Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Managing Director Salaries: The Point?

The point of my post below on managing director salaries is not whether or not the MD of the Goodman "earns" his money (whatever that might mean in this context) (although a 2-star overall rating, a 1-star efficiency rating by Charity Navigator and a decreasing primary revenue amount might suggest questions might be in order), but rather to indicate that the non-profit theatre seems to have succumbed to the corporate model of scaling salaries according to the closeness to the Board. When you have a Board that is likely drawn from the higher economic classes in Chicago, the amount that they feel is proper compensation for management, given their own experience, will reflect that orientation. Imagine, instead, that the Board was made up of people who worked a regular job for a living -- let's say, grocery store managers -- would they feel that $340,000 was justifiable?

The model of the theatre tribe makes sure that the money is being distributed fairly and equitably, and that those whose work the public overtly comes to see (actors, directors, designers) are paid as much as those whose work is invisible to the audience. While administrative and artistic leadership is important, it is no more important than the actual act of creation.

4 comments:

Philucifer [aka Charlie Willis] said...

Again, I agree with the general sentiment Scott, but I'm not sure about the details here.

"Imagine, instead, that the Board was made up of people who worked a regular job for a living -- let's say, grocery store managers -- would they feel that $340,000 was justifiable?"

I tend to think that they would, mostly because the vast majority of the population buys into the corporate model -- it's the model that we all see and experience most often, and if we didn't buy into it then it wouldn't be so prevalent, right? Does that mean that this $340,000 salary is right, or fair? Well, I can't answer that in any objective way because I'm part of this culture, too. And I don't work at the Goodman.

"The model of the theatre tribe makes sure that the money is being distributed fairly and equitably, and that those whose work the public overtly comes to see (actors, directors, designers) are paid as much as those whose work is invisible to the audience."

I believe you've got a great idea with the theatre tribe model (mostly because it reflects my own biases and personal experiences), but this statement seems real pie-in-the-sky to me, Scott.

The model itself doesn't make sure of anything; the integrity of the people involved do. And we have to take into account human nature -- something that Marx was never able to do with his own pie in the sky idea. Do you honestly believe that the (admittedly) still-developing model can eliminate greed?

I agree with the equitable nature of the division of payment, but honestly administration in a theater setting is typically a year-round job while the creative teams work in short bursts, out of necessity. I'm not sure if I were an administrator that I wouldn't be a little offended that an actor was making the same amount as I was for fewer hours of work.

I guess that's just something to keep in mind if you're looking to start a tribe.

Scott Walters said...

Hey, Charlie! Don't forget that the decisions regarding things like salaries are decided in a tribe through consensus, so while greed may not be banished, there are controls. The group may decide that somebody should receive more -- either because they need more (say, because they have three kids or have a sick spouse) or "deserve" more, but it would be a company decision, not a board decision. Also, in a tribe there are no salaries -- people take from the available income what they need. Finally, the difference in time on task between management and artists would not be like in a traditional theatre, since when an actor wasn't acting he or she would be doing something else that needed to be done for the theatre, whether theatre duties or working in the theatre-run business. In other words, the time is fairly evenly distributed. It is hard to remember that the habits of traditional theatre don't follow into the tribal model, and that all of these elements contribute to equity.

Philucifer [aka Charlie Willis] said...

Thanks for the clarification, Scott! Much appreciated.

I'm really interested to get some field reports from people actually attempting this -- which is one of the one of the reasons I'm still keeping up with Zack Mannheimer's blog. I do think it's a grand experiment.

I worry, though, knowing that the average life-span of new theatre companies -- and new businesses -- in my geographical area is about a year and a half. That's without the added pressures of the company members' shared income.

I think any tribe who makes it past the three-year mark is not only going to be in it for the long-haul, but really WILL change the entire paradigm of what a theatre of-and-for the community can be.

But I also hope that people won't judge the model itself too harshly should initial efforts not be entirely successful. It's going to take very specific (and fortuitous) circumstances to make it work, at first.

Hicks Family said...

I don't have much to say...more thoughts than anything, but I can't help but mention that I am intrigued by your recent dialog.