As I write this, I have read only the first item on this list from the Pacific Northwest’s awesome awesome The Stranger, but I agree with it wholeheartedly. I will now live blog my reading of their blog post (it’s an article really, but go with me, people), which is certainly a first for this blog:
5:49: Anyone who calls for a moratorium on Shakespeare is aces in my book. Yes, the plays are impressive. But we’ve seen them already. Are they really that much better than other classics? I actually think I wrote about this a while back (in my Hamlet post), and I’m glad to read it more eloquently stated here.
5:51: I disagree with point two, but largely due to my current situation: it sucks to have a theater in, say, Denver refuse to do your work because you’re giving the “world premiere” to a theater in Miami. I do understand and agree with the fundamental premise here though. The union stuff is right on: I can’t develop plays informally with the great actors I know because Equity won’t let them. It’s tricky.
This sentence is unfortunate though: Playwrights: Quit developing your plays into the ground with workshop after workshop after workshop—get them out there. It’s rarely, if ever, the playwright’s choice to continue to develop a piece forever. We want productions. We can’t self-produce everything…and we shouldn’t have to. None of us are turning down productions to do an additional workshop. It just doesn’t work that way.
5:56: Theaters need to do more work. Absolutely. Smaller productions, less bells and whistles, keep your spaces lit as often as possible. Make it so.
5:57: Getting young people into the theater is my pet project. These suggestions aren’t the way to do it. Do not go broke trying to force young people into your seats…because you don’t have to. Do some plays by/for/about young folks. Get ethnically diverse. Use music. Use the internet. Challenge your audience–and yes, you can do this without scaring away your older folks.
6:00: This fish is good. So is the broccoli. And the avocado. I’m very happy for the Brooklyn Trader Joe’s.
6:01: Child care. Brilliant. This speaks to the fact that too much of the theater world views arts education as something different than art itself. Art is education. Even lowbrow art is education. Marry the two. Marry the two. View the theater as a community space. Love this idea. Love it.
6:05: Yay, Neko Case! Yay, Chicago! Yay, artist housing! I think the thing that theaters can specifically do here is to ensure that guest artists are well-housed when working with you (big shouts to Victory Gardens). I’m not sure how much more political a not-for-profit is even legally allowed to get (you can’t exactly take sides when you’re getting money from the government–and yes, this too is a problem), but issues like the basic human dignity due to artists are vital for public institutions to stand behind.
6:09: Build bars. Punto. For theaters not to encourage drinking is ludicrous. Shakespeare’s audiences had sex during shows. Look what it did for his work. That’s only a partial joke.
6:11: Audience participation is an awful term, but an engaged audience is what theater is all about. I don’t like having one night of overt reactions (especially if you’re not doing old chestnuts: who can shout out favorite lines to a world premiere of something?)–I want reactions all the time. But here’s the thing: if you do work that encourages overt reaction, you’ll get it. If you do Rabbit Hole, which don’t get me wrong, is a very good play by a great writer, you can’t expect an audience to talk back to the stage. And you shouldn’t expect that. How do you encourage a loud, riled up, crazy audience? Give them loud, riled up, crazy works.
6:15: Expect poverty? Horrible advice. Artists provide valuable services, and we work hard, and we deserve living wages not for “having talent and a mountain of grad-school debt” (and man, do I have a whole effing mountain range of debt); we deserve living wages because we contribute massively to the economy, to the collective psyche of the nation, and to the day-to-day happinesss of the populace. Art needs to be valued, and it does need to be valued economically, at least on a basic level.
6:18: Grad school is a tricky subject. Obviously, I see value in it–I’m finishing my second MFA as we speak. I also see the value in just going work. But here’s the thing: the art world, the culture world, the theater world, the world world, they demand new skills and knowledge. Grad school can help on that front. In fact, I’ll argue that even folks who don’t go to grad school should be participating in some kind of ongoing schooling, just to stay up on everything that’s going on out there. What I see as I go through my MFA program this time around (after seven years in the field in various other positions) is that there are a shocking amount of theater professionals who are failing their institutions and their art because they haven’t done their homework. And it’s a problem.
It’s a great article, folks. Required reading, I’d say.