Author Topic: Interesting Article about Actors in Non-Profits, but a good read in general  (Read 2512 times)

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MatthewShiner

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GalFriday

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Thanks for sharing that! - d
"Now the best way to learn the theater, always, is to be a stage manager" - Stephen Sondheim

DeeCap

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That was a great article! Thanks for sharing


PSMKay

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Thank you Matthew.  Some random reactions.

The fellow seems to have a lot of ideals, but not necessarily a lot of feasible ideas for achieving them.  This is not a critique, every Paul Revere needs a George Washington and vice versa.  The poor self-esteem of the non-profit regional theatre is something that the industry has blithely accepted since the rise of the LORT scene in the 1960's (at least).  Across the board in nearly all businesses the concept of comparative value for someone's time has become sadly muddled as practical classwork in schools has been sliced and removed.  Students today know algebra, calculus, statistics.  They do not learn how to make a household budget and stick to it.  This translates into workers and trustees who don't understand what kind of income is necessary to live, nor what a person's time is worth.  The problem is particularly acute in the arts, where reliance on the "magic of theatre" serves as a gateway drug to young artists who believe that working for peanuts will earn them respect.

Theatres in the USA (and nonprofits in general) suffer from an inferiority complex when pushed up against commercial endeavors.  The idea that a board staffed with people from outside of the arts will know how best to run an artistic company is preposterous, and yet we stock our boards with doctors and stockbrokers and accountants.  The general concept of serving on a board for a theatre should not strike me as akin to the bank scene in Mary Poppins.  I recognize that board members are frequently also the biggest donors, and whoever has the money has the power - I do not propose dismantling capitalism altogether.  Even so, ceding that power to people from outside the industry with the expectation that they will run our business better than we can is ill-advised at best.  Perhaps there can be some sort of power-sharing agreement.  Stop structuring non-profit theatres the same way they were structured in the 60's.  Business models outside of the arts have evolved drastically since then.  Why are the arts still mucking about with org charts that are half a century old?

Arts institutions with subscriber bases have become beholden to those subscribers and board members, tailoring their production selections to established tastes rather than pushing the limits.  I have long thought that a most of the pandering was done to accommodate for higher union salaries.  But according to Ballard, the union salary is not enough.  There are always actors who are going to be grateful to work for scale, and to the dinner theatre crowd a ham is as good as a Hamlet. 

As I see it, the plan of action needs to be threefold.  The first prong would have to be redeveloping the non-profit board structure to become more advisory and less executive.  Doing so would require jazzing up the concept of boards - the power hungry won't buy it but the grassroots joiners will.  The second prong would be a shift away from high end technical productions in the non-profit community, and a return to the human-to-human live connection that allows theatre to differentiate from film and TV.  Lastly, an awareness needs to be built among the viewing population that theatre does NOT equal High School Musical/Cirque/A Christmas Carol for all definitions of theatre.  Theatre needs rebranding and right now the only spin it's getting is from Disney.  Books managed to pull off a rebranding within the past decade or so by breaking religious taboos and getting themselves banned by the ultra-conservatives.  TV and the internet have both built their brands on a baseline of piracy and pornography.  Once upon a time, theatre artists were considered to be the bad boys of society.  Let's go back to that, and watch our fortunes soar.

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