Showing posts from July 13, 2008

Opportunity: The Ignored Part of the US

The following chart uses data from the TCG database of member theatres combined with data from the US Census.

I have identified the size of each county in which TCG member theatre(s) are headquartered. I have then broken them into categories and identified what percentage of the TCG member theatre counties are in each category. For instance, 8.7% of TCG member theatres are headquartered in counties with populations under 100K, 8% are in counties with populations of 100K - 200K, and so on. These percentages have been put in the form of a bar graph and compared to the percentage of U.S. counties overall in each category. The bar graph looks like this:

As you can see, the percentages for TCG member theatres and US counties are almost reversed: there is a much larger percentage of US counties under 100K than over 500K, but there is an overwhelming number of TCG theatres in counties over 500K. This chart would be even more unbalanced if counties with multiple theatres were given proportiona…

On Possibility

"America is coming of age. Note the many changing aspects of America.

A maturing America means a nation conscious of its arts among all its people. Communities east, west, north, and south are searching for ways to make community life
more attractive.

The arts are at the very center of community development in this time of change...change for the better.

The frontier and all that it once meant in economic development and in the sheer necessity of building a nation is being replaced by the frontier of the arts. In no other way can
Americans so well express the core and blood of their democracy; for in the communities lies the final test of the acceptance of the arts as a necessity of everyday life.

In terms of American democracy, the arts are for everyone.They are not reserved for the wealthy, or for the well-endowed museum, the gallery, or the ever-subsidized regional professional
theatre. As America emerges into a different understanding of her strength, it becomes clear that her stren…

Read You Some Tony Adams

Wow! Suddenly the theatrosphere is being blessed with long, thoughtful posts about the issues raised by How Theatre Failed America. This time, it's Tony Adams doing a bang-up job. Read the whole thing, but here's a quotation from "Artists as Administrators":

Until more artists take control of the mechanisms of production, take on more of the tasks required to produce theatre, things will only worsen. If institutions are to place more priority on artists, artists need to be a part of the institutions. The days of an army of artists making a living solely on the boards, never really existed. We need to stop clinging to that notion and take control of our livelihoods. And if more artists were wearing multiple hats: acting and sitting in marketing meetings, directing and working in the audience development offices, stage managing and working the box office, writing plays and grant proposals-- if more artists involved themselves with the day to day operations of theatres, t…

Karl Miller: Great Post

Along with several other theatropherians, I recommend Karl Miller's excellent post "Against a National Theatre." Others have offered quotations; here's the one that caught my eye:

The Theatre, as a place, must find a place for itself that doesn't require submission to avoidable bureaucracy and scarcity. I have no doubt that there are more than enough amazing actors, directors, and designers to fully populate a dozen regional circuits, but that the overwhelming majority of them are sitting idle in New York. The same things that make New York an invigorating cauldron also make it an insulating womb. If one wishes to divine a sexy "American" imperative from all this, consider this next revolution our Manifest Destiny of the Bodied Soul or something. Artistic cognition can be contemplative, critical, cathartic, kinesthetic, and polysensual ... but it is also the site of something much simpler. It is sui generis and it is pure exploration. I've said this …

Marching Orders

Over the Fourth of July, my wife and I had our extended family over for a meal. After the chicken and potato salad had been eaten, I got into a conversation with my father-in-law that was quite interesting. Bud is a retired Lutheran minister who gave up his career as an engineer at General Electric at the age of 40 to go to seminary and become a minister. So I asked him how it was that pretty much every small town you go through has at least one church of some sort, and many have several. It doesn't matter how small the community, there seems to be a church somewhere.

He was able to answer only as a Lutheran, although I have since heard that the Episcopalians follow a similar process.

When members of a community decide they would like to start a congregation, they contact the synod and the national church organization (e.g., the Evangleical Church in America, or ELCA) to express their interest. The central administration then sends a Mission Director to visit with the community and …


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What Are You Playing For? (Response)

Don Hall continues the discussion of the motivation for theatre, this time with a really interesting post entitled "What Are You Playing For?" Moving from blackjack to video games, he bifurcates motivation into those who play for the experience of playing, and those who play instrumentally to get "tickets" that can be redeemed for other things. He is the one who is playing for the experience, and Mike Daisey and I are the ones playing for the tickets. And he predicts I will deny this, which I do, but not for the reasons he thinks.

There was a wise man who once defined wealth not as money and things, but rather as time and space. That having free time to think and create and the space in which to operate is what true wealth really is. Virginia Woolf felt the same way, saying a woman writer needed a thousand pounds a year and a room of one's own. That is my orientation as well.

While I am known here in the theatrosphere as an academic, that fact is that until I was…

Denver Post

John Moore of the Denver Post provides a pretty clear look at the situation in Denver in his special report "Theater: Only a Few Make Living from Stage Alone." This is a situation that deserves such vigorous defense?

Where is this from?

What if we took the time to rethink things? Forcing ourselves to look at how things are and imagining what they could be. Not waiting for change, but being the catalyst.""

It is from a Saturn advertisement in Fast Company magazine.

An auto manufacturer can conceive of rethinking, but some theatre people...not so much. I'm with Rex Winsome (and Daniel Quinn and Buckminster Fuller): just walk away and start over. I wholeheartedly support Mike Daisey in his efforts, and think that if he were successful it would help move the theatre in the direction I want to go. But when it comes down to it, I want to create something different.

I want to rethink.

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Isaac Comes Through

God love him, Isaac Butler can be pretty quiet for a pretty long time, and then sums everything up nicely. Nice work, Isaac!
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H/t to Matt Freeman for the link to this article about those Dems who would snipe at Obama over details instead of uniting for the good of the country, especially HRC feminists who believe they have to "punish" the Dems for Hilary not winning.

I teach a course on the Harlem Renaissance, and one of the most inspiring essays we read is W. E. B. DuBois urging African-American men to fight in World War I despite the fact that the U. S. denied them basic rights as human beings. And when they came home, after having been some of the most heroic fighters in the war, DuBois wrote:

"We return.
We return from fighting.
We return fighting!
Make way for Democracy! We saved it in France, and by the great Jehovah, we will save it in the United Stated of America, or know the reason why."

Once the battle in November has been won, there will be time to "return fighting." If the war is lost, there will be no opportunity.
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Revisiting the Principles

Over at Don's place, in the comments to his latest post, Don is expressing amazement that my definition of community sounds like "niche marketing" to him, and that what I am advocating with theatre tribes is what everybody has been doing already. Perhaps so -- maybe I don't get out much.

For clarity's sake, and taking advantage of an opportunity to try to express my "vision" succinctly (which takes practice, believe it or not), let's return to the list of "Principles" that are listed on the right side of this blog, and try to describe what each principle means.

1. Decentralization. This is the idea that there should be professional theatres and theatre artists spread across more of this nation, that no few cities should be seen as the ultimate arbiter of quality or legitimacy, and that there should be a concerted effort to spread information concerning the work of theatre artists wherever they are.

2. Localization. This is a belief that arti…

On Doctors, Lawyers, Plumbers, Actors...and Blackjack

Adam Thurman, in his post entitled "The Power of Scarcity: A Reply to Mike and Scott," writes:

If you haven't been able to carve out that distinct niche for yourself, either in the work you do, how you do the work, or who you do the work for . . . then you are officially a commodity and you will be treated like one, meaning you will get paid just enough to keep you working but never enough to be stable. It's true for doctors, lawyers, plumbers and artists . . . there is nothing sacred about the artistic profession that makes it different.I'm going to put aside the idea that any human being should be treated like a commodity, and not discuss the moral bankruptcy that such a system exhibits. Instead, I am going to focus on the fact the commodification happens to "doctors, lawyers, plumbers..." There is at least one difference between this group and theatre artists, and I think it is important: there are over 1 million lawyers in the United States, about 83…