Dear Readers: I haven't done this before, but I'd like to create an open thread for discussion of the following posts, which have arisen following Don Hall's "Art is NOT a Job."
Don Hall: Art is NOT a Job
devilvet: Art is not a job, but Lord it sure is work...
Me: Leading a Rich Life
Slay: Art as a Job
I have a sense -- and correct me if I have it totally wrong -- that my attempts to create a new business model based on Daniel Quinn's ideas concerning "occupational tribes" are being interpreted as focused wholly on making money, making it totally from theatre ticket sales and wholly without concern for artistic values. An example of this would be the last paragraph of Slay's post: "I bet I could build a model that pays well, makes art that doesn't cost very much, has low production values, and packs the house. But, I think I'd have to sacrifice my artistic standards to do it."
In addition, there is a theme that has arisen that I find very odd: art as a vice or addiction. devilvet writes that "For most of us this Art thing is an addiction and a hobby," and John, writing in Don's comments, says: "Seems to me that Theater is not a job, not a business and not a Holy Fucking Communion, it's a Vice. I wrote about this awhile back on my blog, and it's not a smart funny thing, I think its a useful way of looking at it. A vice, like gambling or prostitution or drug running." I am flashing back to Sigmund Freud's idea that art is just sexual sublimation, and a byproduct of neurosis.
My attempts to imagine a different approach -- to pull together ideas that have been discussed within other contexts (local economies, viral marketing, sustainability, occupational tribes, barter systems, social entrepreneurship, and so on) and apply them to the theatre -- are all rooted in a single value: empowerment. I want artists to able to take charge and be in control of as many aspects of their lives as possible, and that includes taking charge of artistic choices and decisions about what projects are worth their time, but it also includes taking charge of their financial life, their personal life, their community life. It means finding a way to allow your art to express your values, and also finding a way to create that art while living a life that is full and rich. As RVCBard says in my comments: "I'm not sure about the rest of you, but as much as I love playwriting, there are other things I want to do and other people I want to spend my time with that are not related to theater in any way. And that's good. It seems like the theater community mandates its artists to be monks without benefits like respect, community support, or basic necessities."
So why the open thread? Because I am baffled by the direction this conversation seems to be going, and what seems to me an odd misunderstanding of the purpose of the theatre tribe model.Rather than simply engaging in argument, I am hoping that somebody can help me understand, because only by understanding can I express my ideas clearly. What is making people so nervous?