Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Intelligent Reasons to Believe (Another Response to Don Hall)

As Ronald Reagan used to say in his debates with Jimmy Carter: "Now, there you go again." Don Hall has posted "More Nylachi(dc)," in which he asserts that I am reinventing the wheel of community theatre. He lays out the characteristics of a decentralized theatre tribe pretty well (if incompletely, which is OK), but then makes one goof when he writes, "With the sole exception being the last requirement, it occurs to me that this model already exists. It's called COMMUNITY THEATER..." And what's that sole exception? "The Decentralized Theatre Company adopts an all inclusive business model that resembles the collective model and provides a decent standard of living for all involved."

Brace yourselves, folks: he's right. Without that last piece, a theatre tribe and a community theatre do resemble each other. But that last piece -- well, that's kind of a major exception, isn't it? I mean, isn't that sort of like saying to Marx that the model for communism already exists in capitalism except for that whole private ownership thing? The whole point of this research is an attempt to provide a decent standard of living for all involved while doing theatre outside of Nylachi.

But let's put that aside for a moment.

Don then goes on to talk about his experiences as "Music Director for a Southside Community Theatre," a job he left when he "realized that the production of Cy Coleman's City of Angels and Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance (both were shows that I fought aggressively to get on the program) had garnered more complaints of both elitism (some folks couldn't fathom us doing opera) and offense (the language and situations in City of Angels was just too raw and bawdy) and lost the theater more money than any two productions in the organization's twenty year history. When, in reaction to those two shows, the risky production was scheduled to be Do Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up I was gone, gone, gone." He concludes:
The choices made before I got there were extremely conservative and my experiments in pushing the artistic envelope were met with nothing less than hostility from the community. The audience was more interested in entertainment that was both nostalgic and, like their Southside churches, avoided challenging their own choices very directly and told them in no uncertain terms that they were just fine. That not being the world that I see, I found the choices of producing yet another production of Anything Goes or Singing in the Rain to be nothing less than pedestrian and self-congratulatory.
I'd like to examine this from several different perspectives. First, the reason that Don offers up this story is to illustrate one of his main arguments about the theatre tribe model, which he sees as a community theatre model in a thin disguise: "the promise that by moving and setting up shop [in a smaller city] provides an opportunity to work frequently is a false one unless your craft is limited to productions of melodramas and Greater Tuna with the odd production of West Side Story when you can find the local talent able to handle it." To put it into an equation, what Don is asserting is: community theatre = commercial fare.

What is meant by community theatre? I don't think it would be too controversial to offer this definition: theatre that is created by people who volunteer their time and who make their living doing other things. Fair enough? By that definition, though, Don does community theatre. He makes his living working for public radio, and he does plays without being paid a living wage. And this would be the case for Bob's recent production of Clay Continent, too, and pretty much every independent theatre production that happens in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. And that model -- doing theatre and working a day job, i.e., the definition of community theatre -- has been fiercely defended by Don and Bob as allowing artists creative independence and artistic integrity. I suspect neither Don nor Bob are in the midst of planning their next production of Greater Tuna. So what gives? How come Don and Bob, working in Chicago within the community theatre paradigm, can do DADA Soiree and Clay Continent, whereas South Side Community Theatre working within the same paradigm are destined to do Do Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? Why aren't Don and Bob fated for Barefoot in the Park anytime soon?

The answer is that having a day job and not being paid a living wage for your theatre work (i.e., community theatre) has nothing to do with repertoire. There are community theatres that do commercial work, and community theatre that do alternative work. It depends on the artists's vision.

But doesn't South Side Community Theatre's rejection of Don's "experiments in pushing the artistic envelope" indicate that community theatre is intrinsically conservative? No, and the reason why lies in Don's own narrative: Don's two productions "cost the theater more money than any two productions in the organization's twenty year history." For twenty years, South Side Community Theatre had built an audience that valued what it had to offer. They had developed a brand, and a customer base that was committed to that brand. Similarly, Don's WNEP is a brand Don has developed over his years of running that organization, and he has developed a customer base that is committed to that brand. If Don hired a young director who came in and "fought aggressively" to get Greater Tuna on the WNEP program, I suspect that Don's committed audience would react with with as many complaints as did the South Side Community Theatre audience.

Theatres benefit from a committed audience, and an audience becomes committed to a theatre because they value what that theatre has to offer them. If your artistic values lean toward the experimental, you will develop a following of people whose values also lean toward the experimental, and that audience will not appreciate it if you "throw them a couple bones" of commercial fare. You might find your audience grows when you produce that commercial fare, but I doubt very much that it will be the same audience that follows your experimental work. And in fact, while short term you may benefit from an influx of money at the box office, in the long run your base audience's commitment will be weakened by your venture into the world of commercial fare. You would have been better off sticking with what you do and focusing on growing that audience.

This is why I argue that an ongoing relationship between artist and audience is so crucial to the success of a theatre tribe (or any theatre, for that matter): you need to develop and audience that is committed to what you offer. Don's attempts to push the envelope for the South Side Community Theatre resembles the Christian missionaries who invaded native communities and tried to persuade them to abandon their own gods in favor of the "real" god. Don said, in essence, "I know what's best, and you need a good dose of raw language and bawdy situations." And the committed audience looked at him and said, "Actually, no we don't." And his choice, as a latecomer to the scene, was to either get with the program or get out. He got out -- probably a good thing. But because of his missionary zeal, he took the wrong message from that experience. What he should have learned is that you don't change long-standing organizations in one fell swoop, but you do it over time and through the relationship; outsiders do not change cultures easily or quickly. If you want easy and quick, you start your own organization and develop your own audience. That's may takeaway.

Don then goes on to chase a red herring: that my rejection of Nylachi and promotion of the theatre tribe is based in a desire for more government funding for non-Nylachi theatres. Nope. The theatre tribe model is being designed to rely as little as possible on donations and grants. How is that possible when ticket income accounts for 35% - 65% of a non-profit theatre's budget? Well, that's the challenge, isn't it? But the short answer is there is two ways to lower the percentage of a budget being provided by grants and donations: reduce the budget or increase the earned income. The theatre tribe model will explore each.

Don then chases a second red herring: that my development of the theatre tribe model is about what kind of theatre is going to be done. It's all about banishing experimental theatre. Again, wrong. He is mixing my own aesthetic preferences in with the model itself. The theatre tribe is an empty box to be filled by specific, individual artists. I have no opinion at all about what kind of theatre an individual tribe produces. Whether it is DADA Soiree or The Music Man makes absolutely no difference to me. It is entirely between the artists and their audience as they engage in a continuing conversation. A conversation involves give and take, open-minded listening and sharing; it isn't a monologue. Because a theatre tribe cannot successfully dictate to a community and force them to buy tickets, they can do one of two things: consistently offer a certain type of theatre and wait for an audience to develop who wants that type of theatre, or engage in conversation and open-minded listening and talking. Both approaches can be successful, and both require time.

In conclusion, I must confess to bafflement at this continuing attempt to figure out what my development of the theatre tribe model is "really about." It is simple, really, and I don't hink I have been hiding anything. The goals are:
  • To spread theatre to non-metropolitan areas.
  • To provide an alternative to the New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles theatre scenes.
  • To create a model that has the greatest possibility of providing a livable income for those who participate.
  • To create a model that is ecologically sustainable.
It's right there on the surface. Those are challenging goals, and I have never contended that the model will be easy or foolproof. But those are the goals. I don't happen to think that the current business model gives anyone a good chance of fulfilling those goals, and so I am trying to imagine something new.

In the book Worldchanging: A User's Guide to the 21st Century, editor Alex Steffen writes: "When no one believes in a better future, despair is a logical choice -- and people in despair almost never change anything. When no one believes there might be a better solution, those who benefit from the status quo are safe. When no one believes in the possibility of action, apathy becomes an insurmountable obstacle to reform. But when people have some intelligent reasons to believe that a better solution can be built, that better solutions are available, and that action is possible, their power to act out their highest principles is unleashed. Shared belief in a better future is the strongest glue there is."

I am trying to provide "intelligent reasons to believe."

36 comments:

Paul Rekk said...

Well shit, I'll say it: I actually kinda dig Greater Tuna.

There. The air has been cleared.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking about a production of Out Town...(already being done in chicago by one of the more popular groups) but my production would have the Munsters and the Addams family as the two families.

I have no problem calling Clay Continent a community theatre event. It has been produced 4 times in total between here and NYC by 2 different organizations (The Mammals here, Pecular Works Project in association with the Lincoln Director's Lab in NYC), but I see no problem calling it community theatre. Because, truth be told most of us working the fringe in the NYLACHI probably prefer community theatre to corporate models of wal-m-art.

Aside from all the psychoanalysis we are all offering each other of each others true intent (it actually is making me eyes water from a repressed giggle)

I do have some exception with you rtake on Don's experience

"I know what's best, and you need a good dose of raw language and bawdy situations." And the committed audience looked at him and said, "Actually, no we don't." And his choice, as a latecomer to the scene, was to either get with the program or get out."

I'm having trouble equating Gilbert and Sullivan and City of Angels (One piece a staple and nearly a century old? the other typical broadway fare that depends upon genre trappings from the 40s) as too bawdy or too raw...

You see the trappings of a well established organization...but there is another intrepretation too which is that even if Laura Sue can say the following...

"We love theater that challenges and touches us. Nobody will believe you, but you just keep tellin' 'em anyway."

She doesn't speak for her community. That being a theatre going does not equal being a open minded, ready for challenge (as if either of those 2 shows were a challenge...ha!!!)

Whereas I agree with you that Don was doomed to fail, I dont limit the extent of the reasoning to his possible betrayal of a community trust. I also see a mentality within this group (a mentality I wont define as small town, but that I will say definately is watered down even though present in areas of a larger population) that will not accept the notion of enlightment without comfort. A population that isnt looking for a conversation between itself and its artists, it wants only affirmation and verification. Anything short of total affirmation of this groups assumptions about gender, politics, etc....is viewed as a betrayal of trust thus this group can not be "challenged"...this group can only be "touched"

-dv

Scott Walters said...

dv -- "Bawdy" and "raw" were Don's words, not mine.

And you're missing my point. I wasn't saying that the South Side Community Theatre's attitude was reasonable, and that they wouldn't "benefit" from another viewpoint; I'm saying that change doesn't happen top down, it can't be imposed by an artist. Don didn't have the cred yet with this group to introduce something new. Had he stayed, had he committed to be part of that community and not above it, he might eventually have been able to start moving the pile in his direction. He came in as an outsider and tried to impose something he thought would be good for them, but he had no social capital. In the theatre, the audience has most of the power, and it votes with its feet and its pocketbook. They didn't want to go where Don wanted to take them, and lacking any sort of ongoing relationship with him, the audience had little reason to follow.

That's the point. In a 20-year-old organization, top-down and too-fast change doesn't work. Don did what he should have done: realized he really didn't care about this community enough to buy into their values at least part way, and moved on to create a community he DID care about.

Don Hall said...

Scott -

You haven't the foggiest fucking clue of what you are talking about, brother. I mean, really.

I didn't try to "force" my idea of "edgy" on a "community" that I wasn't committed to. I was hired to be a Musical Director and worked on tame, fifty-year old Broadway fare until the artists that were a part of the community begged me to fight for something meatier.

Unfortunately, the artistic director (who had been there for the full twenty years), was less inclined to do musicals with any sense of artistic challenge (maybe some Sondheim even) so the compromise was made to do a fucking 150 year old comic operetta that starred Linda Ronstadt and Kevin Kline in the movie version and a Cy Coleman film noir musical.

None of this had a goddamn thing to do with my social credibility or my feeling superior to the audience. They wanted another version of The Music Man or Mame.

Your interpretation fits your skewed narrative of what actually goes down in these areas - haughty, self important ARTISTE from NYLACHI comes down and tries to lecture the incredibly intelligent but humble and quiet community on the benefits of high art and is run out of town on a rail. What an absolute load of shit, man.

Based on your model of "trust the audience to decide" then the best of all worlds was Legally Blonde: The Musical cause, man, did that fucker make some money!

And, here's a question for you: why is wrong in your mind to feel superior to someone who is an anti-intellectual feeb? I mean, don't you feel superior to anyone at all or is everyone equal in your eyes? And if everyone is equal then why isn't a seventeen year old kid who once saw theater before teaching your classes?

Brian Santana said...

DV,

I think you are missing the point of what Scott is saying. At the most basic level, he is trying to cultivate a system of reciprocity between artist and audience. In order for such a system to work artists must be willing to let go of fantasies of exceptionalism. Regardless of the tangled turns this conversation has taken, at the core, that is what this debate is about. Otherwise, where are the objections? What Scott is suggesting is far from a rigid system. He is advocating that artists, working in conjunction with an audience, produce work that is relevant to each of their lives. The experiences of artists living in a particular community informs their choices and, conversely, the experience of attending performances enhances the lives of the audience members. He has never specified what this work should be or how it should be carried out.

The artist and audience, based on their unique relationship (in a particular place, at a particular moment, etc..) will dictate the exact nature of the theatrical experience. Any objections to this system, it seems to me, go back to an unwillingness of artists to let go for their metaphorical pulpit.

Your description of a theatre that is invested in "challenging" its audience is somewhat disturbing to me insofar as it draws on aggressive metaphors that create an unequal power dynamic. It is difficult to have a real conversation if someone trying to teach you a lesson. Within such a scenario, the person doing the "teaching" (e.g. the artist) occupies a privileged position. This is the view that argues that the artist has access to a greater truth that the audience does not yet/cannot possess and, like any good missionary, it becomes his or her goal and/or responsibility to deliver these truths to them, which the audience absorbs passively and then takes with them back out into the world.

By the way, whenever artists start casually making the case that enlightenment shouldn't always be associate with comfort (e.g. your statement that, "I also see a mentality within this group that will not accept the notion of enlightenment without comfort.") I conjure of images from "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God."

Such arguments are part of a larger coded language of artistic privilege that culturally seeks to maintain uneven power dynamics between artist and audience, without overtly engaging the issue. Its similar to the way in which Republicans play the race card, but dress it up in the language of local control, debates over busing, welfare reform, and color-blind discourses.

Brian

Scott Walters said...

"Unfortunately, the artistic director (who had been there for the full twenty years), was less inclined to do musicals with any sense of artistic challenge..."

The artistic director, who had built an audience over the course of twenty years that shared his aesthetics, was supported in his preferences by the audience he developed. Is there a surprise here? He built an audience in his image, and they wanted to continue doing what he did. What's the beef? You don't like it -- you want to do Sondheim? -- make your own. And do you did.

Based on my model, after 20 years the train has left the station long, long ago. It is going to take way more than a Music Director throwing a tantrum to get it going in another direction.

And in answer to your question: you can feel superior all you want, but in that situation when there is a 20-year tradition and where there is no way to compel change, success or failure is based on your power to persuade ticket-buyers to go in another direction. Whethe5r you are right or not, feeling superior ain't gonna get it done. You were trying to change the direction of a train that had gathered momentum for 20 years -- it would take a concerted effort of everybody involved, especially the 20-year-veteran artistic director, to make it happen. You didn't have the concerted effort, nor the patience to move the train slowly, and so you got run over.

And you made a rational choice: you started a new venture and developed an audience that wanted to go where you wanted to go.

Scott Walters said...

Nicely said, Brian!

Anonymous said...

Scott I sure Don meant those words with sincerity. I am sure that even though he has such open contempt for the southside group, he didn't mean to call those plays too raw and bawdy out of irony...

And again, I am not missing your point...I even acknowledged your point...but there are other points to made from this paradigm Don suggests...points that validate the idea that non-aristotlean dramaturgical content or hell even work that has a little spice or shows a little leg.

If you cant get that...maybe it is becuase of too much adherance to YOUR vision. Or becuase we can't talk about "our vision" unless you get to tell me and Don that our viewpoints are false wrong etc etc etc.

You are missing my point...that small town theatre is not a problem because of a provinical notion of essential backwardness in small towns...but merely a matter of numbers. And that tiny town can not afford to be "challenged" but can only afford to "touch". That if any community has only 10% of its population prepared to be truly challenged than there is not a better quality audience in the bigger city, rather a better quantity audience in the big city and that if the content you as an artist are drawn towards is that sort of content you unfortunately have to take a pass at the small city living.

I have have said nothing qualifiably insulting about the type of work these towns want to see...i have only said that the numbers dont support the possibility of doing work that challenges in the small city.

No small city will support work that challenges on a consistent basis...It will occasionally tolerate said work so long as it can "trust" that a better sort of piece is next up.

If the NYLACHI "myth" is that you have to go there to make a living as a artist...I agree with you.

If the NYLACHI "myth" is that population size within a region has no bearing on content...I respectful say I think that is a bunch a hogwash.

If I have a "vision" for theatre as you so wonderfully told me I do, it is that I want to experience as much in as wide a variety of it as possible. Whereas a artisan might be able to sustain oneself as a creator of art in tinytown...the diversity, the vareity of experience will not be there. It will be the exception to the norm.

I didnt come to Chicago to get famous and quit the 9-5. I am not an actor who will fly anywhere they pay me to do a show. I am a stroyteller with a bunch of stories I want to tell as many people as possible, while hearing as many different types of stories as possible. I dont want to see the same sort of person, with just a different face, I want to meet all the different sorts od people I can. To say that I can;t do that at all in tinytown would be wrong. To say that I cant do that better in NYLACHI would be even more false.

So, for someone hungry for diversity how does the small town tribal model work?

The answer is it doesn't. Suddenly having to work a 9-5 job isnt the worse thing I can think of. Suddenly denying myself the variety and bounty of experience in the world is even worse.

Theatre can be like coming home. But it can also be like traveling and adventure in a foreign land, and the small tinytowns values even if they dont demonize the wanderer (god I wish that were the case) They'll give the wanderer a meal for the night, but after that they want you to move on.

Committing an act of theatre an getting paid for it is not my goal...

I have something I want to say. Clay Continent said it and continues to say it. In tinytown, I would not get my say, I would pine for that while doing maybe if I were luck a shepard play that was just a couple years older than me.

I guess maybe I want some sort of acknolwdge ment that it is ok to be Ishmael. It is ok to take to the sea and go to foreign ports.

You once (I'm clearing my throat here) compared yourself to Obi Wan...(Ok now I'm snickering a little) but what if Obi Wan turned to Luke and said "Uncle Owen is right...lets stay here and see what we can make of Tattooine"

tag
-dv

Don Hall said...

No, Scott. Really answer the question:

why is it wrong in your mind to feel superior to someone who is an anti-intellectual feeb? I mean, don't you feel superior to anyone at all or is everyone equal in your eyes? And if everyone is equal then why isn't a seventeen year old kid who once saw theater before teaching your classes?

Brian -

Within such a scenario, the person doing the "teaching" (e.g. the artist) occupies a privileged position.

Privileged? The artists? You mean the ones that have no money for their labor and, in Scott's worldview, must caprice to whim of the all powerful, all knowing audience? Is that the balance of artistic power your talking about?

The day someone starts comparing artists with Republicans is a day when I've seen everything.

Anonymous said...

"In order for such a system to work artists must be willing to let go of fantasies of exceptionalism."

Brian can you tell me of a successful economic model where this occured? None come to my mind.

Whole idea of spending all that time energy, money, and resource to merely mirror to audience what they are ready are? Bull

Your "reciprocity" is again just code for ...I'm more sincere and concerned about the cultural well being of my community than you dear would be auteur are about yours.

By the way, most audiences go into the theatre to see something exceptional. The artist is always excpetional...they dont want to pay to see just anyone dance or sing or act or tell a story no matter what the artist or medium...the idea of the artist as non-exception is the real myth and fantasy...it a lie perpartrated like the politicians who pretend to one of commonfolk becuase they can drink a beer.

So, before you allude that I'm a facist you ought to come to terms with what artist are...even if they are not allowed to trumpet it without sounding elitist.

Even within the community theater those get on the boards are alwsy those that the community considers to be the most exceptional at any given talent.

But your theatrical model as described intrigues me, it takes just like soylet green.

Scott Walters said...

No, Don, I did answer the question: I cannot feel superior to anyone who I want to spend time (and money) with me. And that's what an audience does. You are asking it to spend time with you. And if you feel superior to it, and there is no compelling reason for them to spend time with me, then...well, they won't. So then I get an opportunity to feel superior all by myself, or with a couple of friends. Might feel good, but not if I actually wanted to have an effect on the world.

dv -- Then Obi-Wan would probably be wise enough to recognize that that was not Luke's destiny, and he would have found someone for whom it was. As far as numbers are concerned, you have to create a budget that matches your potential audience. If you can expect 300 people to attend your shows, then you need to create a business model that matches. And if those 300 get enthusiastic enough to bring another 20 people, then your budget can expand to 320. If I am creating theatre in a town of 20,000 and not 3 million, then I budget accordingly. But -- and this is important -- it isn't about percentages. If I can get out and meet people in that town of 20,000, and my theatre is seen as adding something to the community, and the citizens see what I offer as having something to say about their lives and how they live and what they worry about and love, then I might get a larger percentage of that 20,000 to attend than you will get of the 3 million. All I have to do is forge enough relationships to fill my theatre. You say it's impossible, I say it's possible. You say you can't do it without pandering, I say it is. We'll see.

Scott Walters said...

And in the meantime, dv, let me remind you that I am not trying to convince you to leave Chicago, nor trying to convince you that what you are doing isn't anything but wonderful. I applaud you, and Don. Now, why is it that you can't do the same thing? Why must you cast doubt on my motivations and aspersions on the taste of my proposed audience? Why can't you say, "Good luck, and more power to you?"

Scott Walters said...

""In order for such a system to work artists must be willing to let go of fantasies of exceptionalism."

Brian can you tell me of a successful economic model where this occured? None come to my mind."

I can: Shakespeare's Globe, Moliere's troupe, commedia troupes. They did not see themselves as superior to their audience. They had a talent that they shared.

Don Hall said...

Good luck and more power to you.

I always wish you luck and goodness, Scott. I just disagree with you in the same way you dislike DADA. You won't promote it (I'd hazard a guess that you haven't really seen or experienced it, but that's a whole different color of horse) and that's cool.

I'm not in a position to say to you "No!! You are wrong!" I'm merely trying to figure out what it is you're angling for. And I'm truly unconvinced that the decentralization argument has much merit because I don't seem to see the problem you do.

I see that the arts aren't funded like they used to be and that almost no one can make a living doing theater. I just don't see how injecting artists, like Doc Hollywood, into the mix of Toad Suck and having them "go native" and forge some sort of group mind with the community is going to do anything substantive at all.

You aren't trying to get people to leave NYLACHI for more remote locales, so who, exactly is all this directed to? Your students? The thousands of actors and directors out there looking for a couch to crash on? And, to be frank, the slogan "If you can make it in Tulsa, you can make it anywhere" is the same slogan McDonald's has and they serve very popular ass-squat on a bun.

Whatever you're trying to accomplish with this one - I don't get it because I'm a lazy, dispassionate slacker - but good luck and more power to you.

Anonymous said...

"I can: Shakespeare's Globe, Moliere's troupe, commedia troupes. They did not see themselves as superior to their audience. They had a talent that they shared."

uhhhhh I dont understand? The actors were just as good as conveying emotion and character as the drunks in the globe watching? That is why people paid for it rather than staying in the street? Or maybe it was that Shakespeare was telling them stories about the common man and not privleged kings in a priveleged educated tongue?

Moliere was not exceptional as a storyteller? He had the same gift for it that any other french man might? Wrong all these folks had to exceptional at there talents, they had to be better at what they did.

Maybe we aren't both meaning the same thing by exceptionism? Becuase the way I see it everyone of the folks you described were all phenominally more exceptional then their audience at the crafts they had...

Perhaps you and brian are instead referring to the artists' morality? That to attempt to excel in an exceptional fashion is somehow an attack upon the none exceptional.

When I hear something like "artists must be willing to let go of fantasies of exceptionalism" it puts me in the mind of orwellian, huxley like dystopian art practice. It reminds me of Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron"

Brian and your notions of non-exceptionalism, the artist letting go of it...I guess I dont get it. I think of all the great work that would never happen if artist/people did that. No Seurat, No Beckett, No Ibsen's Dollhouse, No Fellini, No Lynch, No Martha Graham, No Cecil B Demille, None of the New York artists who inspire me so much.

So maybe without again telling me I am a would be facist you can explain this "fantasy of exceptionalism" without implying I have perched myself up with some sort of moral superiority?

"Why must you cast doubt on my motivations and aspersions on the taste of my proposed audience? Why can't you say, "Good luck, and more power to you?"

Scott, I have said that to you many times. However, I trust you want me to be sincere with you about my concerns regarding what you say...I have often said huzzah to the decentralization, community theatre, and artists living where they wish and as self actualized as they can possiblity be...however I do feel a certain accusation between the lines of some (not all) but some of the NYLACHI rhetoric. Even if it is not your intent, their is some of your langauge and ideas that enables A certain probably unimplied devaluing of something that I love, something that touches and challenges me...I am troubled that so often when I speak of it, it seems that others (not always you) feel it has to imply an attack on their taste, their morals, etc...But they do. As an artist I didn't flee to NYLACHI so much as I was exiled here.

Maybe that is it. What do think about the notion of one being exiled to NYLACHI rather than aiming for NYLACHI?

Maybe it is that we cant hear each other over our own Cassandra Complexes

-dv

Scott Walters said...

dv -- I don't want to put words in Brian's mouth, but I don't think he means artists aren't better at their craft than others around them, but rather the idea that being an artist makes you a morally and intellectually superior person. Neither Shakespeare nor Moliere looked around and thought everyone around them were inferior beings. They were people with specific and unique talents among other people who also had specific and unique talents, and there was nothing about being able to portray emotions or tell a story that made them any more worthy of being listened to than a statesman, a merchant, or a queen.

Don -- I'm glad we got that straight, you lazy bum. First of all, would you mind not thinking up such insulting names for places outside the metropolis? It really is insulting. There are lots of names, many more beautiful than Chicago or New York, and your continual use of "Toad Suck" or whatever is insulting.

And yes, Don, you have it exactly: all of this is about the young artist who is told over and over that in order to be a theatre artist you have to go to Nylachi, and for all those theatre artists currently in Nylachi who really would prefer to be someplace else but who think it isn't possible. This is an effort to make an alternative work, and to offer an alternative to the powerful, powerful story that Nylachi is the last, best alternative. That's exactly what it's about, Don. An alternative, and an alternative myth.

Paul Rekk said...

Quick question... how long does a tribe have to have inserted themselves into a community before they are capable of making informed artistic decisions that reflect that community. All this talk of exceptionalism and no one's bringing up the fact that the scenario Scott seems to be describing is a bunch of undergrads rolling into town saying, "All right, Sioux Falls, we're here to make the art that you want, because we're a part of you."

Except they're not. If this whole thing is about knowing your community, Sioux Falls should have theatre run by Sioux Falls natives. Localization and isolation are not the same thing, but they do run on parallel tracks, and when you start to insist on a deep community relationship in your model, you ride that rail. How many little league teams does an artistic director have to coach before they truly are a part of the community?

And that claptrap from Brian about the artistic power dynamic is some of the most ridiculous stuff I've read in this whole whirlwind. Your idea of artistic privilege relies on the thought that the artist and the audience are mutually exclusive, a far more exceptionalist viewpoint than any of DV's call for challenge. Race politics, really? I can't decide to be Asian. However, Joe Q. Public can stroll out of anything from The Music Man to Hamletmachine, discontent as he likes, and decide to create something to fix the ill at ease he holds inside.

Anonymous said...

"Neither Shakespeare nor Moliere looked around and thought everyone around them were inferior beings."

Well then Brian's point (not to talk about him when he is not here)...is assumptive and false...

Wooster Group, Foreman, Many others...they don't necessarily have to hold themselves in higher regard morally. They are most certainy critics of the culture (arent we all), but that doesnt mean they have necessarily conceived of a gilded higher place for them in some theatrical pantheon.

just becuase you speak in different langauge or use non conventional appraoch doesn't mean you must have the ego of a Salvador Dali.

Is it not possible that folks that feel so insulted and put down upon by auteur creative acts are rather setting up and attacking Dragons as you put it in 3 hard lessons learned? That it is not enough to say "Well i didn;t quite get that" rather than "Let somebody behind the curtain sure is talking down to me"...The assumption forced upon the paradigm earlier insists that an auteur artist must judge must attack must do these things becuase if he had a more embracing enobling non judgement nature, he would confine his expression to Aristotlean Forms.

What a depressing world that paints. Innovation as Assault. Again what I hear is things like "we like variety...but you know not all kinds of variety"

If I create a non-linear piece of theatre about jekyll and hyde that alienates an occasional audience member becuase of some of the theatrical conventions that does not equate some sort of declarative moral judgement on my part of the audience.

This is not so much an attack as it is a warning to the auteur out there who has just been labelled a facist that there are big holes in the decentralization paradigm in tinytown for your kind. Just listen for a few posts and you'll see that the auteur is not so welcome and relegated as a dissident at best but more than usual as an unethical egomaniac.

They will use words like "trust" and "skill" as ways to whittle away not any notion of moral superiority but rather as a way to eliminate that which makes your vision unique. We don't want your innovation. We want what we want. We don't need you to tell us there is a better way, and by attempting a new form expression you are insulting the old ways...

This is not what I believe is the intent...but I fear it is the end result...

Maybe the lynchpin is sometimes conent and sometimes form...and if we are all so open minded than it is important that even as we call for decentralization even as we all call for ...the focus upon the narratives of those in the audience...that we not be so quick to disenfrancise those who are for lack a better term "different"...who see the world differently from a different prism not from a higher moral ground...is it also not possible that the "superiority" folks like Brian perceive is the artists natural defense mechanism to being ostracized for one's individuality.

-dv

Kris Vire said...

As a native Arkansan, I can confirm that Toad Suck is the name of a real town in Arkansas, which I'm sure Don knows as well.

I love my hometown of Fayetteville, Arkansas, where both Don and I went to college. But speaking as a theater journalist and critic, I couldn't have a career there, covering its small handful of theaters. Nor could I do what I do in some Grover's Corners, writing all my stories and reviews about the town's single theater tribe. What I do requires a thriving theater community. Not sure if any of y'all should care about that, but it's another perspective.

Anonymous said...

p.s. major apologies for all the damn typos above

-dv

Anonymous said...

I've been following this site for a while and, as a NY playwright intrigued about the possibility of starting or doing theatre elsewhere, it would be helpful to discuss actual examples instead of remaining so abstract all the time.

How many groups out there actually share resources according to the idealistic model you describe? I'd like to look at one or two.

As someone approaching 40, who wants to have a kid, and health insurance, and put money away for retirement, I'm not sure how communally I'd actually be willing to "share" resources. Nor do I find other people, in general, to be understanding and trustworthy enough that everyone could just share resources on "faith."

In some sense, this sounds like a model that would have been great to try out when I was 22 and didn't mind sleeping on a floor and eating Ramen noodles all the time.

Anonymous said...

I've been following this site for a while and, as a NY playwright intrigued about the possibility of starting or doing theatre elsewhere, it would be helpful to discuss actual examples instead of remaining so abstract all the time.

How many groups out there actually share resources according to the idealistic model you describe? I'd like to look at one or two.

As someone approaching 40, who wants to have a kid, and health insurance, and put money away for retirement, I'm not sure how communally I'd actually be willing to "share" resources. Nor do I find other people, in general, to be understanding and trustworthy enough that everyone could just share resources on "faith."

In some sense, this sounds like a model that would have been great to try out when I was 22 and didn't mind sleeping on a floor and eating Ramen noodles all the time.

Director said...

Maybe I'm young and idealistic, but...

Aw fuck it. I AM young and idealistic...

But I, for one, am interested in both Scott and Don's perspectives, and I read both their blogs religiously. DV's stuff is fascinating as well. I'm young enough that my ways haven't set in stone yet. I'm open to suggestions.

So to borrow an overly used cliche... Can't we all just get along?

As much as I love Don, Scott, DV, GreyZelda, and all those other people's blogs (you know who you are... or you don't), I'd much rather read about your ideas for how to create sustainable theatre in your particular field.

Don, what advice would you have for someone who doesn't mind working in Nylachi?

Scott, like someone said above, can we talk a little less in abstract terms and a little more in concrete scenarios? They don't always have to be one-size-fits-all suggestions. You could write an article about how a tribe might work in X context or in Z context.

DV, what ever happened to the recipe challenge? Let's build on that some more, it was a great idea!

I respect each of you for your individual contributions to theatre and to the blogosphere, and while you don't have to pander to my requests, I'd love it if we could talk about productive, constructive things rather than picking apart each others' posts. It's so easy to attack people when you're behind a computer screen.

--Brian, the Director

Brian Santana said...

Wow, lots comments since I last visited this morning.

DV wrote:

"is it also not possible that the "superiority" folks like Brian perceive is the artists natural defense mechanism to being ostracized for one's individuality."

Here we go, the language of alienation. This is exactly what I meant about artistic fantasies of exceptionalism. This is a fantasy that valorizes the artist and the uniqueness of his personal vision to the point that every conversation devolves into a defense of the integrity, the importance, and the expression of his or her inner voice. To borrow a phrase from Susan Sontag, this is the cult that worships the "artist as the exemplary sufferer."

If you read back through my post you will see that, like Scott, I NEVER argued for any aesthetic or type of theatre. You introduced that to the conversation in your re-reading of my ideas, which, by the way, strangely transformed them into an attack on the visionary artist who stoically and heroically fights against a prevailing cultural climate of ignorance and who laments the intolerance for his or her true genius which is, by definition, different.

Quite the contrary, drawing from my understanding of Scott's ideas I wrote:

"What Scott is suggesting is far from a rigid system. He is advocating that artists, working in conjunction with an audience, produce work that is relevant to each of their lives. The experiences of artists living in a particular community informs their choices and, conversely, the experience of attending performances enhances the lives of the audience members. He has never specified what this work should be or how it should be carried out.

The artist and audience, based on their unique relationship (in a particular place, at a particular moment, etc..) will dictate the exact nature of the theatrical experience."

As you can see, I was making the point that Scott's ideas, due to their intentionally open nature, are applicable to any setting and any aesthetic. They could apply to everything from an experimental theatre that performs in a local storefront to a production of That Championship Season within a traditional proscenium.

In your response, you reverted back to your pulpit of preaching the persecution of the artist by those afraid of experiencing something "different." Once again, this is a disavowal of responsibility that deflects any attempt to be a part of anything larger than the self. What Scott is writing probably seems threatening to you because it frames theatre as an artistic medium and experience that is not about the singularity of an individual. My own conception of theatre is rooted in the notion of shared experience, while yours seems rooted in authentically expressing internal visions for the consumption of others.

This IS egomaniacal behavior that promotes a one-way conversation. What Scott is promoting is community, dialogue, and two-way conversations.

By focusing so much weight on defending the "auteur" you are promoting a theatre invested in the cult of personality--a theatre that attracts admirers and disciples, but not peers. Members of a community share, there is an exchange that occurs. Auteurs merely give, albeit brilliantly sometimes, their persona vision for consumption.

I do wish this conversation would get back to the real issues at stake here. What are the real objections to the ideas that Scott is promoting?

Perhaps it is Scott's use of NYLACHI(DC), and the country-city binary that he draws from for his argument, that has sidetracked this discussion? In many ways, I think that if this binary was put aside, and his ideas of community were implemented, that the broader goal of decentralization would more naturally follow.

Anonymous said...

"If you read back through my post you will see that, like Scott, I NEVER argued for any aesthetic or type of theatre."

On the one hand your right that you didnt reference a certain type of theatre...you just came into the middle of a conversation about the validity of the avant and how it interfaces with Scott's tribal notions and in a total nonsequiter were actually talking about all those "exceptional" artists doing traditional narrative trustful work...(I dont know if you can smell it, but I smell your disingeniousness all way over here)

And on the other hand you are wrong about Scott not mentioning this...in fact

"The second argument, about the small percentage of the theatre audience that is interested in the avant-garde, has a certain level of truth. Art on the bleeding edge has always been a minority taste, and being able to find 99 people in a city of three million (or 8 million, in the case of NYC) who have such tastes, especially when a sizable number can be drawn from the community of theatre artists and their friends, might be easier than in a small town. On the other hand, I would argue that the willingness to experience the new and original might be enhanced by the trust that develops as the result of an ongoing relationship between an ensemble of artists and their community. "... thus quoteth Scott Walters on Avant garde and how it relates to "trust"

Scott and I have been wrestling with this notion of "trust" and "skill" and how among his own audience (us readers) we are all sure that we agree on the semantics and implications of those said notions. Maybe, this isnt exactly where Scott would have taken the arguement but in his good generous spirit, he keeps indulging all the forlorn selfish Cassanadras out here (wink to Scott)

Well Brian...I guess your contextuality and ablity to quote ms Sontag has most definately made me see the error of my ways. I take it back, the model professed on this site works well, very well, in fact so well that it's own blog author has claimed it doesn't has to consider the possiblity of any sort of avant presense. Oh and any sort of avant autuer presense has to be due to alienation of the artist...uhhhhhh...
your verbosity and contextuality doesnt make your misinformed take on me any more relevant. Any it strangely doesnt do anything to convince that this model works.

But, by all means please continue to disenfranchise while using baroque academic verbiage to explain how those you dismiss have no one to blame but themselves.

If you cant see how you have actually taken the position of moral superiority you accuse "exceptionist" artists of...well no amount of typos from me are going to unravel your paradox.

but please proceed with the assumptions...they make a great "tell"

(wink)

Dear Director...regarding the cookbook and the recipes...two things...I got into a production which seriously cut into my theorizing time...two...alot of people liked idea and almost no one actually took up the challenge...maybe the metaphor didnt work for them...or they were waiting for more foundation from me...but tell you what I will try to revive it...it regards to this dust up...I don't know if mr Santana can tell, but I'm not nearly as aggitated or even in opposition to Scott as it might appear. I take a rough tone becuase...well Scott knows me has my email and gets that I like to play devils advocate to this quite often...If I didnt find value in Scott's thoughts...I'd just walk away...We have seen some people do that have we not?

I dont want to pull Scott's eyes out. I just want to mix it up and see where it takes us...if I thought I was hurting Scott or his POV I sure he knows I wouldnt keep posting.

Don's even rougher than me, but look at the title of his blog and tell me you expect any different?

Actually, I will say that despite any and all references to Toadsuck and assholishness...every time we have one of these sort of dust ups...Scott comes up with new ways to approach the issue...

Yes there is conflict...but there is resolution too...and then next week more conflict again...and then more resolution...and then more conflict...and then beer

-dv

Don Hall said...

...there's beer?

What the fuck. No one told me about beer...

Anonymous said...

In all fairness to Mr. Santana...I will say sir that you are right in that the city-country dictomy has done more to distance the participants of the conversation then bring them together.

Scott has scolded me on my "handling" of you...normally I would let you behind the curtain insuch fashion, but I understand Scott is going to show everybody our undies tomorrow anyway...

Even though I type like a drunk and growl alot in the comments... I am attempting at something approximating sincerity without taking myself or the whole thing so seriously that I abandon the conversation (please dont level a bunch of psycho babble at me about how this speaks to my victim complex or any such clinical dismissal...oops I did it again)

Now to going back to being contrary

"By focusing so much weight on defending the "auteur" you are promoting a theatre invested in the cult of personality--a theatre that attracts admirers and disciples, but not peers. Members of a community share, there is an exchange that occurs. Auteurs merely give, albeit brilliantly sometimes, their persona vision for consumption."

Can you tell me anything about your interfacing with any of these auteurs? I have met a number of them playwrights, directors, etc...and all of them werent anymore or anyless interested in promoting their personality than every actor every director and every playwright I ever met...the major difference between these "formalists" as Scott called them and less more mainstream (not a deragatory dismissal) was a love with non-narrative, simultaneity in action and text, and image and spectacle. Those folks who were more intersted in traditional narrative forms where no less or no more self involved.

What you describe is not the "auteur"...you are actually describing every artist I ever met regardless or content, form, genre, or medium. I have never met an artist who couldnt be accused by another from a distance of being not self involved.

See, I think the gospel of "trust" and "skill" even though they have a whiff of validity...they also become enablers for any and all artists and similiar types to dismiss the other guy, the other gal, the other town, the other as being less sincere, less beneficial, more selfish, etc.etc.etc.

I dont question scott's intent. But, I think it is valid to question the merits of the idea even in a raw sort of fashion as we have the last few days.

In the end, All this will be totally worth it for me if we can find a way to do this thing while also allowing for the same sort of variety of express and experience that currently are not as prevalent.

-dv

Anonymous said...

"same sort of variety of expression and experience that currently are not as prevalent in tiny town"

I am wearing oven mitts while typing this

-dv

NGale said...

Well, hell, here I am again - revisiting and weighing in at the very end. I've missed a day of this danged blog and look what's happened. I guess I'll try to take it from the beginning and hopefully not misquote again.

Scott, you are exactly right. A community theatres' programming is dependent on artistic vision, commercial or not, and their success is dependent on the artists' relationship with their community. And, I agree, finding that living wage is what separates your model from the current state of theatre in both Tiny Town and, I would assume, NYLACHI, too. There has to be some level of superiority for action to take place. There's no way around it, and you're just fooling yourself to think otherwise.

DV, you revisit those stupid numbers. Small towns will naturally have smaller audiences. Small towns will support smaller budgets. Small towns provide a lower cost of living that facilitates an arts organization to work within the constraints of a smaller budget. And on, and on, and on. Numbers are all relative and can be skewed to fit any argument; let's drop them out of this completely... And again, not to toot my own Ass-Squat McHorn, we have never pandered to the mainstream audience to survive in our 14 years of performing theatre in Tulsa. That's not to say we have sell-out shows, but we do have damned good community theatre productions. To quote you, "having to work a 9-5 job isn't the worse thing I can think of."

Begin Defensive --> Don, when we decided to give theatre in Tulsa a go, we debated relocating to NYLACHI. We ultimately decided to stay in what we viewed as a mainstream environment, hostile to the "new." Thus, "If you can make it in Tulsa, you can make it anywhere" was born, tongue-in-cheek, and we began shitting out our vision of theatre. And our Toad Suck Ass Squats on a Bun would rival your city's Megalopolis McNuggets any day... I'm proud of our history and, though it's been thin lately, will still offer our productions as proof... <-- End Defensive

Begin Aside --> After proofing the "Defensive" entry above, I considered removing it; I left it intact to illustrate this point. I fell into the trap that I fear this discussion will set. While friendly competition can refresh and inspire an organization, I fear this may develop or further an "us and them" climate; we all have a symbiotic relationship, and the notion of NYLACHI and non-NYLACHI must be treated with care. It's all too easy to dismiss or ridicule the "other side," which will prove an ultimate failure for Scott's model, and be a detriment to all theatre regardless of scope or geography. <-- End Aside

Don, Paul, DV, and all: This notion of "going native" is definitely one thing that disturbs me. A NYLACHI artist is sure to gain the local press and spotlight in Tiny Town, but I'm not sure they would gain the "trust" of the community. Would they be committed to Ramen noodles and second mortgages to help their theatre survive while the model, Scott's model, establishes itself in the small community? At what point would your artists run scared back to the safety of NYLACHI, commiserating with the millions of other out-of-work artists? You're proposal, if realized, will need to focus quite a bit on perseverance (and humility)...

Anonymous Almost 40something: We're all approaching 40 here, some within a year or two. We're all breeders and have children ranging from 2-6 years of age. We live frugally, work our 9-5's that provide insurance and 401k's, and put everything else into the theatre. The key is that the core of our community has a history with one another that predates our communal theatre model. We had the trust-based relationship prior to an artistic business model, so a pooling of resources, both financial and intangible, was only natural. Trust within the tribal model might be something Scott needs to address (if he hasn't already) as I, too, would be hesitant to communally share my resources with an unknown outsider. And I can admit that my trust of a NYLACHIan who "has the answer" to small town theatre woes would be considerably less than my trust for someone from within our community...

I may have missed the answers somewhere in Scott's copious posts and the subsequent discussions, but my questions of the model remain.

How is this model realized without fostering a Missionary-conquest-and-convert approach?

How does this model differ from existing community theatre if funding is sought and obtained by governmental or grant-making organizations? Why not just train grant-writers and send them to Toad Suck to help the existing theatres?

Where are the concrete examples of this model? I have a hard time swallowing a $1.5mil budget organization as an example. I quote, "as a result of their hard work, a commitment to a community, and a strong mission their financial security has been enhanced." Yes, they had to start somewhere, but I feel like their NOW is being used as an example, not their THEN. How does hard work and commitment illustrate the tribal model's differentiating factors?

Anonymous said...

ngale,

Not sure if you got something to bring you back here but...

I dont know which person used "going native" sounds like a DonHallish. I dont get the idea of retreating back to NYLACHI since most the artists here are from places like the Tulsa or Wichita or similiar places. Those are the American places they were born, raised, schooled...etc.

Those small towns if anywhere are the places they would retreat to after not possibly making in the NYLACHIs. Perhaps though you are speaking to the idea of content and the notion that certain content if that is the "identity" means retreat from TTown back to NYLACHI so that we can hang with like minded folks who all either fled/exiled to NYLACHI (depending upon whether they are victims or cowards or weak or selfish or whatever)...

All I can say is that I've been producing in NYLACHI for awhile since 1997. And yes I have the small houses of 14 but when things click I can do the show I want and have audiences well over 99 most nights.

I am not imagining the numbers as you allude. I am talking about theatre companies in Florida that I saw grow... rise... accomodate...
and the fail...in Tinytown...etc...

I wont cast negative comments at your Tulsa Success, but please stop telling me I'm less than sincere or that my being in NYLACHI now means I've somehow forgetten how wonderfully open minded the tinytowns in Florida and Georgia that I've spent over 2 decades in.

I agree that this shouldnt get into a situation where either you and I are the one who is right. But, my experience is ttown is just as valid as yours. My reasons for relocation as just as valid as your reasons for remaining (ok here I'm making an assumption you are a Tulsa native...?) Are you a tulsa native or a tiny town native...

I think that my problem and they reason I keep punching in here...is that I dont have to read between the lines to have someone here tell me that the reason I left ttown was a unequivical "failure" on my part. A failure of character or of paranoia, a failure to be as selfless as the artists in ttown...

It is ridiculous and it is the biggest obstacle to forwarding the positive ideas that can come out of this discussion.

Both the ttown and the NYlachian have to find a way to have self confidence, pride, and accomplishment without shitting on the other. I think we have to find a way to champion both identitied (granted the ttown identity has gotten significantly less press).

Both Scott and myseld have fallen into the trap...but saying to me something like "you're wrong about those numbers cityboy" is not the question...it shoudl be more like "tell me more about your experiences in and around theatre companies in Florida and Georgia and those obstacles so we can all learn to overcome them"

A little less..."hey look at the NYLACHIan prissy boys can't make it work in the ttown means it dont work at all"

When ever I talk about a actual failure in ttown...I am always told that experience is irrelevaent or an aberration...

Well then it that's the abberation then what is all the fuse? If audiences and artists in ttown are just fine...then why even worry about the brain drain?

Ngale said...

"I dont get the idea of retreating back to NYLACHI since most the artists here are from places like the Tulsa or Wichita or similiar places... Perhaps though you are speaking to the idea of content and the notion that certain content if that is the "identity" means retreat from TTown back to NYLACHI so that we can hang with like minded folks who all either fled/exiled to NYLACHI..."

In my experience with NYLACHIans in Tiny Town (which is admittedly limited) or Tiny Townsians in NYLACHI (more experience here), I have found that it is generally more accepted to be an out-of-work artist in NYLACHI than an artist in any sense in Tiny Town. Thus the comment about fleeing to NYLACHI for comfort and solace from working and non-working artists and like-minded individuals, whether one is currently working in the arts or not.

"All I can say is that I've been producing in NYLACHI for awhile since 1997. And yes I have the small houses of 14 but when things click I can do the show I want and have audiences well over 99 most nights."

More similarities between NYLACHI and Tiny Town...

"please stop telling me I'm less than sincere or that my being in NYLACHI now means I've somehow forgetten how wonderfully open minded the tinytowns in Florida and Georgia that I've spent over 2 decades in... I agree that this shouldnt get into a situation where either you and I are the one who is right. But, my experience is ttown is just as valid as yours. My reasons for relocation as just as valid as your reasons for remaining... I think that my problem and they reason I keep punching in here...is that I dont have to read between the lines to have someone here tell me that the reason I left ttown was a unequivical "failure" on my part. A failure of character or of paranoia, a failure to be as selfless as the artists in ttown..."

I had to re-read this opus-of-a-blog-post, but I don't think I stated any of that, nor was it intended, and I apologize if you feel it was implied. I don't question anyones sincerity lest they have given up completely. Geographic location has nothing to do with ones sincerity, vision, purpose, or validity. That's my mantra throughout... without sounding too hippy-dippy, we're all brothers and sisters in this. I applaud anyone who is performing, regardless of their location or the nature of their work; any theatre is good theatre and helps everyone. I think I've said this somewhere around here before, and I'll say it again: don't take my comments as indictments or finger-waggling as they are (typically) not meant in that context...

"Both Scott and myseld have fallen into the trap...but saying to me something like 'you're wrong about those numbers cityboy' is not the question...it shoudl be more like 'tell me more about your experiences in and around theatre companies in Florida and Georgia and those obstacles so we can all learn to overcome them' A little less...'hey look at the NYLACHIan prissy boys can't make it work in the ttown means it dont work at all'"

Again, I feel like you're reading something between the lines, here. All I am trying to say regarding numbers and what you state as "failure" is that I feel it is the same for Tiny Town as it is for NYLACHI. The only thing about the numbers that change is inflation or deflation directly proportional to population and density. Therefore, any audience (or lack of), any budgetary figures, or success and failures, are relative and apply equally to any given geographic locale. When I dismiss the numbers, I dismiss the nature of statistics. The numbers thrown out in this discussion can apply to both NYLACHI and Tiny Town depending on the spin, and, to me are irrelevant because of that.

Scott Walters said...

Anonymous -- I have no interest in creating geographic Good Guys and Bad Guys. I have no problem with people being Nylachi artists -- hell, I go to Nylachi to see shows myself. And I have REPEATEDLY, ad nauseum, indicated that I have no desire to convince any Nylachi artist or Nylachi-inclined artist to move elsewhere. But there are times when I think that Nylachi artists can only accept these ideas as long as there is constant bowing and scraping to the primacy of the Nylachi art scene, and I just won't do it.

The problem I have is that the Nylachi story is almost exclusively dominant right now. The televised Tony Awards, the mostly-NYC Pulitzer Prize plays, the dominance of the NY Times, even the comparatively large amount of space given to Nylachi productions in American Theatre magazine all have the composite effect on young theatre artists of making them feel compelled to go to Nylachi (and especially NY) if they want to have a career in the theatre. This is reinforced when so-called regional theatres cast most of their roles from NY. So if I appear to be kicking against Nylachi artists, rest assured that it isn't about artists but about a system that limits alternatives by telling only one story, and dismissing that another success story is even possible. If you go back and read other comments on this and other posts, you will find this myth repeated several places: big fish in a small pond, wanting to play with the Big Boys, wanting to be where the competition is strongest, etc. This implies to the young artist that they are somehow failing if they decide that Nylachi is not where they wish to pursue their art. They are told that a non-Nylachi choice is somehow reflective of cowardice or lack of talent, and that any theatre person worth his salt wants to go to NY. So I am trying to create an alternative story that has just as much value, excitement, and heroism as the Nylachi story. Sometimes, that means saying that the Nylachi story is not inevitable nor totally accurate, and pointing out the shadow side of Nylachi.

So it isn't "us vs them," it is "both Nylachi AND smaller markets." (And while I'm at it, I wish to get rid of this "tiny town" terminology which has been forced into the conversation. At almost 400,000, Tulsa is hardly a "tiny town." I used Roadside and Dell Arte as examples to show that the arts can succeed in even the smallest towns, but this model is not designed exclusively, or even primarily, for very small towns at all. So the numbers that dv is crunching, even though I agree with Ngale about their general uselessness, are numbers at the extreme of the continuum.)

So yes, we are all brothers, but a couple of the brothers are scoring more than their fair share of the glory, and I think that needs to change.

Anonymous said...

ngale,

I'm ready to be friends now...deep breath

REgarding your last 2 posts...I think I was probably more reacting to some of Scott's more rabid ribald comments about "my vision" vs "our vision" as well as some of the Brian Santana mobeius strip reasons about the failing of individuals who embrace the auteur or avant as more selfinolved than say the folks competing for the lead in ttown's next community musical production.

So, I shouldnt have put all that at your feet.

Rock on! I'm signing off on this comment thread cause it is just too exhausting to keep checking back...see u on Scott's next Blog Post. I also look forward to reading more off your website.

-dv (signing off here...signing on elsewhere on the blog)

Anonymous said...

ps Scott,

you probably figured I was that last anon...forgot to sign it...I think if you combine some of what i put here with stuff today...then I'm getting your POV (at least I get it today)

-dv (really trying hard to stick to today's comment/post)

NGale said...

"...all have the composite effect on young theatre artists of making them feel compelled to go to Nylachi (and especially NY) if they want to have a career in the theatre."

Dammit, I really want to let this post die...

Scott, you're killing me! NYALCHIDCHOUTA whatever it is or becomes should get the press. There are only a handful of them when contrasted to the bazilions of "community theatres" that may or may not follow your model (or the Lincoln Center model, for that matter). Whaddya want?? Even if American Theatre Magazine gave space to rural theatre, who would they pick, and who would really care other than the featured artist and their mom? Are you honestly suggesting small towns can or should compete against the glamour and allure of NYLACHI?

I'll concede that if you're model were successful on a wide-scale, artists and the press may hold smaller communities with more weight. However, I can not concede that non-NYLACHI communities will ever be able to compete against that Big City attraction...

Scott Walters said...

Yes, Ngale, that is exactly what I am suggesting. That was the original intent of the regional theatre movement before it sold out to NY. And no, NY shouldn't get all the glory. There are many, many productions happening all over this country just as good as what is going on in NYC. Because something is in the 100- zip code doesn't mean it is important.