Thursday, March 20, 2008

Well Put, Nick!

In a reply to a commenter on another blog who quoted Sherwood Anderson on artists who talk and think art is more important than it is, Nick (Keenan, I believe) responded:
I understand where you're coming from, and I used to be an artist that only talked through my work. I've designed 100 plays in the last 5 years, and worked on 12 since the beginning of the year. But speaking from experience here - for me, that's become like designing without having a production meeting first. Over the long term, it doesn't work. That's why I picked up blogging - to promote ideas that benefit the entire theater industry - because the alternative means reinventing the wheel again and again for the rest of my artistic life. Yes, there are talking artists slip and talk first without adding to a constructive conversation, and there are people who are working things out for themselves for the first time. There are also collaborators and people truly committed to the idea of making our work better through a higher level of cooperation, and online tools like blogs and forums are where it's at to make that kind of stuff happen.

I get mad when the conversation gets shut down because someone calls 'BS' without engaging in the full conversation. There's a lot of talking heads here, and it's difficult to follow - but that doesn't mean that everything being said is BS, or pointless. It has real value, and it's a prerequisite to making a more sustainable theater that is better for everyone. It may make you feel superior to say what you said here, and that's your right, but I then challenge you to engage critically, point by point, and push the conversation forward to something that matters to you. I encourage you both to walk the talk. In that sense, there's nothing necessarily elitist about theater at all, only perhaps the people who have felt empowered to claim it as their own.
Nice. I get so tired of having to defend conversation and the exchange of ideas, as if it were somehow a tertiary activity similar to - I don't know what -- trading baseball cards or something. Without conversation, new ideas don't happen -- read Group Genius or Collaborative Circles if you doubt that. Without new ideas, the status quo stays the status quo. And in our society, if you stay the same you fall behind.

Thanks for standing up, Nick!