Saturday, March 15, 2008

On Nick at the Cameron

First, my apologies to Nick at Rat Sass for failing to acknowledge my debt in my post "A Theatre Space" to his fascinating description of his Toronto days at at Cameron House entitled "Theatre Kultur." And his musings on the "edifice complex" article in the NY Times. By the time I got around to writing that post, I had literally 24 tabs open from links to blog posts and articles I wanted to notate and discuss, and I totally lost track of where I had gotten started.

In case you were wondering, Nick's background and mine are pretty dissimilar. I have led a pretty damned conservative lifestyle throughout my 50 years, even if my mind leans toward solutions that step outside the norm. In many ways, I think our conceptions of what constitutes a tribe is shaped by those experiences.

Life at the Cameron house certainly has certain points of connection with the theatre tribe idea that I am (relentlessly) focused on at Theatre Ideas. The artists there certainly form a community, not only with each other but with the patrons as well. They share an aesthetic, and are willing to take from the resources only what they need.

But my concept of the theatre tribe, like my background, is a bit more focused on integrating artists into the broader community, rather than remaining on the fringes of society. When all is said and done, that may be the biggest difference between Nick's concept and my own.

In addition, I am much more focused on the smaller towns of America, the large swaths of geography that showed up empty in my TCG Google map. It isn't that I don't care about Toronto or Chicago, or that I don't think that a tribe might be focused on a neighborhood in a large city and find its identity by focusing on it. But the very first principle listed in the right-hand sidebar is "decentralization." There is a populist orientation to my ideas, and a desire to fill in the gaps in the TCG maps with something unique and designed for those places.

Could the theatre tribe ideas be adapted to a big city? Absolutely! I have no doubt at all. And I hope somebody will do that. I consider these ideas to be sort of like Open Source programs on a Creative Commons license -- you can take the code and adapt it to fit your needs. And that is very inspiring for me to see! But it isn't what I am doing. I have my plate full trying to figure out how this works in Independence, Missouri, especially given how doors keep opening into new and unexplored areas.

I know that some may feel I am being exclusionary or reverse-elitist if refuse to tinker with the model I am developing to allow it to encompass big cities, and I guess I am sort of, but only because the conditions are so very different and I want to make this model powerful and specific for the context I am aiming at.

So to all you Chicago or New York or Seattle or LA readers who are attracted to the basic ideas of the theatre tribe idea, but want to make it work in your beloved cities, I offer you my encouragement and applause. And I hope you will continue to offer ideas and critiques of the ideas I am developing. It's like you are interested in developing a model for a 4-door coupe while I am focused on a 2-door truck: we share a lot of the same machinery, but there are parts that just won't work together!

First Rumblings, Perhaps

Lee Holbroke drew my attention to a post on the McCarter Theatre blog by Alan Immerwahr called "Musings on a Third Theatre." Thanks Lee. Apparently Mike Daisey's ideas, and those being exhcange in the theatrosphere, are being heard somewhat. I think this is a step in the right direction, but as Immerwahr recognizes the weight of the Big Box theatre makes everything difficult. Full productions for new plays by "emerging artists" is a nice start, and I applaud it. There is still a long way to go to a resident company with at least one resident playwright. Back to the future.

On Opening Doors

When I first started devising this new model for regional theatre companies, it seemed pretty straightforward. I had several "themes" that I was going to address that I had written about in the past, and they seemed focused and manageable. But the more I learn, and the more I write, the more this project becomes about more than simply theatre. I find myself learning about sustainable economics, about consensus processes, about ecologically sound theatre practices, about community building and organizing, about dialogue and communication, about barter and alternative monetary systems. It involves thinking about the life of the citizen-artist differently, and seeking ways to conceive of the work of art in a different way than a product to be marketed and sold. I feel as if I have opened a door in a subject I thought was compact, and suddenly found another huge room behind the door with many more doors opening from it. It is exciting and daunting, and it wars against the insistence on concise action statements. In a previous post, I talked about the path of least resistance -- the cow paths that are created by following the same walkways over and over again. And I am starting to realize that to simply propose a few quick fixes -- non-hierarchical structure, tribe shares ancillary income, etc -- without deeply understanding a different way of thinking will do exactly what Don says it will: the tribe will grow and become a corporation, it will follow the traditional pathway, the path of least resistance. I believe it was Rilke who said "you must change your life;" perhaps so, but unless you change your thinking, your life will track back to the well-worn. I suddenly have realized how difficult it is to change one's thinking, and also I've realized that the task that I had set for myself is much deeper than I first thought. So much more to learn.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Theatre Space

There seems to be a lot of talk recently about what Harold Clurman once called the "edifice complex." On March 9th, the New York Times published an article called "Enter the Booster, Bearing Theatres" about the decade-long building craze among Big Box Corporate regional theatres. "Since 2000," author Jesse Green writes, these institutions "have initiated dozens of construction projects whose combined tab is approaching $1 billion." Signature Theatre: $16M; Philadelphia Theatre Company: $25M; Guthrie: $125M ("“You either grow or you die,” said Joe Dowling, the Guthrie’s artistic director"); Berekley Rep: $50M; the Shakespeare Theatre Company in DC: $89M ("Michael Kahn, the artistic director of the Shakespeare Theater Company in Washington, said it was difficult enough to induce New York actors, afraid to be out of town for too long, to commit to the six-week rehearsal periods he favors, let alone the eight-week runs necessitated by the small size of the Lansburgh Theater" -- cry me a river); Arena Stage: $120M; Dallas Theatre Center: $338M (Nina Vance is spinning in her grave). Green notes that the new buildings also require a lot more money to operate: Signature Theatre's "annual operating budget ballooned to $5.5 million from $2 million; "The Philadelphia Theater Company’s annual operating budget rose to $4.1 million in the new space from $2.1 million before its capital campaign began. The Shakespeare’s rose to $19.4 million from $10.2 million; the Guthrie’s to $26 million from $19.5 million." Michael Kahn misses the point when he says: "“Will we have to beat the bushes more?” Mr. Kahn said. “Yes.” But he obviously is aware of the real issue, because he hints at it here: "people are curious to see what the spaces are like. Mr. Kahn said that was why he opened the Harman with “Tamburlaine,” a play unlikely to draw crowds otherwise." In other words: better schedule Tamburlaine now, because we won't be able to afford to run it later.

I love that Mike Daisey's How Theatre Failed America is quoted throughout the article as a counterpoint to the insanity, and a reminder of just what the original impulse was behind the regional theatre movement. [Note: I eliminated a reference to a Mike Daisey line that, out of context, was offensive to NY actors. My apologies, and thanks to Sarah McL for pointing it out.]

On March 11th, Garret at Playgoer drew our attention to this article with his "Shiny Happy Buildings," and Isaac followed with "Building What, Exactly?" Isaac asks plaintively, "why is it so hard to raise money to fund the lives of the artists who work in those brand spanking new buildings?" It's the difference between the visible and the invisible, isn't it?

Anyway, all of this dovetails with something I have been working on for the theatre tribe model. If, as Don Hall says, "Most of the problems associated with the American theater in the 21st Century has to do with the fact that it costs too much to create," and one of "the most cost prohibitive aspects of producing live theater is the rental fees for viable and legally sanctioned venues," then a theatre space is at the center of the struggle for survival. Many theatres solve this problem by renovating storefronts and warehouses and old office building into theatre -- in fact, Zachary Mannheimer is in the midst of trying to raise $5M to renovate this building for his new theatre/social club in Des Moines (a chunk of that is to create a restaurant that is run by the theatre, but the building itself will cost $1.6M san renovations).

To me, that seems like a lot, at least for the model I am trying to promote. Zack seems to be pulling it off, and I say more power to him, but I'm trying to figure out a lower price alternative that doesn't rely on city funding, foundations, and grants -- or at least, relies on them as little as possible. However, I think that the usual answer of taking up residence in marginal buildings in low-rent parts of town is problematic as well. While theatre people will go anywhere to see a show (at least if they know somebody in it), and maybe young hipsters will, too (if they can get over the idea that theatre is a geezer art form), many people feel that the maximum amount of time their butt can manage on a thinly-padded folding chair is about 30 mins and they don't want to feel scared about their safety. While we can scorn that attitude, scorn won't change it. Many people will be more likely to attend your theatre if they feel safe and comfortable. If those people don't matter to you, that's certainly your choice; I happen to think differently.

So I am trying to figure out a way to build a theatre that is comfortable, attractive, and also affordable. I'm not an architect, and some of this is pure guesswork, but this is a start. Some of you may have noticed in my "vision" of the Independence Theatre in Independence, Missouri, that I mentioned a theatre that "was built for less than $500,000 as part of a program through Del-Tec Homes that adapts their popular eco-friendly round houses into flexible theatres." Del-Tec is a company that is headquartered here in Asheville, and I recently had a meeting with them. They provided me with a bunch of materials about their home models, which have also been used for churches and community centers. What attracted me to the Del-Tec concept is the fact that Del-Tec homes are designed so that the weight-bearing walls are on the outside, which means no need for posts in the theatre space. Consequently, walls can be placed inside however they are needed, and they can be easily moved if new needs arise without affecting the structural integrity of the building. The building are built modularly, and the elements are then shipped wherever they need to go (including oversees) and constructed on-site by a contractor. They are attractive and flexible, and can be designed to fit the needs of the theatre tribe and the land on which it will be placed. They are also ecologically friendly, and are easily outfitted with solar panels and other energy-saving techniques. Their ceilings are relatively high -- they start at 10' on the outside and rise toward the center -- and you can stack several on top of each other of you need more height.

I have been working on putting together the shell of something that might fit a 150-seat theatre in the round (that could also be a thrust, if the seating was flexible). So I put together a 2500 sq ft model named Vista for the theatre space, an 800 sq ft Camden for the lobby, box office, and office, connected by a, 8' X 12' "connector" that would serve as a passageway from the lobby to the theatre and also be a light block for latecomers. In addition, I added 28' X 22' rectangular wing that would serve as space for the scene shop and costume shop (this could be enlarged if needed), and a 24' X 36' garage for storage. I also added in the cost of 16 windows for the lobby and the shops. At this point, these buildings are empty -- no seats, no wiring, no carpet, no plumbing, and no contractors to put it up (I will be trying to flesh out these costs in the future) -- just the shell. The total cost, according to my addition, stands at $129,131. So far, my vision of a theatre space for under $500,000 seems well within reach.

What I would like to do -- and this may be a very crazy idea -- is to try to get a donor to build one of these buildings and rent it to the theatre tribe for $1 a year. The donor would retain the title. In addition to being a smallish amount of money to risk, I would suggest to a donor that, should the theatre fold, the building could easily be converted into a home and sold by adding walls and traditional home fixtures. So the risk is less.

More to come, but help me consider this possibility a bit more.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

On Yesterday's "Vision"

So yesterday I posted a "vision" of how a theatre tribe might look. By choosing to put the theatre in Independence, Missouri (I couldn't resist the idea of naming it Independence Theatre), I made some broad conjectures about lifetsyle possibilities. Before making such a choice, I would have had to do much more research about the Independence community: demographics, employment opportunities, other theatres in the area, median income, etc. For instance, according to the 2000 census, 92% of Independence is white, the median age is 37.8 years, 15% of the population has a bachelor's degree or higher. the largest percentage of people were employed in education health and social services, median family income is about $46,000. There is a community theatre, the City Theatre of Independence, which has been in operation since 1980 and has 400 members; they charge $8 to $10 a ticket.

Obviously, had I made a different choice of cities, the vision would have been different. Had I chosen Dayton Ohio or Raleigh NC the ancillary activities might have been different. Had I chosen a place with a higher non-White population -- say, East St. Louis (which, with a population of a little over 30,000 might be a bit too small), which has a 97% African-American population, many other aspects of the organization would be affected.

The location of a theatre should be dependent on the lifestyle preferences, skills, and interests of the artists. So if you have a group that includes people who are interested in sustainable farming, for instance, then you might choose a place where you could get enough land to provide for an outlet for those talents. But if chickens aren't your thing, as they aren't for The Director, but a vibrant music and poetry slam scene is important, then you look elsewhere.

These decisions also have an impact on your artistic choices. If you are interested in creating a worker's theatre, for instance, you might want to make sure your city has an industrial base. If you would like to create theatre for older people, finding a community that is a draw for retirees might be a good idea. And so on.

The point is that all aspects of the theatre are impacted by all other aspects. You can't just bring a generic idea of what theatre "is" and plunk it down wherever. A theatre tribe needs to become part of the community.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Vision

I am reading How to Make Collaboration Work: Powerful Ways to Build Consensus, Solve Problems, and Make Decisions by David Straus, which I recommend to anyone who wants to...well, learn how to make collaboration work. In it, he talks about three different "spaces" in the collaboration model. In the "problem space," the task is "to understand the problem and reach consensus on what it is an why it exists." Several months ago, I was focused on crunching data addressing some of the problems connected to the current regional theatre scene -- whether or not consensus was achieved, I don't know, but that was the problem space. In the "solution space," the task is "to reach consensus on a solution and a course of action." I have been working in the solution space for a while now, proposing some foundational values that could counter the problem. Straus also talks about the "vision space," which is where you "explore a vision of what your organization or community might look like after the problem is solved." He goes on: "Moving to the vision space takes a group away from the pathology of the immediate problem, builds alignment on a common vision, and generates energy and hopefulness about the future." Sometimes, Straus writes, "it makes sense to begin in the problem space to share perceptions of the problem, then jump to the vision space to agree on general specifications that solutions to all problems of this type should satisfy..." (p 84).

I'd like to take a stab at describing a vision of what a functioning theatre tribe might look like in order to inspire others to start brainstorming ideas about how these goals might be achieved. Describing a vision, of course, will lead to an image that is somewhat utopian -- obviously, the reality will have more bumps and bruises, because neither people nor circumstances are ever ideal. However, imperfection will take care of itself. Also, this is not the only model -- I or others may come up with additional ones later on. In this vision, let's follow Willie's final words in MASTER HAROLD...and the boys: "let's dream."


The Independence Theatre has been producing plays in Independence, Missouri (population 110,208) for three years now. There is a company of twelve people who are working in a flexible theatre space that seats 199. All of them live in the community, and several were theatre majors at Graceland University and Park University, both of whom have campuses in Independence, and both of whom have formal connections to the Independence Theatre through internships. In addition, two of the company teach courses in their department. In addition, the theatre has developed an informal relationship with the Adam and Eve College of Cosmetology, also in Independence, to help the theatre with make-up and hair styling for various productions.

On Monday evening, the Crazy Quilt Guild will have its monthly meeting in the theatre. This is not a rental (even though the fee would be a welcome addition to the theatre's income), but rather a way of making the theatre part of the community, and bringing people into the space. The belief is that once somebody has sat in your seats for an event, they are more likely to return to buy a ticket. Other organizations also use the space most Monday and Tuesday evenings, free of charge, such as the local beekeepers organization, the Community Service League, and the Community Foundation. On the Mondays and Tuesdays not claimed by community organizations, one of the company members teaches yoga for $11 per participant per class, and local music groups play concerts as well.

The company is in the midst of rehearsals for a play that was written by their resident playwright, who also writes their grant applications and press releases. There are three people in the cast, so with a director, SM, and scenographer, half of the company are very busy right now and are unable to do many money-making activities beyond rehearsal and building. No problem, though, because for these couple weeks the rest of the company picks up the slack. One company member not in the show runs an after-school arts program three days a week from 4:00 - 5:30, which has 15 students. Two others are on the road giving a workshop on collaboration techniques to a corporation in Kansas City. The remaining three operate the theatre's catering business.

Because the theatre has adopted Peter Hall's approach to scenery, all of these activities do not interfere with rehearsals or performances, since the set for the night's show can be put in place in about an hour. Rehearsals for the new show have been going on from 10:00 until 3:00 each day. Meanwhile, the other three plays in the repertoire have been rotating Thursday through Sunday evenings. One of the plays, a performance that was created by the company from interviews with local people about their religious beliefs, has become very popular and gets a few extra performances each month, while a more experimental piece remains in the rotation despite smaller crowds because the company believes in the play. Audiences for the latter have been growing lately as word of mouth among college students has started to build.

On Friday and Saturday nights after the theatre's performance, the seats are pushed to the side to make room for local bands to play. The cover charge is split between the band and the theatre, and soft drinks and snacks are sold as well. Sometimes, these concerts include spoken word performers as well.

The theatre, which was built for less than $500,000 as part of a program through Del-Tec Homes that adapts their popular eco-friendly round houses into flexible theatres, sits on an acre of land. The company has created a fairly sizable garden that provides them with produce throughout the growing season, and at the rear of the lot they have a few chickens as well to provide eggs and meat. In addition, they have two beehives which provides them with honey for consumption and to sell in the lobby. (During intermission, the catering operation sells fresh biscuits and honey, a very popular treat with the patrons.)

This evening, two of the company members are going to a patron's house for dinner. The theatre set up a program for patrons to provide a meal for selected company members. They sign up for who they'd like to invite, and how many times they'd like to invite them. This family chose husband-and-wife company members because they have kids about the same age as their own. Since it is Monday evening, they can take their time eating and then hang out and watch a movie together.

Instead of individual tickets or even season subscriptions, the Independence Theatre set themselves up as a club. While people can certainly buy individual entries, they can also buy a membership -- individual or family -- that allows them to see whatever shows they want as many times as they'd like. The only rule about repeat attendance is that, after the first time, they must bring at least one new person with them. In addition, membership gives them an invitation to the Summer Picnic, where the theatre's members cook up produce from their garden and fried chicken to celebrate the fall equinox.

After three years, the Independence Theatre doesn't have to do a lot of advertising or even mailings. Their patrons have given them permission to call to remind them when a new show is going to open, and their website is available to check which plays are being offered on which night. Company members have become active members of the community, volunteering their time to help out area charities (especially Habitat for Humanity), attending Rotary Club, and becoming active in area churches. These are purely voluntary, and are chosen by the company members themselves -- nobody is compelled to participate in anything they don't want to. However, the company has noticed over the years that their patrons often have met company members at these places, and come to see a play after doing so. Company members, however, never make a big deal out of being part of the theatre -- if it comes up in conversation, it comes up, but there is no "hey, look at me, I'm helping build a house" grandstanding.

Each month, the company gathers together to take a look at income for that month, and discuss any changes that need to happen. For instance, the company might decide that a particular play has exhausted its audience or needs a rest, or that more attention needs to be paid to marketing the Sunday matinees, and they discuss possible solutions. Once, they needed to talk about one of the plays written by the resident playwright, which had been optioned for a production at a larger theatre in Chicago. Fortunately, this possibility had been addressed long ago and put in writing in the agreements that all company members had signed, so they knew that 1/3 of the royalties would come back to the theatre, and the other 2/3 would be kept by the playwright. This was also true for any acting jobs the company got in commercials: 1/3 to the company, and the rest to the individual. This month, their are no issues like that, so they subtract the month's expenses from the income, and then discuss how to divide the remainder. At first, they had decided to divide the income equally. But after a few months, they decided that it might be better for people to take out what they need. For instance, the husband and wife with two kids might need a little more than the single person, but one month when the single person needed to have a crown put on her tooth for $1000 she was able to draw that amount from the income and everyone else tightened their belts for that month. This requires real honesty from each company member, but also leads to a collective sense of discipline and cooperation.

They also have arrangements with the local doctor and dentist for basic dental and health care. This was a bartered arrangement, and something the doctor and dentist does as a charitable contribution. Eventually, the theatre plans to have paid group health insurance, but for right now this arrangement has worked.

So far, so good. The theatre plays to about 60% capacity right now, and that has been growing at a steady rate. Membership have been kept as low as possible, but they may have to raise the rates a bit in the future to cover health care expenses. Their hope is that they can explain just how much their health care costs, and show how the increase will cover only those costs. The company thinks that most members will be willing to help out with such an important expense.

And so the season continues.

Monday, March 10, 2008

An Interview...with Myself

You've been writing about theatre tribes for almost two months now. How far do you think you've gotten?
I can't say for sure, since I am feeling my way through -- I am using the blog as a way of developing and testing ideas, which I am then polishing off-line into a more formal style. But I'd say I'm about 1/3 of the way through.

One third? Are you kidding??!!! How much more can be said about this?
Well, at this point I've really only laid out the foundational values of tribal theatre and the overall structure. But there really hasn't been much about how to achieve these values.

You academics are SO long-winded. I wish you'd take dv's advice and be more succinct.
Well, I'll admit that cutting to the chase is not one of my strong suits. If you look at most of the posts I've written over the past couple years, most of them are long, too. But in this case, I've felt the long-windedness is necessary, because some of these ideas are counter-intuitive. But also, I think people need to have a grip on why a theatre tribe should have certain values, and not just what those value are. That said, every once in a while I think it helps to summarize to as close as an elevator speech as possible. I'll try to do that.

*sigh* OK, Mr Hypothesis Theorist Professor (tm), what's left? Aren't people clamoring for action? Nick is suggesting that people head for the midwest!
I think that would be a mistake at this point, but maybe I'm overly cautious.

Why is it premature?
Because right now there is only a basic outline! Sure, you could decide to step away from Nylachi, find a group of people you'd like to work with, create a non-hierarchical company that divides ticket income and ancillary income according to need, and design your sets in a sustainable way, but how is it going to be financed at first? Where is it going to be performed? How are you going to attract an audience? What kind of plays are you going to do? How are you going to survive until the tribe is self-sustaining? Are there any alternatives to a complete reliance on box office? It is critical that you answer all these questions in ways that supports the basic values of the tribe. There needs to be a deep commitment to creating a sustainable theatre, which requires a new way of doing business.

Couldn't you figure all that out along the way?
You could, but it would be difficult. I've been reading a really good book called The Path of Least Resistance: Learning to Become the Creative Force in Your Own Life by Robert Fritz. Fritz is from Boston, and on the very first page of Chapter 1 he talks about the seemingly chaotic layout of the roads in Boston. Let me read this to you.

Oh, jeez. Is it a long section?
No, it's pretty short, but I think Fritz does a good job with this analogy, and it might make it possible for me to talk less myself.

Go for it.
"The Boston roads," he explains, "were actually formed by utilizing existing cow paths. But how did these cow paths come to be? The cow moving through the topography tended to move where it was immediately easiest to move. When a cow saw a hill ahead, she did not say to herself, 'Aha! A hill! I must navigate around it!' Rather she put one foot in front of another, taking whichever step was easiest at that moment, perhaps avoiding a rock or taking the smallest incline. In other words, what determined her behavior was the structure of the land. Each time cows passed through the same area, it became easier for them to take the same path they had taken the last time, because the path became more and more easily defined....Once a structure exists, energy moves through that structure by the path of least resistance. In other words, energy moves where it is easiest for it to go."

OK, so now we understand the connection between cowpaths and Boston traffic -- how does this apply to theatre tribes?
Well, over the decades, the American regional theatre has followed the structure of the theatre scene and created a well-worn path that is corporate and NY-centric. Theatre artists have been trained to follow that path in order to succeed. So unless there is a fully developed structure that creates a new path of least resistance, when faced with a new situation -- when putting one foot in front of the other in an attempt to move forward -- they will automatically follow the path of least resistance and do what has usually been done in that situation. That's why Don's statement that most theatres that start out like tribes end up going corporate is often correct. Don would say that that is just human nature, but I would contend that it is simply following the path of least resistance because a new structure hasn't been fully developed, or has been forgotten. I'm trying to develop a new cow path, not just repave the old one to remove the potholes. That's also why I have been saying that this model isn't for Nylachi -- the gravitational pull of the old way (to change the metaphor) is much stronger there, and it will require a much stronger commitment to the theatre tribe values.

You make this sound like a religion.
No, but it is a different ethic, a different value system, a different way of life. For instance, the corporate way of thinking is revolves around getting bigger. Get a bigger audience, a bigger theatre, a bigger staff, a bigger production budget, a bigger endowment, a bigger share of NEA money. The theatre tribe follows E. F. Schumacher's belief that "small is beautiful," and bigger is not necessarily better. Sustainable is better, appropriate size is better. Having time is better. Time to develop art that is beautiful, powerful, and profound. But also personal time -- time to spend with family, time to devote to community, time to reflect and grow. The subtitle of Schumacher's book was A Study of Economics as if People Mattered. Substitute "theatre" for "economics" and you have what I am working on.

Isn't that pie-in-the-sky? I mean, come on!
Maybe so. I hope not, but there is a definite possibility that such an approach can't survive within global capitalism. I certainly am making no promises, and I'm not promoting this as a "magic bean." Right now, it is a thought experiment -- anybody who tries to put it into action at this point is on their own, and when they fail -- and they probably will -- there will be some who point at them as proof that theatre tribes won't work. But the Wright Brothers didn't try to fly until they had thought through every detail of their prototype. Two months of planning is a drop in the bucket. I think there is a lot more thinking left before this idea is ready to be test driven.

Aren't there any models they could follow? devilvet has challenged you to point at one.
Well, I don't know. Most theatres of this nature would probably not receive a lot of media coverage outside of their local area, which would not be Nylachi. So for all I know, there may be dozens of theatre tribes already existing under my personal radar. I will say this, though: the current corporate approach has been around for a relatively short time. Once you get back a century or so, the theatre tribe is actually more common. Shakespeare's King's Men were a tribe -- a permanent company that managed many different kinds of activities (e.g., bear-bating). Moliere's troupe was a tribe. Every commedia dell 'arte troupe was a tribe. In fact, when you look back through theatre history you find that there are two production models that are most prevalent: community theatre and tribes. The Greeks, for instance, were community theatre: everyone involved were amateurs and nobody made their living from theatre. They all had day jobs. And they created pretty damn good stuff. The Romans were tribes. Medieval mystery plays were community theatre. And so on. It isn't until the mid-1800s that the industrial model starts to dominate. Some may see that as progress. I don't. I think there would be some value to looking back at theatre history for predecessors, rather than contemporary theatres.

You're an academic. Why not leave this to the artists?
You're right, I am an academic, and happy to be one. I don't happen to see that as a term of opprobrium. But what I am doing is what academics do best, and what artists don't have time to do.

What, numb us with magniloquence?
No, synthesize. I am trying to pull together ideas that have been scattered in a variety of disciplines: anthropology (Beyond Civilization, The Gift), economics (Small Is Beautiful, Deep Economy), marketing (Spreading the Ideavirus, The Tipping Point, Made to Stick), sociology (Bowling Alone, The Great, Good Place, Habits of the Heart), theatre history, and any number of other disciplines. I think we are in the midst of a great turning as a culture, and that theatre must respond to those changes or risk becoming irrelevant and displaced. I'm going to be 50 next month, and believe me it would be easier to simply keep doing things the way they've always been done until I can retire, but to me that seems irresponsible. I want to use my strengths to benefit somebody. Maybe somebody will read these ideas and be inspired -- that's my hope.

Will you ever take action?
Probably a different type than what people expect. I would like to set up some system for helping theatre artists who want to try out these ideas (once they're finished). This might be a foundation, a consulting firm, or something else entirely. I'd like to make it easier for these ideas to be implemented. Right now, I don't know how I'm going to do that -- it is a new way of thinking for me. But that's what I'd like to do eventually.

Think Again: Funding and Budgets in the Arts

Every once in a while, I think I'll post a link or two to posts written earlier in the life of Theatre Ideas that seem worth revisiting ...