Thursday, February 3, 2011

With Rigor and Joy

I'm taking a break from blogging about the upcoming elections, because I've got something on my mind. Uh-oh, she's got something on her mind...Ever since I've had this job (a little more than 2 years now), I've listened to people say what's wrong with the way theatres work and frankly, I don't want to hear it anymore. I'm not saying we should stick our heads in the sand and not pay attention to the world around us, particularly when it comes to elections, people! And I'm not saying there's not some really smart people doing the talking, but jeez louise, this latest thing from Rocco really has my knickers in a twist for so many reasons. First off, I have worked in this industry for a long time, at seven different theatre companies ranging from very small to very large and I can say unequivocally that NOT ONE of them was overstaffed. Please. And I can only speak for myself but I have never been overpaid. Second, fewer arts organizations mean fewer opportunities for artists and audiences. Period. In the past two weeks I have sat in the audience for seven plays, with thousands of other people, yup, thousands and I have seen some extraordinary work and in each of those audiences at least a few (but usually all) of the audience members were moved to stand and show their appreciation. I and my fellow audience members were moved and inspired and educated and awed and entertained. Just like we have been for the last 5000 years! I kind of think theatre is here to stay as an art form. So, the idea that we MUST change or we will go away just doesn't fly.

I'm not kidding myself that everything is peachy and I'm not saying that we should look away from new ideas, especially good ones, or that we should look away from what the numbers are telling us, or that we should look away from what our audiences (or lack thereof) are telling us. So, what are we going to do you say, what about these problems we have - our declining audience and our structural deficits and our artists not getting paid enough. Well, I once had an artistic director who said, during a time of great turbulence, that we must "approach the work with rigor and joy," beautifully put. We must work rigorously toward bringing in new audiences, we must work rigorously toward balancing our budgets, we must work rigorously toward educating decision makers and funders about the importance of our work and we must approach every part of this work with the joy we have in the creation of it. That’s not an answer, and I don’t have one, but neither does anyone else, we can only keep doing the work and keep adapting this ancient art form to the modern world and doing it with joy, don’t forget the joy.



A Filmer said...

This is why I love Deb Clapp!
Well said, Deb.

With rigor and joy,
Ann Filmer

Unknown said...

Thanks for the timely reminder. Easy to remember the rigor and forget the joy. I love what I do so much that sometimes I get lost in its challenges. Did you see Trisha Mead's response to Rocco's comments on Cott Mail or her 2AM Blog? She makes a great argument for the regionals as the "R&D" arm of the theatre and says that "supply-and-demand" is a flawed metric for evaluating them (us). Between the two of you, I've got renewed energy. So glad to have such articulate and thoughtful advocates leading the response.

Unknown said...

Mr. Landesman seems to forget that declining participation in the arts very likely has something (a lot) to do with declining overall incomes in America. Do something about that (including funding the arts), and you might do something about participation.

Lisa Gordon