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February 28, 2008

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Scott Walters

A great question, Isaac! I don't know enough about the current NYC scene to contribute, but I will read with great interest the responses you get!

Jason Grote

Some sort of incentive program for actual PR and ad firms to do pro bono work for small arts institutions - not big organizations like Lincoln Center or the Schuberts, but smaller ones, and specifically focused on outreach to non-theatergoing audiences. The large-scale version of this would be like a "got milk" campaign for alt-theater, but starting small, this could happen on a local level, say by a slight change in the tax code encouraging larger ad agencies to work on a season at a place like Soho Rep or PS122 (here is where it gets a little policy-wonky for me; also, a big flaw in this plan is that ad agencies are not necessarily benevolent, and the campaign could get relegated to a ghetto and forgotten).

freeman

I agree with Grote.

A reduction in rental prices, through subsidies, maybe, would free up theater companies to use their money on all sorts of other things, besides simply procuring an empty space.

malachy walsh

Ad agencies are definitely not benevolent, but you'll find there are many smaller agencies driven by very creative people willing to do work pro bono - with the caveat that you don't fuck with the work. The work of Mad Dogs and Englishmen in the 90s for the Tiny Theatre in NYC is a good example of what I'm talking about when things are good.

Anyway, I think some large scale campaign to get people to reconsider theatre would be a good idea (and wrote several posts about it last year where I often wondered why the TCG isn't coordinating such an effort). Seems a pretty simple no-brainer to me.

I wonder what it would be like if all the theatres in the country picked a day - say the first Thursday of every month - and made attendance on that day, and only that day, FREE.

It would be a loss leader that would certainly lose money on the day, but since one of the problems theatre has is trial, this idea poses a solution that might generate a lot of interest, good will and drive ticket sales the rest of the month.

MattJ

Follow up question: Is it the structural faults in the business of making theatre that should be the initial point of attack? Or should we rather focus on connecting with a new audience.

I choose the latter, because the structural hardships of the business are directly related to the decreased demand.

Us theatre folk can't have our cake and eat it too. We can't spend all of our time hating on the capitalistic impulse/problematic if it is the very thing that makes us ask questions such as you pose here in this post...

99

Two small things for NYC-centric theatre revolution:

- An aggregate review website, a la Metacritic.com, to reduce the NY Times shadow over shows

- An ARTNY project devotely solely to developing new audiences and lowering ticket prices through corporate and government sponsorship of seasons, with a goal of an average $20 ticket at all Off-Broadway houses in five years (or sooner)

Scott Walters

This is real techno-geek. Piggy-backing on 99's Metacritic.com idea, if there was a way to do an Amazon-like thing for people who have seen a show to rate it. Maybe even something real geeky, like an 800-number for people to call and rate a play using stars, or a handheld touchpad for each theatre seat that allows the same thing once the play is over. And then a website where patrons who are so inclined could provide their own thoughts on their experience.

RLewis

This is such a good question that it almost needs to be broken down into a few smaller ones just so it can be answered effectively (stereotype generalization: clinton answers rather than obama answers, not that both aren't good).

I have my fix, but first, I want to chime in on a couple of things even if I'm wrong: subsidies to "reduce rental prices" will be no more effective than Robert Moses building bridges and tunnels to reduce traffic in manhattan; "large scale campaigns" are great for internet chatter (remember the one-play-performed-throughout-the-US-at-the-same-time idea?), but only re-prove the proven "think global, act local" adage - isn't that the point of this whole post; and if you think that ART/NY isn't doing all it can as advocates for govt' and corp' support then you don't know how hard those great folks are working for us (also, I'm confused as to whether we want corp' support or we hate them); and lastly, I'm already working for free to keep my ticket prices low, I don't want to go any lower, cuz then the artists will have to work for free, too.

But my fix would be - "Mergers and Acquistions"! Ok, it sounds very corporate, very big, but companies in the for-profit world use it all the time to great effect, and we have nothing like this in the non-profit world.

Ya see, I believe that our biggest problems result from: burn-out, attrition, and institutional memory laspes. We keep reinventing the wheel. Every year hundreds of new theater companies are formed. Usually they are 1 and 2-person operations, and just putting up one show is a tremendous burden. Within 5 years most groups have folded. But where did there people go?

I often wonder if a small M&A program, just a portal, might help these theater folk before they run screaming out of the community. If your theater is in trouble, don't pull the plug, but find another company through M&A that you can merge with. Wanna start a company, don't go through all that 501c3 crap, aquire a company that's about to go under. Imagine if 3 or 4 companies came together, so all that work can be shared. Would HERE Arts Center ever been able to buy its own space had it not started out as a collection of 4 other companies?

I understand that with varying missions and individual personalities Ms & As are hard to achieve, but not as hard as starting from scratch. It's just that I've made so many great friends in this industry, and way more of them are gone, than are still making the work. I'd love to find a way to keep these talented folks (who have learned so much) from leaving the biz. And maybe we can create more and more enduring companies in the theater community.

99

Hey, RLewis-

I really like that idea! My other idea was about finding ways for Off-Off-B'way companies to share audiences and spaces more. But more mergers is another good way into it.

I also wanted to say that it's not that I think ART/NY isn't working hard enough to garner support for NYC companies, certainly not. But that I think a more concerted effort to specifically lower ticket prices across the board, rather than bump up the overall funding, would be a good thing. Also, the other side of having more support is that fewer artists work for free, or cheap. Ideally, the theatre is fully funded, able to produce the shows it wants and the audience is able to attend for less. I know, Dreamland...

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