Don’t Start…

02.15.11 | 22 Comments

CATEGORIES ideas, non-profit theatre, producers, rabble rousing, supply / demand, theatrical ecosystem

Please Don’t Start a Theater Company, I Say Again…

In 2009, I read with interest a call from Edward Clapp, a graduate student at Harvard, for essays on the future of the arts by arts workers under 40.  Thinking about what to write, I recalled a conversation I’d had just before that with a young director who was considering starting a theater company.  Surprisingly given that I had just stepped down after ten years as the artistic director of a company I’d founded, I heard myself urging him “Please, don’t start a theater company!”  This ended up being the burden of the proposal I sent Edward, then eventually the title of the chapter that I was honored to have selected for his book.

Reading the complex responses to Rocco Landesman’s remarks at Arena about the possible need to reduce the supply of non-profit theater companies, made me think all over again about why I wrote the chapter.  I believe very strongly that there is little need and nearly no space for more and more companies founded in imitation of the large regionals.  But that doesn’t means I think there is no future in the theater.  It means instead that we should build something different.

Here’s how I began my chapter (I’m going to quote liberally here, you can read the whole thing by buying the book):

I was twenty-three when I arrived in San Francisco, fresh from assistant-directing at the Royal Court in London and eager to start my theater career. I was brimming over with enthusiasm, and maybe just a little hubris. Shortly thereafter, I founded Crowded Fire Theater Company, full of plans for it to quickly become the next major regional theater. My generation of theater artists grew up on the stories of how our current crop of institutions were founded—Sam Shepard and his collaborators starting the Magic Theater in a Berkeley bar, Tony Kushner premiering Angels in America at the Eureka, Bill Ball asking cities to compete to house A.C.T.—why shouldn’t my company be the next success story?  I had no question about what that success would look like—it would look like a building with staff and a season, with subscribers and youth programs, and a healthy mix of earned and contributed income.

It turns out I wasn’t alone in my ambition. In the past fifteen years, the number of non-profit theater companies in the U.S. has doubled while audiences and funding have shrunk. Neither the field nor the next generation of artists is served by this unexamined multiplication of companies based on the same old model. The NEA’s statistics on non-profit growth, set against their sobering reports on declining arts participation, illuminate a crucial nexus for the field, a location of both profound failure and potential transformation. The proliferation of small theater companies sits at the intersection between the necessity to imagine different structures for making theater and our field’s failure to provide career paths for the next generation of artists. Since the Ford Foundation’s investments kicked off the regional theater movement fifty years ago, there has been tremendous collective buy-in to what has now become a fossilized model of a particular type of non-profit theater. Within this structure, there is now a critical lack of opportunity for emerging artists and leaders, leaving the next generation of artists no alternative but to start companies of their own, companies that often replicate the problems of established theaters on a smaller scale.

So, are we as a sector overbuilt? I would say yes, if we’re talking about the percentage of dollars that go to administrators versus artists.  I would say, yes, if we’re talking about the number of institutions that have outlived their creative prime and go on receiving foundation support out of habit and sense of legacy.  I would say, yes, when you think about endowments that have sewn up in perpetuity funds that are no longer available for any other creative enterprise in a particular city.  My colleague David McGraw, who writes in 20under40 about the possibility of creating a theater company with a built in expiration date, uses the metaphor of an old-growth forest where the large trees are choking off oxygen to the understory.  That’s a serious problem

But are we overbuilt when it comes to artists?  Here’s where I say resoundingly no. Here’s a bit more from my chapter:

Is there a “glut” of new artists entering the field? Theater internship programs are besieged by applicants, new play festivals have to bring on extra staff to read all the incoming scripts, and BFA and MFA programs now graduate hundreds of new artists each year. Established theater professionals, entrenched in long-term scarcity, deplore the naiveté of the “wannabe” artists flooding the field and are quick to insist that there is no possible way to provide employment for all of them. But in a time of shrinking audiences, how can we reject the one group of people who are excited about the theater? These are people who want to participate in the essential project of telling the stories of our culture. They’re going to find the means for creative expression, if not in the theater then in other more accessible media. Moira Brennan at the MAP Fund comments, “There’s an increased sense among individual makers that you can be an artist if you want to be. We don’t want to discourage this self-expression.” Marc Vogl at the Hewlett Foundation agrees: “Who are the villains in this story? Not the artists and people who want to do new things. We can’t wish for people to stop making things, that’s not the problem.”

Of course, not everyone who wants to be an actor or a playwright or a director has an equal amount of talent and many will never develop into mature artists working on a professional level. No one is suggesting that all of these aspiring artists are owed equal success. But it’s a mistake to pretend that our current system selects only for talent. Rather, gate-keeping as it currently operates in the field selects for economic privilege (like family support that can subsidize an unpaid internship or pay for an MFA program), for lucky choice of life partner (a higher-earning partner’s income often subsidizes low arts wages), and for lack of dependents (advancement often demands many weeks on the road, a challenge for parents of young children or those with other family responsibilities). These factors work against diversity in the upper ranks of the field and discourage participation by many people who might otherwise help revitalize the theater.

It should be a source of pride and joy to theater professionals that there are so many people who want to join this field and make this their life’s work.  But if we want to discover which aspiring artists will turn into the architects of tomorrow’s theater, then we have to give them opportunities to learn their craft, and we have to provide a career path that sustains them as they grow.  So many beginning artists find that the only way to get their work into the world is to start a theater company, and almost as many mid-career artists continue to run their own companies because there’s no other way to have the artistic freedom they want.  But in many if not most cases, these companies struggle financially, don’t pay living wages to artists or the founders, and divert energy from the true project of making the most extraordinary art you can.  If it turns out that you really shouldn’t begin your career by starting a theater company, then what can we offer artists instead?

If you’re at an established company, then look around and see what aspiring artist, what maverick playwright, what hungry ensemble you can welcome into your space, your season, or the structure of your organization.  At the very least, make sure that you’re offering real artistic opportunities to your junior artistic staff and take a hard look at your hiring practices to see if you’re succeeding at bringing in the next generation of artists.

If you’re a funder, then wake up to the fact that it is the long-held practices of foundations that are deeply implicated in the over-proliferation of non-profits.  Start funding projects with fiscal sponsors and try your best to get money directly in the hands of artists.  Stop advising every arts organization to meet some cookie-cutter set of best practices before they have enough “organizational capacity” to receive funding.  And please stop demanding that every organization have a plan to exist in perpetuity.

If you’re a theater artist thinking of starting a company, or taking your project down the 501 (c) (3) path then I urge you to stop and consider alternatives.  Ask yourself whether this is primarily a way to meet your own artistic or career needs. If so, then give yourself a time period in which you will devote at least at much energy to advancing your career in other ways as you were going to spend reading that Nolo Press book on how to incorporate.  Make meetings with larger theaters to see if you can join forces, try to see if you can connect with someone else with a space, an audience, some kind of demand that you can supply.  Think hard about whether running an organization will give you more or less time to pursue your art.

If the organization you want to found is truly about meeting a community need (the real basis of the tax status after all) then get clear about defining that need and making sure that no one else is already taking care of it. Maybe you’re in a rural area where there are no other theaters, maybe there is a population in your city whose stories are not being told, maybe you truly have a new artistic approach. In that case, get as creative with your structure as you plan to be with your art and make a new kind of organization.

These are some of my thoughts about what we might build instead. I hope we’ll all keep thinking about this question, and I applaud Rocco for getting the conversation rolling as provocatively as he did.  I’ll leave you with the conclusion from my 20under40 chapter, which asks us to think about how to sustain artists rather than continually focusing on sustaining institutions:

Every artist I spoke to told me that it doesn’t take much to sustain a life in the theater. No one got into this trying to be rich. But you don’t stay twenty forever and after that you do occasionally need to buy shoes, or go to the doctor, or send your children to preschool. And one day you might like to send them to college, or buy a house, or even retire. The middle-class dream shouldn’t be out of reach for theater artists, especially when every city now includes several hundred theater administrators who receive the benefits of permanent employment while the artists by and large are still camping outside the gates.

With increased competition for audiences and many easier ways for people to tell and share stories, theater is facing threats from many directions.  The future of the field depends on making the work on our stages as visionary, as creative, as compelling, and as diverse as it can be. We can’t reach this goal unless a wide range of the most creative artists and the most ingenious producers are allowed to develop their skills and are then supported over the long haul so their art can mature. The field must re-focus resources on the challenge of sustaining artists rather than sustaining particular institutions. Brilliant early work is a wonderful thing, but where would we be without Shakespeare’s last plays, or the end of August Wilson’s great cycle? Artists need support not just in starting out, but in carrying on, not just as apprentices, but as journeymen and master craftsmen as well.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest posts by Rebecca Novick (see all)

Send to Kindle
  • I make the argument to people who tell me they want to start companies that they should try to resist the temptation – not because there are too many theatre companies, but because taking on the burden of running an organization will reduce the amount of time they can spend on art. I point out that if they care about paying the artists who work for them at any level and want to perform in front of substantially full houses, they will have to roughly divide their time into thirds between art making, art promotion, and fund raising. I also suggest to them that if I fail to talk them out of taking on the artistic director job their next thought should be to operate their company as a time limited project, meant to serve a particular need for a group of artists for a particular time, mostly allowing all of them to gain experience and exposure and therefore be better positioned to get work on the stages of established companies. I have yet to prevent any company launches with this line of argument, but I at least feel I’ve set them on their way with eyes open.

  • I think that you ask excellent questions, particularly of the artists who start companies as a way to further their careers. But, I do wonder. Would Sam Shepard have been Sam Shepard if the Magic had not been founded?

    I just don’t believe that there is a level playing field and it very much is about who you know and not necessarily your abilities. And I think this is true for any career path, not just theater. I see the same names cropping up again and again particularly in the high profile jobs. Even the larger non-profits (or, perhaps, especially the larger non-profs) feel the financial sting and hire “safe” prospects.

  • Trisha Mead

    Yes! You’ve identified the core issue that has created over-abundance. There is no journeyman program for young directors, artistic directors and artists. Young actors can show up to any open call audition and have their skills evaluated. Young directors have no way to establish their bona fides without self-producing.

    And I emphatically second your objection to the fact that the few mechanisms we do have for letting the next generation into our instititutions self-selects for class privilege and childlessness.

    It also addresses the issue of age diversity in the audience, in an oblique way. Multiple studies have shown that the demographics of your audience has a lot to do with the demographics of your artistic decision-makers. If you want a young audience, and there is no one in your artistic department under the age of 40, you have a problem.

    Of course, the challenge is that there is currently no meaningful role for journeyman directors to play in our ecology. Most directors have little use for assistant directors (the most famously vacuous and asinine position in the American theater). If we cannot trust our aspiring directors with the reins of a production, then what CAN we offer for them to do that is meaningful work, a step forward in their careers and a potential reason to not invest their life savings and their first 10 years post-college into founding a company that will hang around long after their career ambitions no longer require it?

  • Fantastic stuff. Thank you.

  • David Dower

    Well done, Rebecca. And I love your whole article and highly encourage readers here to get the whole thing.

    A bedtime story for those who started and don’t know how to end. Part of a larger thing over at Diane Ragsdale’s but related here. And I’m working on a post about the whole notion of “redundance” as the enemy of “abundance”. (Trish- I don’t actually think what we’re talking about here is”over-abundance”. More on that another time…) Anyway, to Trisha’s point about companies hanging around; the story of an ending that was a beginning, abbreviated:

    How to end elegantly. Alan’s hit the nail on the head of at Diane Ragsdales “Jumper” blog*.

    Among the few things I’ve accomplished in my life in nonprofit theater, one of the highlights for me is still the time I was part of a successful company that closed. We had some money still in the bank, we had a growing reputation as the up-and-comers in our community, we had five years and twelve largely successful productions under our belt. We had awards and a mailing list. And a rehearsal studio. At about year six, we met to plan our next projects, and we found that none of us– and we were ten people– not one of us had a project that we were burning to lead as part of the collective. Stunned silence for a long moment … I remember confessing, maybe even tearfully, that I wasn’t going to be able to carry my still-volunteer responsibilities as the main worker bee on the administrative side, either. I held up an imaginary steering wheel and said “can I please hand this to someone?” No one. We started to talk about maybe handing the company to ten other people. There were certainly colleagues we’d worked with who would want it. But that seemed weird. We were the people who started it together — for no other purpose than to make work together. And it had this weird name that related to the restaurant most of us worked at. What sense was it going to make, all of a sudden, for ten other people to be “the Z’s”? It took a long period of careful conversation to realize what we were saying and what the path was as a result of what we were saying. We “retired” as the Z Collective. We reorganized into The Z Space — opening the rehearsal studio and the 501(c)3 to forty Bay Area artists who wanted, as “the Z’s” had, to develop their own voice and vision in theater alongside others doing the same. Most of the original members of the Collective were in that group of resident artists, but not all. And the Z Space took a number of years to find its footing, since it was started in a sort of rush coming out of the Collective’s retirement. But the change eventually took hold and nearly 20 years later there’s still a relevant, productive, struggling but plucky company focused on developing Bay Area theater in San Francisco. However we did it, wherever we got the courage to “fail” as a Collective, it was the kind of success I hope other people get to experience at some point in their lives in theater.


  • You could be a little more explicit, and say something like: urban white people, especially if fresh out of college, please think twice, or thrice, before starting a theater company. Because there are plenty of under-served audiences for theater. But as you say, we must “get clear about defining that need and making sure that no one else is already taking care of it.” Instead, people like me, urban-dwelling white men, keep making an awful lot of companies that just repeat the work of our famous idols. And I, frankly, doubt our willingness to effectively and continuously champion voices that are not our own to reach audiences that are different from us.

  • I agree with what you’re saying; however, I have a question: how do we encourage further diversity among a theatre community without starting new theatres?

    I love my theatre community. We have some really talented artists doing great work. But the work that is being done is incredibly similar: either big splashy musicals or edgy newer work that was recently seen off-Broadway or brand new plays. We have one company that does American classics, and one company that produces Shakespeare every so often. I miss seeing classics. I miss seeing visually stunning theatre. I miss seeing theatre from different cultural backgrounds. If you’re in Chicago or DC, I would agree — a new theatre company probably isn’t needed. But what is the answer for smaller, more homogeneous communities?

    • Rebecca Novick

      I think that’s a great question Andie. I’m in SF where what you’re describing is not the case, although we suffer sometimes from other kinds of homogeneity. I think my initial reaction is that even in this case I would wonder whether the 501 c 3, with its attendant trappings and challenges is the only possible way to make more kinds of theater available.

      • And you make a very valid point. I’ve just been encouraging those who have been starting theatres who want to do different work, while agreeing with you have already said. For example, my community has had three productions of Cabaret in the past four months. Granted, South Florida is a 100 mile long area, but two are in the same city. Drives me bonkers. But I do think there are audiences out there who aren’t being served in my community, and could be served by new companies. As long as those companies are serving a mission that isn’t already being covered.

        But there are no great places for journeymen artists in my community, which makes your point really ring true. Our artistic directors mostly direct their entire seasons which contributes to the homogeneousness. Often younger artists feel that the only way to do the work they want to do is to start their own theatre. I know I often have felt that way, but have not done it for various reasons…most of them similar to what you’re saying.

        Also, I would love to get the conversation on the funding level to be about this. Particularly about your paragraph about sustainability. I’ve had a conversation with a funding entity whose board was annoyed that they had funded theatres that weren’t around. It requires education to change that outlook. Add into that that the majority of our theatres are 20 years or younger (with the oldest being about 35), we don’t have a sense of theatres as institutions that you have in Chicago or elsewhere. Only a few have transitioned past their original founders. So the conversation also would need to explore the idea of creating theatre without creating a theatre — since most of our theatres were created by folks saying, “I want to make some art. Let’s start a theatre.”

        Thanks for all this stuff to ponder on.

  • Brava, Rebecca! Thank you for sharing your experience and your chapter from 20 UNDER 40. It is a refreshing perspective.

    I’m curious as to how strategic alliances among small theatre companies might be a win-win. Many LORT theatres have found the co-production (co-pro) to be effective for their companies. Young and talented writers, directors, actors and producers of companies that share artistic values, have an opportunity in the current economic climate to pool their resources (or lack thereof!) in collaboration. I believe such collaboration could result in releasing the next-gen-genius into the American theatre.

    Also, isn’t there an alternative to the 501(c)3 that is currently being evaluated? I keep hearing about it but don’t have concrete information.

    • L3Cs are gaining traction. These are low-profit limited liability companies. The designation means that a nonprofit, like a foundation, can make an investment in an L3C without putting their nonprofit tax exempt status at risk. They are mostly found in the social entrepreneurship space, where entrepreneurs actually do intend to make some profit and scale up, but want to put social return on equal footing (or higher) with financial return.

      The way I understand it, which could be wrong, is that the L3C is about how an organization gains capital for investment (which is a lot different than operating support year after year).

      I’m curious to see how the L3C will be applied to the arts. The nonprofit business model for most performing arts organizations would not adapt well to an L3C, because the costs are typically so much higher than earned revenues, and no contributor is expecting a financial return–not even a small one. So this would definitely require a different perspective on operating a performing arts organization.

  • Thank you for this post, Rebecca! It’s certainly something to chew on for someone like me, who belongs to a very new, not-yet-not-for-profit theatre company. Luckily we’re having a retreat-style meeting next week where we are asking the big questions “Who are we? What do we want to be when we grow up?” I’ll probably throw in now, “Should we even exist?” and based on Ann’s great comment above, “Who can we partner with to create a win-win situation for both of our companies.”

    I don’t think we’ll give up anytime soon; however, it would be a disservice for the company not to ask the “hard questions” and ensure that we indeed are a vital, contributing part of our community and not just a bunch of chicks who wanna perform.

  • The author argues that many established theatre companies have outlived their usefulness, and then draw the resources away from smaller startup companies. I don’t know if that’s a case for not starting a theatre company so much as it is a call for a new paradigm in arts funding.

    Case in point, a major Washington DC theatre (whose output over the past decade or so, in my opinion at least, hasn’t justified its status as one of America’s most prestigious regional theatres) has just finished a $120M renovation, funded in part by a single $35M gift, the largest individual donation to a regional theatre in history. Was that the best use of this money? What if this donor had given $34M plus $1M worth of microgrants to smaller DC theatre companies? $10k to a struggling startup goes a much longer way toward fulfilling its mission than a $10M to a nationally renowned company.

    While not every startup theatre company will grow up to be the Roundabout, Arena Stage or Steppenwolf, I would argue that resources going to the big theatres instead of startups is more of a pressing problem than having too many startup companies.

    Applied to the world at large, if I had a passion for coffee, would you suggest that I go work for Starbucks rather than start up my own roasting company? Eventually that means that Starbucks will be the only place left.

  • Rebecca Novick

    John, I think changes in funding structure are a critical part of this conversation. To your last point, I’m not sure if the coffee analogy will hold here but I’ll give it a try. If your plan was to try to replicate everything Starbucks did, down to the taste of the coffee, but without its economies of scale, and its national brand, then I would feel skeptical of your business plan. And if cafe’s in general required at least a 50% subsidy each year to stay open, then I would urge you into a different line of work. I think it’s a great idea to start new theater companies as long as the company has a different product, business model, and actually leads to greater support for the work you want to make. It’s the attempt to scale down the big model that I think is generally misguided.

  • Rebecca, thanks for advocating for direct support of artists and knocking down all the structural requirements for funding, that’s great.

    However, I’m worried about creating a stigma against new theatre companies. If we all agree that new companies based on old models are detrimental, doesn’t it logically follow that they are less worthy of funding?

    In reality, how would new structures contribute to a better ecology when the real problem is that there is no government funding of the arts? Aren’t we getting distracted from the real problem?

  • I would say: don’t start a company in an already-flooded city like NY, LA, Chicago. Go somewhere they actually NEED theatre, and form it there. Is it about the work, or about fame? If it is about the work, there is no need to be in NYLACHI.

    • I’m tired of it being about the work, which typically is code for it being about the artists’ autonomy. Bully for them, but I want it to be more about the audiences. Of course, saying it’s about the audiences can lead to the exact same conclusion–get out of the saturated markets and find the audiences who need you.

      That said, there are under-served markets in NY, LA and CHI, too. But a bunch of white dudes right out of theater school are unlikely to reach them.

  • Ian Gallanar

    Thanks for your posting and leading this discussion. It is something I care very much about (and talk far too much about). I love the fact that Rocco Landesman threw a bomb to start this conversation even though I don’t agree with many of his points- mostly that there is a limited demand.

    BUT- I agree entirely with your point that there is “nearly no space for more and more companies founded in imitation of the large regionals.”

    That model does indeed have a fixed demand. But other theater models can increase demand in all sorts of ways.

    (Disclosure- I am the Founding Artistic Director of a company with a mission to create a new relationship between classical theater and our community- Maryland’s Chesapeake Shakespeare Company)

    If we do the same old kind of plays in the same old way in the same old buildings with the same old architecture with the same old theater culture and market it in the same old way, we limit our audience tremendously. In that case, I agree- the growth of demand is enormously limited. If, however, we can break clear of traditional thinking about who can go to the theater and why and create new delivery systems for our work, there is enormous growth potential.

    Half of my company’s audience doesn’t go to other theater. They have very little experience in attending theater and will not be setting foot in any theaters with the typical regional model anytime soon. They are attracted to another way of presenting theater- and to me, that’s the secret.

    We have a glut of theaters that follow, more or less, the same model. White, affluent, retired (mostly women), highly educated folks have a huge amount of theater from which to choose. What about everyone else? Is it theater that they don’t like or is it the kind of theater that we present to them that they don’t like?

    • I would add, why would we think we could reach everybody else, when we mostly look like younger versions of that same over-served audience?

      Some of us, people like me, highly educated white men, need to take the bench: stop initiating and producing more work, and instead get behind the artistic leadership of new, under-represented voices.

  • michael rohd

    This conversation is smart.
    Rebecca, your writing is such a good provocation for a necessary conversation.

    But I do want to throw in something i don’t hear-
    Young artists thinking about starting a company to make your own work-
    do it.
    Please, ignore all this smart, reasoned talk about sustainability and business models.

    Yes, have an intent, purpose- a mission.
    Yes, don’t imitate existing institutional models- be as creative in how you organize as you are in the rehearsal room.
    Yes, connect with and serve and engage
    audiences/participants/constituents that are not already the primary ‘target’ of artistic practice/product in places where there is not a glut of existing live art content/experience available.
    Yes, NYC & Chicago & DC & LA- maybe they don’t need more companies…maybe they do, if you (fill in the blank with what makes you different)
    Yes, maybe you are around for a year, maybe 25 years.
    Do it.
    Start that company.

    There were and are many reasons to not do it-
    some are about taking care of the larger ecology,
    some are about your own career,
    and some are about realistic, practical thoughts regarding your own stability and well-being.

    And all of those should give you great pause when you think about doing your own thing.
    They did me.

    And if was more thoughtful about it 11 years ago, i would not have started a company.
    And i’m really glad I did.
    And i’m really glad for the young companies with original visions and reckless ambition and disciplined commitment to community that i see, meet and hear about all the time.

    Find your gang.
    Do it.

    Michael Rohd, Founding Artistic Director
    Sojourn Theatre

  • Walt828

    Theatre people need to do a market analysis, and learn — yes — about supply and demand, about what a saturated market is, and realize that, if they really care about the work, it doesn’t matter where they do it. If, on the other hand, you care most about your career and not the work, then yo need to cluster in the same place that all the power-brokers are.

  • Rebecca Noon

    I am late coming to this conversation but nevertheless, I am here.
    Rebecca, I loved reading your article. It comes to me at a prophetic time.

    I moved to SF in 2000 fresh out of college. I interned and then worked for the Z Space because I wanted to run my own theatre company. However, through working with so many fledgling companies at the Z (your own Crowded Fire included) eventually I decided that all that producing was for the birds; that I could be an independent performer and live at least a more normal life. Somewhere along the way I got passionate about physically-devised work and left SF in 2006 for physical theatre grad school in London. I was still sure that I would never run a company. I was too smart to be seduced.

    Within six months of graduating from devising school I had a company. Today we work out of Providence, RI and are collaborating with Perseverance in Juneau, Ak, both small cities that have no other devising companies and audiences hungry for the work, so that’s an easy fit. And, now in my 30’s I discover that all that stuff at the Z Space that I used to think was a big pain, is actually a passion. We as of yet have no business plan, no desire to have a building, and no mission statement. We are a group of people who keep making things together and so it’s convenient and powerful to call ourselves a company, but not in the way you describe.

    We do not have a name as of yet and that is beginning to be a problem. As our reputation grows, people want to know who we are. We do not know exactly what we do — only what we have done. Much like being a working actor who resists Equity, by resisting a 501(c)(3), a mission statement, and for gods sakes a name the average theatre person assumes we are less ambitious, less professional, and ultimately, less worthy.

    Some days I feel the desperate need to conform and throw in the company towel, but after reading your article (even if you didn’t mean to) I feel very cutting-edge.