in Seattle’s The Stranger reviewer Brendan Kiley writes The Ten Things Theaters Need to Do Right Now to Save Themselves. Some of what he says rings very true for me but much of it left me with a bad taste in my mouth. It may be that what he is saying is just so specific to Seattle but it brings up some interesting points none the less. What type of art do we want to be creating? What is the service that we are bringing to our audiences? To our art?
I agree with his desire to make theaters more accessible to younger audiences, who doesn’t want that? Yes, there should be bars and venues for discussion and drinking following the show! Yes, there should be child care provided for young families!
I agree that we should be promoting new plays and helping our audiences realize that the creation of new art is what theater is about! (plus, that’s kinda the basis for what I want to do with my life)
But where he lost me was near the end of his list when he started talking about poverty and education.
“Expect poverty”: Yes, poverty is now the status quo for theater audiences but shouldn’t we be striving to find ways to ensure that our artists are making a living wage. Shouldn’t we be working towards a lifestyle where we are able to support ourselves without having to have two or three extra jobs, which drain our energy to create the art? I think it should be the other way “don’t expect poverty!” I think theaters should stop spending money on illusion (expesive sets, costumes, effects) until they can afford to support the artists. Why spend more money on an object used in a production then on the people in the production? Support people first, theater is a medium built on people. The stronger the people the stronger the work.
And obviously I have issues with the “Drop Out of Graduate School” advice. Yes, graduate school is expensive, yes, those in it will be in debt, but it’s our choice to know more about the craft we are involved in. It’s about having the time to focus on what we want to be doing to make that kind of commitment to the profession. Isn’t that important for the future of theater? people who are committed to it’s survival. “Drama departments are staffed by has-beens and never-weres” he says, well, certainly he’s not talking about the actively working and amazing faculty at Columbia. But even if the professors are not out making new theater every day, they too are devoted and dedicated who what theater has been and what theater will be. No one goes into this profession with out the hope and goal to keep theater alive. And that is no where more clear than in the educational systems.