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March 02, 2010

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99

I have to say...I've never once thought about this. We get a lot of theatres in dicey parts of town, but, as a guy, safety's only been a small concern of mine. That's an important privilege to consider.

Thanks for bringing it up.

Ben TS

Hey, 99,

I think it may less be a guy thing and more of an outside of NYC thing. Here in the Big Apple, I can only think of one, maybe two theatres that are located in areas I would remotely consider unsafe. It's probably a way bigger concern elsewhere.

Growing up, in fact, most of the regional or indie theatres I visited or participated in were in fairly dicey areas. And class is a relevant co-factor. The biggest LORT near my hometown was located in the downtown of a really crime-riddled small city. For suburbanites, there was a convenient parking garage downstairs. In fact, you didn't even have to go outside--you could more or less just walk upstairs and be in the lobby of the theatre. On the other hand, for the largely working-class, mostly minority, less automotively-inclined local community, walking around that downtown area at night (or even taking a bus) is not something they would want to do in a million years. I'm not what the solution would be exactly, but it's worth thinking about since many of the big theatre towns are not exactly renowned for their safety.

cgeye

That's what I'm getting to -- the hermetically-sealed parking garage within the arts complex; with the assurance that the next sight seen by a patron is the on-ramp to the highway.

The nexus of real estate interests and "creative class" development goals uses the arts as a foothold for progress, but this bargain doesn't really translate into either a welcoming-in of the surrounding (hard-pressed, tired, not affording subscriptions) community nor an integration of the theatre into that community's life. That's why Crossroads Theater in Five Points is now taken over by the city, and theatres across the state are in locations hard and even dangerous to walk to.

As a sidepoint, it's also why Colorado's Park Meadows Mall, hard by the newish Light Rail station, refused to have a connection to that station until its more affluent customers complained -- the little people who actually work there can be indebted to cars and the noblesse oblige of company-provided parking spaces, right? It's also why shopping malls in general consider public transportation connections as irrelevant to their marketing plan -- who wants those sort of people to stress our security force?

Do we want to ally ourselves with the POV of those who give us donations, or those who might give us artistic and spiritual connection, throught their participation in art? Considering these tough times, it's a tough call -- but we should do what we can to consciously make those choices.

cgeye

And, Ben TS:

Are those "safe" theatres in NYC primarily surrounded by bodegas and bars? Do guys hang out on the street? If you walk at night with a woman wearing jewelry, does she tuck a necklace under her clothes, put a ring in her purse? I'm not talking paranoia here, just the usual precautions women are drummed into taking.

I have no doubt that the gentrified neighborhoods have a fairly low number of muggings and hassles, guy-to-guy, but I'd still wonder if you'd let a younger sister travel back and forth without a guide.

cgeye

and, from the Clyde Fitch Report, news of a TDF initiative to train and support 'guides' from communities underrepresented in Broadway attendance:

For β€œNew Audiences for New York,” TDF has selected 20 community groups located throughout the City to participate in this new initiative. During the first year of the program, each participating group will have the opportunity to attend two Broadway productions at prices they can afford. Each performance will be preceded and followed by a moderated discussion with a TDF teaching artist as well as TDF trained group leaders from each of the 20 organizations.

By training group leaders from each organization, TDF seeks to provide the individual groups with the skills to offer a theatre experience to future group participants. Additionally, TDF is educating each organization on how to research and conduct the pre- and post-performance discussions, how to research and select appropriate shows for their group and how to handle the logistics of a group theatre outing.

So it's not only supporting community outreach -- it's teaching groups how to organize into group sales units, to maximize cost savings on tickets. Not too shabby....

Ben TS

Cgeye,

You make a good point. Safety concerns are typically something most men, especially in NYC, are blind to. I should maybe amend what I said by saying the vast majority of theatres in NYC are in areas not appreciably less safe than anywhere else in the city. And I don't have a sister, although I'm pretty sure if I did, I wouldn't want her venturing within fifty feet of the house without me and several large men accompanying her.

cgeye

I guess my unease generally stems from the stats that theatre audiences are largely female, and yet these patrons depend on either their male friends or on an aware theatre management to provide aid in getting to and from theatre safely. I don't want either the patronage or the need for aid to be taken for granted/

Ian Thal

I think about these issues, but I'm not certain what we can ask of the theatre artists: Stop being too poor to present in any but the safest, most accessible neighborhoods?

It's often those companies that happen to be making the shows most affordable to working class audiences.

cgeye

Ian, upselling edifices to theaters isn't my goal. In fact, those edifices cause the same problems in access. Information is the key, not buying more expensive real estate.

Travel directions for theaters usually take the form of driving instructions, especially in NYC where theaters assume folks can look up MTA information. I'm just asking artists to share what they know about the best routes to walk or take the bus. That would reduce frustration and apprehension about being in a new neighborhood.

Before walking to a theatre recently, no one told me there was no functional sidewalk for a half-block on either side of a busy multi-lane street. I walked in a traffic lane, to get there. The assistant who gave me my ticket, however, encountered the same problem, yet no one noticed that this might be an issue in getting audiences to try their theater located in an industrial area away from the theater district.

How much time or money do you need to post, "if you're walking, go this way..." on the Directions page of a website? Not much time at all.

RLewis

@cgeye
"Travel directions for theaters usually take the form of driving instructions, especially in NYC..."

Are you sure that this is true?

Also, when we did our tribute to Off Off Bway a while back, we spoke with many veterans who regaled us with stories of working at the Old Reliable Theater bet' Ave B & C, and how they passed burning cars, homesteaded buildings and an assortment of gangs along the way. Not to make lite of your 1/2 block torment, travel plans are vital, but they call this the good ole days.

cgeye

I'm glad to be wrong, if I'm wrong -- but the "back in *my* day" war stories are stories of people braving danger for the passion of theatre.

Are we producing theatre worth passing burning cars and gangs for? Worth walking in traffic for?

If so, my complaints are frivolous and bourgeois. If not, then they just might matter to someone who already has to go through his or her somewhat dicey (but *known*) neighborhood to go to your dicey but unknown nabe. If we ask patrons to see work that's experimental or hard, how do we help that by asking them to be tougher for the commute?

At least we should own that affection for roughness explicitly, rather than wonder why friends who prefer more comfortable and safer pursuits don't show up.

cgeye

... and I know my concerns are trivial, compared to those documented here:

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/02/making-broadway-accessible-for-the-disabled

But if I'm kvetching about accessible sidewalks, how's someone with a cane or wheelchair going to deal, if no one's available to drive door-to-door?

Ian Thal

I may not live in NYC, but it's pretty obvious both from my visits as well as any statistical information I have read on the subject that most people (including the bourgeoise) get around by public transit, and are generally pretty knowledgeable about the system or at least knowledgeable on means of acquiring that information.

(In the pre-internet days, my aunt and uncle, who are into modern dance, had this thing in their Manhattan apartment called a "map" that showed all the subway lines.)

It's also generally quite easy to come by this information in Boston.

The point is that while it's nice for theatre companies to provide public transportation information, theatre-goers without automobiles are more empowered than ever before when it comes to venturing to theatres they've never attended before.

cgeye

At last, Jerome Weeks, a better writer, says my point:

http://www.kera.org/artandseek/content/2010/03/23/how-we-failed-theater

"It's also true, as I did point out onstage, that there are plenty of people who simply will not go to see theater in what Daisey called "the warehouse down by the river." Yes, if the warehouse puts on great shows, shows that connect with the community, many people will come β€” many who might not otherwise attend. But many won't, and if the aim is to get beyond the theater fans, beyond those of us who love edgy, fringe theater, who don't mind cramped, out-of-the-way, unheated or un-air-conditioned spaces β€” well then, providing creature comforts and physical safety are not small issues we can be smug about. We want theatergoing to become an enlightening, engaging habit for many people, not a life-risk or a form of penance."

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