Thursday, November 29, 2012

Transformation and Change

I have been reading some articles about transformation and how the arts just can’t seem to transform themselves. Interesting since most of us transform ourselves every time we do a new show but never mind, that’s not what people are talking about – they are talking about real change – they are talking about changing everything we do and how we do it and I just think that is crazy. Here we all are…still…even though I keep hearing about how it’s the end for all of us if we don’t do everything differently right now! When I was a younger administrator I asked my boss at the time what he thought about the death of the subscription model and he got very loud and said he was sick and tired of hearing about the death of the subscription model, that he had been hearing about it his entire career. That was at least 10 years ago. So, it’s not dead yet and we haven’t changed yet and we carry on. But we do change. We change all the time, and we are not all the same. I cannot think of two theatre companies that are run exactly the same way and yet we are all lumped into this category of moribund institutions with bloated staffs and we need to be more flexible and more diverse and on and on. Have I ever written here about my vision of the field – its got an inner circle of people doing the work and an outer circle of people shouting negative things at the inner circle doing the work. Sometimes that’s how it feels (and by the way, I count myself in the outer circle, but hope that I am a positive force). I think we need criticism and I think as artists and arts organizations we need to constantly think about what we are doing and whether its relevant and who its relevant to and what path we are on. Nobody likes change but change we must as humans and as organizations. I think we do change and I think we achieve great things when we change but we can’t change everything all at once. In Chicago I think we are incredibly lucky to be able to learn from each other and in some cases dodge bullets and in other cases reap the benefits of the risks others take. I might argue that we don’t pay enough attention to what others in the field are doing and that we don’t pay enough attention to our communities, interacting and engaging in real ways. But, I would also argue that change is in our DNA, so unless you have a real suggestion about positive change in a real way that doesn’t risk the life of a company or an artistic process take it down the road.


1 comment:

Jess Hutchinson said...

Amen to real suggestions for change - and amen to the circles image. That's a really powerful reminder for me, especially now that I'm spending almost all of my waking moments thinking about the way theatre is made and how I personally make / want to make it having entered grad school - a time and place DESIGNED for change and growth.

I would submit that the real proof is not in thought but in action, experimentation, failure, better failure, success, etc. How wonderful would it be to start seeing trends where rather than writing a tract on Change and Growth and Death of Models and New Models, that more folks actually implement some of these things. That requires thought and energy going to the practical concerns of radical disruption and the costs / benefits of such change, rather than on the volume of your electronic (or literal) voice.

Also? There is an embedded negative connotation to things being done "traditionally" that I wish we could drop. One of the wondrous things about our field is that we have room for a wide variety of practitioners and practices. Thank goodness. Don't we have better things to do with our energy than labeling ourselves and one another in ways that create distance instead of opportunities for shared experience?

By the way, Deb? You're for reals a positive force, no matter which circle you're standing in.