Thursday, August 11, 2011

On Space

We co-sponsored the Chicago Theatre Anti-Conference with Theater Wit this week. Good times. There were some stand-out sessions but the best part, as always, was the networking. I hate to call it networking, I hate networking, I like hanging out. But, I got to meet some people I didn’t know and I got to have drinks with some old friends. I guess it’s the same thing.

One of our most pressing issues and one that we talked about at the conference is the one of space. I hear it time and again. This weekend I heard one theatre say they spend 85% of their annual budget on space. Crazy. I heard some other artists who are doing site specific work say that they chose to do that work partly as a reaction to the issue. They didn’t want to have to spend all their energy worrying about how they were going to pay for space. Itinerant companies have trouble finding audiences because their audiences never know where they are going to be.

I think in some ways “storefront” theatre was created as a reaction to the issue of space, but it was more about not being able to get an audience for the kind of work they wanted to do in a big house. Now we have an audience but we don’t have enough theatres of the kind we need. Oy.

I have heard very few workable solutions to the issue and would love to hear from anyone who has heard of something that works. Or anyone who has tried something that hasn’t worked but from which you may have learned something. Ideas??



Richard Engling said...

At Polarity, we are working to open a new space. Part of what will help us make it happen is knowing who might be interested in renting from us or partnering with us as resident companies. We'd love to hear from companies who'd be interested. Check out this web page.
-Richard Engling

David said...

We all know that space in some of the prime locations is simply priced beyond the means of many smaller companys. I would like to see a breakdown of how each theater comes up with these rental fees just to help curb resentments that may happen to fester.

Dan Abbate said...

The economics of space is that we need to make better use of all the spaces we have already. Its not that we need more space, its that we have to maximize the use of what is available (just running shows on Fri/Sat 8pm isn't going to cut it). Its maximizing and sharing that is going to give everyone the best/cheapest base price NOT adding more and more spaces that are all underutilized. An underutilized space is never going to be self sustaining or inexpensive. Its basic economies of scale theater people have to get better accustomed to (and develop products/shows that fit into a "maximizing use" model). Real-estate is expensive and that is what we are talking about when we talk about "space". Its the same for all businesses, even theater.

Unknown said...

Prop Thtr is looking into consortium funding of the space, raising funds for a wide group of artists together, who then all share the subsidy for using a space and which makes beneficial and agreed upon spending for infrastructure a wider spread burden. Factory Theater, Curious Theater Branch, Silent Theatre, Neurokitchen Collective and more are exploring how to pool resources, retain independent profile and better the infrastructure. Beyond that, for 30 years, Prop Thtr has sought to stubbornly avoid the unecessary and focus on the salient, being flexible and hunkering down to change our shape to each project's needs. We use our space for kids and gallerists in the daytime, shows in the evening, readings and weddings in off-times to keep the price for our work as low as possible through good but intensive planning.

Deb said...

Thanks everyone for the great comments and ideas - David, I'm not sure what you are asking for. Would you email me at so we can talk further.