Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Biting Footbullets

This:
Walking to my car, I feel disgust and disappointment with the world. This whole evening has been so amateurish, so insultingly half-assed, it is as if the theater had stood up and said “Fuck you” to me. It’s even colder now, and I have to wait while my heater skims the frost from the windshield. I drive home to someone who loves me and I taste my bile a little less sharply.
(Read Jason Rohrer's entire piece at Bitter Lemons.) Boy howdy, have I been there. But what really drew my attention was this comment from Gedaly Guberek:
This is what happens when artists have a business that needs to stay open. “We need to keep producing non-stop in order to pay rent.” I don’t think you need an MBA to see the problem with this [lack of a] business model.
That has been my experience, exactly.  There was a time when I crowed about the old company producing twenty to thirty individual productions over the course of a year.  I was a fool.  You shouldn't chart theatrical success in numbers of productions, certainly not at the Under-99 level.  Success (and ambition, for that matter) at the margins is reflected in quality, not quantity.  Any idiot with access to a space and enough gullible friends can slam together a season of thirty individual productions.  Successful companies (like Rogue Artists Ensemble, for example) put their resources behind a small number of thoughtfully and artfully rendered productions.

It sounds like a backhanded compliment, but it's really not:  The best shows I've seen at the Under-99 level looked and felt like college productions.  In college we had the luxury of time; of stock costumes, set pieces and props; of practically living in our theatre spaces; and -- in most cases -- a guaranteed budget for each show.  To replicate that level of polish at the Under-99 level is nothing short of ... what's that word I'm looking for?  Oh yeah.

Professional.

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