Wednesday, March 12, 2008

On Yesterday's "Vision"

So yesterday I posted a "vision" of how a theatre tribe might look. By choosing to put the theatre in Independence, Missouri (I couldn't resist the idea of naming it Independence Theatre), I made some broad conjectures about lifetsyle possibilities. Before making such a choice, I would have had to do much more research about the Independence community: demographics, employment opportunities, other theatres in the area, median income, etc. For instance, according to the 2000 census, 92% of Independence is white, the median age is 37.8 years, 15% of the population has a bachelor's degree or higher. the largest percentage of people were employed in education health and social services, median family income is about $46,000. There is a community theatre, the City Theatre of Independence, which has been in operation since 1980 and has 400 members; they charge $8 to $10 a ticket.

Obviously, had I made a different choice of cities, the vision would have been different. Had I chosen Dayton Ohio or Raleigh NC the ancillary activities might have been different. Had I chosen a place with a higher non-White population -- say, East St. Louis (which, with a population of a little over 30,000 might be a bit too small), which has a 97% African-American population, many other aspects of the organization would be affected.

The location of a theatre should be dependent on the lifestyle preferences, skills, and interests of the artists. So if you have a group that includes people who are interested in sustainable farming, for instance, then you might choose a place where you could get enough land to provide for an outlet for those talents. But if chickens aren't your thing, as they aren't for The Director, but a vibrant music and poetry slam scene is important, then you look elsewhere.

These decisions also have an impact on your artistic choices. If you are interested in creating a worker's theatre, for instance, you might want to make sure your city has an industrial base. If you would like to create theatre for older people, finding a community that is a draw for retirees might be a good idea. And so on.

The point is that all aspects of the theatre are impacted by all other aspects. You can't just bring a generic idea of what theatre "is" and plunk it down wherever. A theatre tribe needs to become part of the community.

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