the new really be true? Americans flock to see new movies and, in fact, are generally distrustful of remakes; they buy tons of new music and, indeed, regard cover bands as lower musical life form; yes, Americans watch re-runs on TV, but not to the exclusion of new shows, or else why would the writer's strike be a problem at all? No, the American psyche has long been focused on the new. So why not new theatre?

A large part of the problem may be the result of our educational system, which puts a major emphasis on plays of the past. Theatre history courses are required for every major, but how many courses are devoted to reading new plays? Perhaps a course devoted to reading the plays published in American Theatre magazine combined with an equal number drawn from a slush pile of new, unproduced scripts would give students a stronger idea of how the theatre fits into contemporary life. Instead, actors and directors go into the field carrying their theatre history anthologies and little else -- is it any wonder we have so many productions of The Seagull? Is it any wonder that most young artists have no idea how to even locate a new play to read, much less produce? Is it any wonder that the most young artists have no idea that a playwright might actually be a live human being who could attend rehearsals and be part of the artistic process? No, we college professors have to carry a great deal of the blame for the lack of new plays being produced by theatre artists.

But that's only half of the equation. I also think we should look at movies, TV, and music and ask: why are audience members willing to lay out their hard-earned money for new stuff? I'd propose that part of it -- and I'd say a big part -- is trust. We buy the latest album by our favorite band because, well, they're our favorite band and we want to see what they are up to now. (And in fact we would feel betrayed if we bought their new album and it was simply remixes of their previous songs and nothing new -- even greatest hits albums usually contain a new cut or two.) We go to certain movies because an actor we like is in it, or it is directed by someone whose movies we have liked in the past, or it is written by a screenwriter whose work we've enjoyed. We've established an ongoing relationship with these people. We trust them.

And it seems to me that what is missing in the American theatre is the trust that results from an ongoing relationship. What would have happened if the second Beatles album was performed by four different musicians than John, Paul, George, and Ringo? Would it have been a hit? Doubtful. Fans would have been outraged. The Beatles ARE John, Paul, George, and Ringo. But our regional theatres rotate actors and directors on almost a show-by-show basis, short-circuiting any possibility of an ongoing relationship between audience and stage. If John, Paul, George, and Ringo ARE the Beatles, who IS the Guthrie? It changes from show to show. Sure, there is an Artistic Director, and sometimes he or she has actually been around more than a year or two, but Artistic Directors are directing fewer and fewer of the productions because they have administrative functions. Instead, each individual production imports a director from somewhere else, and he or she does that single show and is never heard from again. The same is true of playwrights -- are there any regional theatres who have a resident playwright whose work is produced regularly? Perhaps a few, where a playwright has formed a relationship with a specific director, but it is rare.

We theatre people see this as a fact of life, and in fact we see it as a good thing -- we think it is a benefit to cast the "best" actor for each role, rather than maintaining a company where we have to put up with an actor playing a role for which he or she may be less than ideal. But the audience sees it differently -- they like seeing an artist stretch and try something new; they like having an ongoing relationship with an actor, a director. A theatre's identity is in its artists, not in its address. How can we expect audiences to make a leap into the unknown without having established a trusting relationship with SOMEBODY at the theatre?

If we want audiences to support new plays, we need to build an ongoing relationship of trust with them. The revolving door that is American regional theatre has got to stop.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Fear of New Plays

Yesterday, I discussed why a commitment to the production of new plays was important to the health of the American theatre. I quoted regional theatre pioneer Margo Jones, who wrote in 1951 that America's regional theatres needed to assume a "violent" commitment to the production of new plays if the American theatre was going to progress. "We must have our new play­wrights," Jones wrote, "and we will not have them unless we give them many outlets to see their plays produced. This is the best way in which they can learn to write better plays." So now, 47 years later, how have America's regional theatres done in terms of Jones' vision? Is there a problem? If so, what is the scope?

Despite being a theatre person, I kind of like crunching numbers. So I decided to check out the TCG Theatre Profiles database, which has an "advanced search" screen that allows me to search for the specific information I am seeking. Once there, I decided that the best place to start searching for Jones' vision were with the League of Resident Theatres (LORT) institutions, the 73 regional theatres that one might see as following in the footsteps of Jones' Dallas theatre. So I clicked on "LORT membership" and "American Premiere" and "World Premiere" (I didn't want theatres getting credit for importing plays like Stoppard's Coast of Utopia, which was not only considered an American premiere but counted as three productions, one for each part!) for the 2006-2007 season. The results were interesting, to say the least.

TCG separates its theatres into six categories according to the size of their annual budgets. They are:

Category 6: $499K or less
Category 5: $500K - $1M
Category 4: $1M - $3M
Category 3: $3M - $5M
Category 2: $5M - $10M
Category 1: $10M or more

In the 2006-2007 season, the 73 LORT institutions broke down into the categories as follows:

Category 6: $499K or less = 19
Category 5: $500K - $1M = 1
Category 4: $1M - $3M = 12
Category 3: $3M - $5M = 11
Category 2: $5M - $10M = 23
Category 1: $10M or more = 7

So of these 73 wealthy non-profit theatres, 56% of which had budgets over three million dollars, how many of them had at least one American Premiere during the 2006 - 2007 season? 15, or a measly 20.5%. Four out of five American LORT institution did not feel it was necessary to support American playwriting. They broke down as follows:

Category 6: $499K or less = 19 theatres --> 5
Category 5: $500K - $1M = 1 theatre --> 0
Category 4: $1M - $3M = 12 theatres --> 1
Category 3: $3M - $5M = 11 theatres --> 4
Category 2: $5M - $10M = 23 theatres --> 5
Category 1: $10M or more = 7 theatres --> 0

At those 15 theatres that did have an World and American premiere, there was a grand total of 27 productions. They broke down as follows:

Category 6: $499K or less = 19 theatres --> number of productions: 15
Category 5: $500K - $1M = 1 theatre --> number of productions: 0
Category 4: $1M - $3M = 12 theatres --> number of productions: 1
Category 3: $3M - $5M = 11 theatres --> number of productions: 4
Category 2: $5M - $10M = 23 theatres --> number of productions: 7
Category 1: $10M or more = 7 theatres --> number of productions: 0

Look at that carefully: 55.5% of the American premieres during the 2006-2007 season were produced in theatres with the smallest budgets. In fact, a single Category Six theatre produced nearly as many American premieres all of the theatres in Categories 1 through 5 combined: The Actors Theatre of Louisville (10 productions). Without the Actors Theatre of Louisville's commitment to the American playwright, there would have been a anemic 17 world premiere productions of American plays on LORT stages.

If we wonder why American playwrights find themselves drawn to film or television, we need look no further than these statistics, which to me reflects an appalling lack of interest in the fate of American theatre by the artistic leaders of our country. More evidence of the Schiavo-ization of the American theatre.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A Question for NY and Chicago Bloggers

Over the years, I have watched as many of you created productions in NYC and Chicago. I was wondering if you could outline the costs associated with such productions. How much does it cost to rent a space? What about rehearsals -- where do they take place and how much does it cost? What other expenses are associated with such a production?

Why New Plays

Happy New Year! I apologize for the long silence. First, it was my production of Thousand Kites, which kept me very busy arranging reading groups, contacting organizations active in prison issues, coordinating filmmakers who were documenting the rehearsal process, and handling visiting guests including the playwright. But the truth is that the play ended November 20th, and now it is January 2nd. And while there is a certain amount of catch-up involved post-show, such as grading papers, and then the bustle of the Christmas season, the fact is that I needed a little time to start regenerating ideas.

So now I'm back, and it is my hope to post every weekday -- weekends may be hit-or-miss. So for those of you who have been checking in to see whether I have had anything to say, thanks, and I hope you can check in regularly from now on.

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When you don't write for so long, you miss a lot of great conversations. Off and on, I may weave back through past posts of my fellow bloggers and add my voice to the bygone chorus. Back nearly a month ago, Isaac raised "The New Play Question(s)," the center of which was as follows:

Why new plays? Why do new plays have intrinsic value? Or what value do they have? Why should we bother doing new plays? Or dedicating theaters to the artistic mission of bringing them to life? What is different (and differently valuable and important) about new plays as opposed to revisitng or reinterpreting or whatever existing texts?

Quite a few people had things to say, and I'm not certain I have a whole lot new to add, but I'd like to throw in my two cents worth. I'm not certain that I can say it any better than Margo Jones did in her inspiring 1951 book Theatre-in-the-Round, which I also quoted here:

I believe it is imperative in creating new resident professional companies to take a violent stand about the choice of plays. Personally I believe in the production of classics and new scripts, with emphasis on new scripts. Our theatre can never be stronger than the quality of its plays. We must, therefore, have a great number of good plays. The classics have proved their value through­out the history of the theatre, and I believe we should draw on them as great literature and great theatre. But if we ( produce only classics, we are in no way reflecting our own age. Our theatres must not only be professional, they must be contemporary as well. The most excellent seasons in New York are those which bring forth exciting new play-writing talent.


Too many people are saying, "I'll do a new play if I can find a good one." Certainly you must find a good one, but this attitude is not good enough. The plays can be found if you look hard enough. And if you take the vio­lent stand I have spoken about, you will feel obligated to search and search and search until the scripts are dis­covered. I have a belief that there is great writing in America today and that much of it has not yet been un­earthed.


Great theatres have always had their playwrights. Shakespeare, Lope de Vega, Moliere, Ibsen—all these were men around whom theatrical companies were functioning. The Moscow Art Theatre had Chekhov; the Abbey Theatre had Yeats, Synge and O'Casey; the Provincetown had O'Neill; the Group had Odets. We must have our new play­wrights, and we will not have them unless we give them many outlets to see their plays produced. This is the best way in which they can learn to write better plays.


The production of classics is healthy, but it is not step in the flowering we want to see in the American theatre. We need progress, and the seed of progress in theatre lies in the new plays.

I think Jones' agricultural metaphor of the "seed of progress" is a good one. Every time a theatre does a classic, it is dipping into the storehouse where the harvest of the past has been saved. But unless we plant seeds, we will deplete our reserves and will have nothing with which to replace it.

How is it possible to "deplete our reserves"? Aren't the classics the theatrical gifts that keep on giving? Can't we keep on reinterpreting the classics forever? Playwright Noah Smith, consciously playing the role of the devil's advocate in Isaac's comments, says perhaps we can:

[I]t would not be the end of the world if new play production decreased. It would be sad, and theatre would become less relevant. But it wouldn't be the death knell for the art form. Believe me, I support new plays and new playwrights, but if almost all we did were revivals ... it would be kinda sorta okay.

Opera is essentially in a situation where 99 percent of it is revivals from a large canon. New operas are written, but rarely do they take off and become part of the regular repertoire. Opera is doing just fine ... yes, it's for a niche audience, but that niche is well filled.

Drawing a parallel between theatre and opera and, I would argue, classical music in general, is a good one, because all three are in danger of starving to death artistically. This is part of what I meant when I spoke about the Schiavo-ization of the theatre -- there is no new activity, no interaction with the now. Those who visit, do so only to remember the past, as there is no future that can be forged. It is nostalgic rather than alive. And that is, in fact, the death knell for the art form. Sure, there will likely still be actors speaking words on a stage, but the performance will take on the atmosphere of a historic town where re-enactors don the costumes of a bygone era and demonstrate the "olde ways." You visit to look back, not forward.

When you strike a note on a piano, the strings an octave above and below vibrate sympathetically. Likewise, when a play is first produced, it strikes a primary note within the culture; thereafter, with each succeeding production as time passes, the audience hears less of the original note and more of the sympathetic vibrations, which are never as strong nor as clear. We must strike our own chords.

The vigor of the theatre is rooted in the audience's curiosity of what will happen next, not its memory of what already has.

How we came to this situation will be the subject of tomorrow's post.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A Day Early

I am writing a day earlier than I had indicated because I want to draw attention to S. P. Miskowsi's post about John Edwards. As some of you may know, I have been on the fence as far as the Democratic presidential race, torn between Edwards and Obama. But the more I think about it, and the more I read books like Daniel Brooks' The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Takes-All America (a book that I recommend all my blogging friends read if you want to understand more clearly the source of your struggles as an artist and human being to hold onto your ideals in the face of relentless pressure to sell out), the more convinced I am that the most important issue in America today is, at root, the widening gap between the rich and everybody else in this country, an issue that plays out in every major problem from health care to globalism to environmental catastrophe. George W. Bush and his cronies have relentlessly created a plutocracy in which wealth and power is the only value.

In recent weeks, I have been reading several posts on "electability." I urge you all to reject such conjecture. The focus on "electability" is a sign of fear. We Democrats have become so fearful that the Republicans will win that we have lost all confidence in our values. Instead, we focus on strategic thinking like "electability" over confidently asserting our values. Haven't we learned anything from the disaster that was John Kerry, who Democrats chose in a collective sigh of "electability" over the too-populist Howard Dean? Could we have found a more boring and uninspired candidate? We are letting the media take us down that road again, and it is unconscionable. It was Bill Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council who were responsible for the abandoning of the traditional populist values of the Democratic Party in favor of Republican Lite, a pro-business, pro-globalization approach that sold the soul of the Democratic Party to corporations and NAFTA and GATT. Hilary Clinton will continue that Faustian bargain.

John Edwards is a populist, which is exactly what we need right now. Regardless of what happens in the early primaries -- and I hope that the people of Iowa and New Hampshire will recognize that Edwards is the only Democratic candidate who gives a damn about changing an agricultural policy that is destroying our environment and eliminating the small farm model -- I hope Edwards and all the other candidates will remain on the ballots for future states so that we all have an opportunity to vote our conscience.

We must not let the media determine our choices for us. We must not allow fundraising numbers to determine our values. We must not allow cowardly conjecture about "electability" to lead us to vote anything less than our true values. We must get our spines back and stand up for what we believe in.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Resuming Posts January 2nd

Dear Readers (or by now, after months of silence: Dear Reader): I will resume regular (and, I hope, daily) blog posts starting Wednesday, January 2nd. I promise.