Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Off Stage Conversations

Hello, this is Andie Arthur, executive director of the South Florida Theatre League, with Off Stage Conversations, where I look at some of the issues that are being discussed in the national and international theatre community. Also, I post nifty theatre finds when I find them.

You keep on using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

The Guardian has a piece on overused words and phrases in arts related press releases. Not everything is ground breaking, thought-provoking, challenging, etc. And after a while of reading press releases (and in my job I read a LOT of press releases) all these words stop meaning anything anymore.

As artists and administrators, we need to be smarter about how we describe our art. And part of that is to stop being lazy in how we describe our work and really find the few words that get to the heart of the show that we're doing.

Theatre and the Internet

The DramaLit blog bemoans the lack of e-book plays from the major publishers and asks if there is a way for us to read hot new plays legally, without having to wait the normal couple year process until they are published. There is Indie Theatre Now and Original Works Publishing, but both of those companies focus on smaller, lesser known plays and playwrights.

In more internet theatre capability, this weekend I discovered OnTheBoardsTV, which provides high quality video of theatre and dance performances. You aren't going to find a traditional play there, but you can find some brilliant examples of devised theatre, including The Rude Mech's The Method Gun. The Rude Mechs were in Miami with this show last week and I've been thinking about it ever since. I haven't rented the performance yet, but I plan to.

I realize not everyone is going to be as jazzed about devised work as I am. But if you are, On The Boards TV is a great resource to see work you can't normally see in Miami.

The Old Theater vs. Theatre Argument

ArtVoice has an article on the spelling of theater and theatre. What makes this article worth posting is that it has historical background on how the theater spelling came to be -- and no, it isn't the building vs. the art form.

Funding, Diversity and Mission

Diane Ragsdale has a great piece on ArtsJournal on how foundations' requirements for funding fit into the larger narrative about diversity in the theatre. There's a lot of great stuff in here: she points out that if you want to diversify audiences, not only do you need to change your programing and your marketing, but you need to give it time. You have to be able and willing to lose some of your current subscriber base in order to grow a new one and that process can take a decade. And foundations that are funding diversity initiatives need to recognize that change doesn't happen as a grant cycle.

Ragsdale also makes the point that arts organizations will apply for funding just because its funding and not because they are committed to diversifying audiences. And she makes two good points that apply to all grant seekers, not just those seeking grants for changing their audiences:
Don’t apply for the money, no matter how desperate you are for resources, if the proposal guidelines make you roll your eyes.
If you read the application and the funder appears to be interested to support a change you do want to make in your organization (cultivating more diverse audiences, for instance), don’t apply for that grant until you have calculated the total cost of that change on your organization over the next decade and can present that number in your application to the funder, letting the funder know (a) how long you reasonably expect it to take for the change to be implemented; (b) how much you expect it to cost; and (c) the amount you would need from the funder to commit to making the change.
Taking on funding simply because it is there instead of because it organically fits with your organization so often leads to trouble down the line.

Can Art be Universal?

In part of his recent slate of blog posts looking at diversity, Clayton Lord asks if there is such a thing as universal art -- or do we just ascribe the majority's experiences as universal? And if we can reach true universality, how can we go about looking for it instead of the "lip-service" universalism paradigm we're currently working with?

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