Wednesday, April 09, 2008

99 Seats -- Good Stuff!

While I was gone, there was a flurry of great posts over at 99 Seats here, here, and here. Apparently, he has been fielding comments concerning the idea that artists are generally seen as needing a manager to take care of all those nasty little business details. 99 Seats calls bullshit, and I do too. As a theatre historian (and as any of you who have ever taken an undergraduate theatre history course ought to remember), it wasn't until very recently that the artists didn't handle all their own management -- thus, for instance, the term "actor-manager" that was prevalent throughout the 19th century. Make a list of famous actors or playwrights throughout theatre history, and you will inevitably end up making a list of famous managers as well: David Garrick, William Shakespeare, Moliere, Edmund Kean, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Henry Irving to name just a few from a much longer list.

One anonymous commenter wrote: "Theaters hire staff so that artists can do their job and not worry about getting people into the seats or money to pay for their project....I agree that artists are not "too dumb" to handle operating a theater, but would they want to?" My response to this question would be that artists should be aware of a direct connection between their artistic decisions and their business decisions. In fact, I was just talking to David Robinson, director of the remounted Dirt in NYC, who was telling me about a theatre he worked for where that was the slogan: all artistic decisions are business decisions, and all business decisions are artistic decisions. So the reason that they would "want to" get involved in the business end is that it has a valuable effect on viewpoint and context. Should artists do it all, from writing every press release to designing every advertisement? No, of course not, but involvement on a decision-making level is important.

To that end, and perhaps most importantly, the blogger at 99 Seats is going to create his or her own theatre tribe in NYC. In "Money, Meet Mouth," the starting point and basic ground rules are laid out, and updates are promised. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing how it turns out, and I send the best of luck.

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