Whilst reading about "just in time" manufacturing, a thought struck me: Not even factories want to be factories any more.
Under 99 seat theatre has the luxury of being poor. Being poor affords the opportunity to dream up clever solutions. We all know (I hope) that working in the arts is not factory work. We actually have a leg-up on other entertainment outlets in that live theatre is, by its very nature, just in time. So why not embrace that aspect of the art?
Why do theatre companies announce a full year's worth of shows in advance? I understand why larger companies with subscriber bases do this -- their customers are paying for a year's worth of theatre in advance. But why do small theatre companies do this? The artform is ephemeral. It's here today, gone tomorrow. When you lack the resources of the “big boys,” your best bet is rapid prototyping.
We have the ability to respond to emerging events in the world (and in our neighborhoods) in an immediate and personal way. We can do this and I know our audiences appreciate it when we do. Passion is attractive. Being hit by inspiration, and riding a cresting creative wave to completion is exciting for the artist and the audience.
Don't get me wrong: Following a trail that someone else forged is fine. But predictable, assembly-line theatre just seems like a waste to me.