I have talked time and again over at the Cambiare Productions blog about relationships and trust metrics and “street cred” and…. yes I’m as surprised as you are that anyone reads… but I’m going to restate it here because it needs restating.
Ask a theatre artist what they don’t have, wind them up, and go get dinner. They will just chatter on for lifetimes abut the things they don’t have and that goes from the minute the start until the day the pick up their Kennedy Center Honor. The resources a person or company manage to accrue become precious and in need of defending.
So when a small company begins an interrogatory sentence of any kind in the presence of a larger entity is it quickly shot down … not least because so many of those sentences end in “give me money / space / time”. But we need to take a moment, because we’re not all greedy little pedants who don’t value the fact that someone had to earn everything you and your institution have and earning isn’t a naughty word.
As part of the Outrageous Fortune event presented by Wooly Mammoth and the American Voices New Play Institute yesterday a question David Loehr and I had been batting back and forth got asked:
Can larger theatres adopt smaller companies as a junior varsity to meet new artists & auds? Why not?
This was answered with a flurry of “We don’t have the spacetimeresources… partnering across theatre size is the hardest partnership to to difference in focus… blahblahblahblah
First: Larger theatres and I don’t have a different focus. We have the SAME focus. That’s the magic of all of this. Every institution is made up of people, and those people all share my focus. I have yet to run into the mythical “officious bean counting robber baron looking to slash everything at the expense of art”. So let’s stop peddling that line. Larger institutions have different limitations than I do. That’s different having a different focus and we need to say what we mean.
Second: We don’t have a development system in American theatre. We sometimes talk as though we do, but we don’t. So let’s get cracking on creating something. When creating something? Start with your friends.
Every convening I’ve witnessed or been part of has boiled down to: We need morebetterlonger relationships with Real Partners.
So let’s do it.
Major Institutions: You don’t need to produce my show. You don’t need to cast it. You don’t need to do anything other than bless it. A major problem for theatre-goers is that audiences don’t know what’s or who’s good, and “what’s good” isn’t easily discernable from the outside. You, Mr. or Ms. Institution can help me by using your credibility as a purveyor of Good Theatre to let potential audiences and artists know that you approve of us. You have worked with us or seen our work and lo, it was good.
Here in Austin my favorite example of this is what Ken Webster is doing with his Hyde Park Theatre. Hyde Park Theatre is becoming a clubhouse both for a style of theater and a coterie of producing companies and folks that Mr. Webster likes and trusts. People may rent Hyde Park Theatre, but more often than not what’s in the space reflects a relationship with the theatre and with Ken. If you like the dark comedy like Ken does you more likely than not will like the work he blesses. Just like Netflix.
Now, Mr. or Ms. Institution let’s be clear: No company is going to turn down a grant or space to do a show. If you want to bring in Orestes I’ll get the band back together and sharpen the daggers. But even if you can’t or you’re a small company with no resources except your good name: lend a small company your Good Theatre Making Seal of Approval.