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May 29, 2012


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Whatever the language, we - the indie theaters - are just sitting here and taking it, while another big not-for-profit turned broadway house opens a fancy nightclub.

We're so busy being pissed off at the financial world's 1%, we miss how the 1% of big theaters grow a wider and wider financial gap from the 99% of NYC's other theaters.

The big theaters get 99% of the foundation funding, they get 99% of the govt funding, they get the tax breaks, and they get their elected leaders line item funding. So they open fancy nightclubs that working actors will never be able to afford. And the majority of the City's theaters get less and less funding that in days past was meant for them.

And we have nothing to talk about, and fewer blogs that once talked about it. Is this what it means to get what we deserve?

Scott Walters

If this is it, we're finished. But I remind myself about what Buckminster Fuller said: "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." I haven't written much lately either, because I've come to the conclusion that Fuller is right. That's why I'm not going to the TCG meeting -- those people don't want to change anything significant, they just want to figure out better ways to keep doing what they're doing. So like a rate leaving a sinking ship, I am hopping off onto a new raft.


Part of my question is: how are we defining "finished" here? And a follow-up: who's "we?" The large institutions, which have few real incentives to change anything about the way they do things and a lot of disincentives not to do a blessed thing, they're not going away. A number of mid-sized and small institutions haven't weathered economic environment and have shuttered, but there seem to be other, newer institutions rising to prominence to fill those gaps (in some cases). The "indie" theatres are doing innovative stuff, but it's mostly small-bore, localized and, apparently, irreproducible. Out here in the blogosphere, we talk about new models and some of us create them, but, again, the effects tend to be localized.

I guess the larger point I'm wrestling with is...what if actual change is not coming, not any time soon at all? What if the ship, though listing and certainly captained by people you and I disagree with, isn't going down, but it isn't going to change course at all? How do we interact with a theatre community like that?

Scott Walters

I think the bigger institutions ARE going to change -- by change, I mean collapse.

My personal answer to your last question: I don't. I have given up on the theatre community, a fact which has freed me to imagine alternatives of a very different kind. It's a stoic approach -- focus on what you have the ability to change.


That's not a bad approach. In the end, the actual point, of course, is the audience. They're the ones you want to reach and be in conversation with.


If the audience is the point, then what if they're happy? If we build it and no one comes, what's the point? I'm not saying we shouldn't try (or YOU shouldn't - I freely admit to being entrenched in the establishment) but I think all of us, big and small, need to let go of the "More people should see theatre because WE say it's good for you" attitude. If they (whichever "they" we're talking about in the moment) don't want to come, why are we forcing them? We need to make things people want to see, and they'll see them. There are lots and lots of people out there, so there are lots of things they might want to see. Let's make them.

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