This is definitely a must-read, and a nice bit of validation for having a non-theatre arts-policy wonk on board for the group read-thru. Check out Ian David Moss' take here. He strips down Outrageous Fortune to some of its core conflicts, and shows how basically the mess we're in is a pretty clear result of market forces at work.
He ends up the same place I am at right now: The way to reform the new play landscape is to reform the funding landscape. We'll have more on that later, but in the meantime, seriously, RTWT.
UPDATE: Scott's comment makes it clear that what I meant by "reform the funding landscape" is totally vague, so let me just expand on that point for a second... There are two ways forward, as far as I can tell, for changing the New Play Landscape. The first one is what I'll call the Buckminster Fuller route, which is to say Create Something New. Scott's CRADLE Arts, Gus' Homing Project, 99 and other joining the self-producing bandwagon, 13P... these are all examples (big and small) of that. This fits into Mead Hunter's take that the only way to win is not to play. Obviously I agree with and am supportive of that. I think for most individual artists, this is the thing that makes sense. So the revolutionary side of me is satisfied with that.
But as I said before, there's a reformist side to me as well. And that side notices how many of the issues with New Play Development come down to incentives created by the funding community. And so, it seems that an enormous amount of good could be done by reforming those incentives. Scott thought I simply meant "more money" and while I am an advocate for more money (for reasons that should be obvious) what I was actually talking about here was reforming grant guidelines and funder priorities. The emphasis on World Premieres, for example, has been particularly toxic. It's also particularly illustrative... Notice in the book (which I don't have with me in DC so this is from memory) that they quote artistic directors who say that they see no evidence that calling something a World Premiere increases audience attendance. So who are they trying to please by calling shows-- including ones that aren't-- Premieres? Simple, funders, who often define New Play quite strictly.
Ian outlines some other areas where funders have shaped the New Play Landscape... another example is that, by relying on long-term financial viability as a major deciding factor, grant givers end up funding the very theaters that do new play development (and production) poorly... but the theme runs throughout the book. There is some evidence that the funding community is more flexible and open to a broader conversation than the current generation of artistic directors (ex: the NEA gave Scott money to start CRADLE!). So I see an opportunity to do some good there.
The current American Theatre System was created by grant money and grant guidelines. It has been shaped by grant money and guidelines. It will continue to be. To ignore the funding part of the puzzle is to ignore half of the story. That's all I'm saying. We can do both the Buckminster Fuller route and the Funding Route at the same time.