Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Off Stage Conversations

Hello, it's Andie Arthur, executive director of the South Florida Theatre League, with this week's installment of Off Stage Conversations, where I take a look at the national and international discussion of our industry.

The Wal-Marting of American Theatre

"Instead of local arts organizations run by and staffed by artists whose lives are made within a specific community and whose artistic vision is informed by that community, Wal-Mart-style regional theaters and their big-box counterparts, the touring houses who sell Broadway remounts, import generic artists from NYC to do generic plays for a short run after which they depart never to be seen again, taking the community's money with them." - Scott Walters

Walters' article reflects the idea of rejecting mass consumerism in our art, instead creating a local art movement, similar to the local food movement. Something gets lost when all regional theatre produces the same ten plays with actors imported from New York.

I know that celebrating local actors has been a rallying cry for the South Florida Theatre Community, even getting a mention on stage during a Carbonell acceptance speech, but Walters' look at the Wal-Marting of theatre goes beyond simply casting local actors -- how is the art we're creating truly reflecting our community? Does our community see itself reflected on our stages?

It's a controversial article, but I thinking looking at that point of view is important.

Reframing the Arts Funding Conversation

Rocco Landesman, who is in the process of leaving his position as NEA chair, recently said that funding for the arts in the United States is pathetic. Clayton Lord of Theatre Bay Area used this as a jumping off point for an article on how the framing of NEA funding in the political arena has changed over the decades. It provides some great context for the shifting point of view of arts funding and how we've gotten into a political football status.

In Other Arts Funding News...

President Obama opposes a limit on charity deductions, which would include non-profit arts groups.

And the New York Philharmonic is so desperate for potential donors that they are engaging in really bad brand building habits. I feel sorry for everyone except the decision maker here -- I've telemarketed subscriptions for a ballet company before, and trying to convince someone who went to The Nutcracker that they want a full season when you've already called them three times is painful for those on both sides of the conversation. It obviously must work for the bottom line, but there really are better ways of building a donor base than alienating former customers.

Too Much Mamet?

Howard Sherman writes on the over-abundance of David Mamet productions on Broadway. I think the situation is fairly similarly paralleled here and I would love to see how the numbers compare.

Pinterest for Organizations (Insert your Pinter Pun Here)

I've only recently gotten into Pinterest on a personal level, but so far I see it's potential as an incredible tool for designers and directors to create boards for shows and inspiration. Now, they've opened up the site for non-profit organizations, which would be a great way to share rehearsal photos and process images for theatre companies.

Audience Interaction Doesn't Have to be Cheesy

Normally when you hear "audience interaction," you think of some unwilling audience member pulled up on stage to their general embarrassment and the condemnation of critics. However, Washington, DC's dog and pony is challenging the definition of the format.

Economies of Scale in the Arts

Ian David Moss takes a look at why funders give to large, institutional organizations and how that impacts the field at large.

Black Magical Thinking and What If

2amtheatre had two really great idea blog posts this week: Travis Bedard's look at how we can get bogged down in negative magical thinking and Pete Miller's thoughts on how to triple play-going by 2020.

(And if your first reaction to Miller's piece is some negative magical thinking -- you aren't alone. While I'm a Pollyanna at heart, I've been involved with institutional theatre long enough to realize that change is painstakingly slow. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.)

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