Sunday, January 08, 2012

Build a New Model

The arrival of a new year often leads to reflection on what has passed, and as a result points to new directions for what is to come in the future. For a theatre blogger who has been writing over 6 years, this is particularly true.

For a few weeks, I was considering discontinuing Theatre Ideas. Over the time I have written it, I have questioned many aspects of the theatrical status quo, and proposed ways to make it better. I have participated in important discussions, and written a few posts that have garnered  thousands of hits. And I have received several invitations to participate in convenings and submit grants as a result of writing this blog. As a result of writing this blog, my own ideas have come into greater focus.

What was getting me down is that nothing seems to really change. A topic rises to the forefront of everyone's consciousness, there is a certain amount of heat, a much smaller amount of light, and then -- pffftt! The discussion is over, and everyone goes back to talking about how to use Facebook and Twitter to market their productions, as if the only thing standing in the way of a vibrant theatre scene is just finding a way to get the word out. We're all for diversity -- yay! -- except don't ask us to do anything different. We're all for theatre for everyone -- yay! -- except don't ask us to do anything to promote it. We're all for new plays -- yay! -- but don't ask us to give up our classics. We're all for a more even distribution of funding -- yay! -- but don't actually take any money away from the richest institutions. The power of inertia seems to be bred in the bone.

It is time for me to take seriously the Buckminster Fuller quotation in the sidebar of this blog: "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." I have spent six years fighting the existing reality, which regardless remains stubbornly unchanged. My focus must now be on building a new model.

As many of you know, I have received funding to create a CRADLE pilot program in Bakersville, NC (pop 357), where I will be moving within the next few months. That is a concrete attempt to create a new model. I will blog about that process on the CRADLE blog.

I've also decided to organize my thoughts and ideas into a book with the working title "Small is Artful," which I may create a separate blog for. The book will address issues of scale in theatre as it impacts everything from location to business model to aesthetics to production methods. Whether I will publish this book myself or through a traditional publisher remains to be seen. Hell, whether I find the time to write it remains to be seen. Suffice to say that it is time to bring together the research and ideas that I have expressed over the years on this blog and put them into a more formal, organized, and portable format.

I'll continue to write here and on the CRADLE blog (where my absence has gone on for too long), but my thoughts will be focused forward to a new model, rather than engaging the current one.

4 comments:

colematson.com said...

Looking forward to staying updated, Scott.

Craige Hoover said...

Yep... It's time to shake things up, Scott.. Looking forward to the process..

iThink said...

Scott, I have only been reading your blog for the last few months, and always find myself wanting to comment, but not feeling confident in my ability to respond on a knowledgeable level. But maybe now is as good a time as any to try. I hope this gives you some level of hope ...in one company at least. Having seen that our community (despite boasting a very active artistic community) has no real or consistent reflection of diversity in the performing arts.
My company was founded a year ago,with a mission to bridge existing social, ethnic and cultural gaps in our community by providing opportunities for performers to find voice, and for audiences to explore visions of our diverse world. Our clear goal is to diversify our performing arts community by staging, producing and working with other performance artists and groups to present works which simultaneously confront and exemplify issues of social diversity in a provocative way.

While we welcome actors and performers of all races, actively recruit minority performers in our efforts to create a climate of trust and collaboration among performing artists of all ethnicities and cultures.
We would like to establish ourselves as a pioneer in diversity through the performing arts. We believe that audiences look to the arts to see beyond themselves and their own boundaries, and that the lack of diversity seen on the performance stages of Western North Carolina perpetuates racial, ethnic and cultural divides. We believe that the arts (theater in particular) can be a valuable educational medium capable of bridging cultural gaps. We support all areas of diversity, and difference as reflected in our community,with regard to human dignity.
Given the fact that we give away 20% of our proceeds to charity, and divide 60% among cast and crew, it is obvious that our primary motivation is not to make money, but to do exactly what we say in our mission statement. However, we do need money to produce shows; so we use facebook, and twitter, etc., to get the word out. Here's the kicker, we have decent houses and great reviews, but our experience is that the larger audiences are going to see plays about Frat boys and fart jokes, girls reading naked,or disgruntled elves. We choose obscure,dated or original shows from a time when Civil rights meant more than the Government allows it to me today but People want to see the stuff they can't afford to see on Broadway, or they just want to laugh at the light and fluffy.Unfortunately,scripts about diversity and social issues don't always present the funny. How can we create sustainability for a company that wants to make a difference, when what the majority wants to see is low brow humor,or pay a third of the ticket price for what was most recently on Broadway? When the truth is, that even the folks who scream for diversity the loudest aren't supporting the cause with their attendance.

lammacl@amerytel.net said...

Scott:
Interesting. I find where you might be going most interesting.

LaMoine MacLaughlin