I've managed to set aside a few hours since Wednesday to try to keep-up and read all the different posts, comments, reaction posts, etc. that popped-up on the day of blogging about value (and the days since).
Much more if you click through to the rest of the post.
Ultimately, to answer the question appropriately, we have to take into consideration that if money spent equals relevance to society, theater is less relevant than a Cubs game, a sub-par film starring Justin Long or The Moment of Truth. To communicate its value to people who are not already a part of the club why they should join, we have to understand two things: what value do they place upon the diversions they do spend their hard earned dough on and why they don't spend it on theater.Several people talked about theatre as a meeting place or midtown among other art forms - books, film, music. In The Playwright's Guidebook, Stuart Spencer discusses theatre as the place between film, which is visceral, and literature, which is intellectual. Theatre is the form of choice when you want your art to be both. (Please recognize that idea for exactly what it is and don't flame me with a bunch of "Film is intellectual, too! posts. I too like Dinner with Andre, okay?)
- Don Hall
I was also surprised by the number of bloggers that wanted to impress upon us the many ways that theatre is not all that valuable, all least not more so than any other art form. I'm not disagreeing, but it definitely seemed there was an instinct from a lot of people to debunk the question itself.
Matt Freeman, of course, gets the award for putting out the funniest response.
It may reach less people than other forms, but it reaches them deeper--because it is fleeting and mortal, because it is happening live in the air, and because it is a collaboration between all the humans present in its creation on that evening.
- Mike Daisey
We need to be able to learn, as a community of sometimes-like-minded individuals, to name the thing we wantThat's a nice quote from Nick, and he also he put together a few original and powerful phrases in his list of core values: "Critical Community Thinking. Exploration. Resonance. Accessibility. Collaborative Entertainment." Nice work.
- Theater for the Future
Being in the room with the artist while the art is being made makes you implicit in the process, part of the dialogue. Theatre is not about the past, or the future, it is not about New York in the sixties, or Elizabethan England, or five minutes ago, it is about the right now, the very moment that the players and audience members inhabit as representatives of their immediate community, and the common rhythm that this generates. Everything that they discuss together is about the things that are affecting them right now. Theatre is impossible to experience passively, and therefore it is our sharpest instrument to carve out change, whether social or personal. Its direct relevance to its community and the communion that it elicits is the reason that theatre has been around, literally, forever. It brings us face to face with each other, and ourselves.
- The Next Stage
Theater used to be much more important in the world, because, really, what else was there? There were books, but until the printing press, those were hard to come by for the masses. Theater was the form of entertainment. With the exception of plagues, which was a very stylized, highly interactive form of entertainment. And crusades. Very funny. Very physical. But I digress..."Theater requires me to pay attention and have faith." - Bite and Smile.
- Bite and Smile
Does a pro basketball player get on the court everyday and think to himself, "What is the value of this sport I love so much? How are we, as basketball players, supposed to compete with that of football or baseball?"
- A Rhinestone World
This blog is the start of a conversation I'd rather be having with someone in person, right now.Scott Walters not-suprisingly contributed a very concise explanation by putting theatre into an equation. flow + dialog = theatre
- That Sounds Cool
We summon our audience one by one in the same way we invite our friends, family, and neighbors to a barbecue. We cook and prepare our theater in the same manner as we host and share our homemade meals.One of the most provocative ideas of the day came from the Devil Vet. Check this out:
- Rat Sass
There are always certain types of people that don't go to your theater or to my theater...but does that mean that they don't like theater itself, or perhaps they don't like your theater or my theater...The Devil Vet's blog has been rockin the past few days. Get into those comments, people, get into the debates!
What kind of theater do they like? Why do they like it?
I challenge you, especially if you think of these types as the lowest common denominators, to find the beauty, the redemption in the sorts of performative events that they do enjoy...the Gun Show, The Lingerie Show, The Wrestling Match, the Rodeo, the Advent play, the Shopping Mall, the children's show, the dirty puppet show, etc.etc.etc.
Tony mentioned a recent Mission Paradox quotation, which has been ringing in my head and changing the way I approach running our company since I first read it. "Don't tell me what matters to you. Show me your budget and what is important to you will become clear." I'm really glad that was entered into the discussion. It's a powerful thought.
"That most people in Canada don't really care about theatre that much. There's really not much of a sustaining industry. This includes the media. Not too much happens, in the end. If I'd known that, I wouldn't have wasted so much time and emotional effort trying to "build a career." I would've just got on with the work, knowing it was a rarefied interest with its own rewards."Also ...
This might be read as an admission of defeat, but there's something liberating (perhaps) in the acknowledgment that we might not ever see the theatre revolution in our lifetimes - and that maybe the better goal is to "re-find our values in what we create."
When I recently saw August: Osage County for my second time, I had an opportunity afterwards to chat with Amy Morton, Rondi Reed and Mariann Mayberry. Separately, each told me how well my audience responded and helped fuel their performances even further. There's an unbelievable amount of power that resides with the audience that simply doesn't exist in television, movies or books.
- Steve on Broadway
Our mission as theatre folks has to be to convince the world to give our shows a chance.So what now, right? Here's my thing with this big talk and others like it. It is important for us to figure out better ways to tell our story (AKA to SELL) to people who don't yet go to the theatre. The market doesn't need more theatre. It really doesn't. If it did, we'd all be rich! So, if we want to survive, to scrape by, to at least keep things only as bad as they are for us, we need to increase the market. We need to increase demand. We don't need more theatre, we need more theatregoers.
We have to be an open door constantly inviting a nervous public in.
We have to be relentless in finding ways to get people inside that door in terms that doesn't sacrifice our artistic ideals.
Because if 100 people decide to give your theatre a try in a given night then maybe, just maybe, 15 of them will suddenly find that theatre has value TO THEM.
Can you imagine what a gift that would be to those 15 people?
- Mission Paradox
And yes, I realize that talking to adults about theatre is one of the least effective ways to increase demand. The fact is, we have to get them while they're young. We have to get them into the theatre, in front of several great shows, and keep them at it. That's the only way people grow up to identify themselves and theatre-lovers, and that's the only way we can hope to even maintain the market.
Theatre invites its audience to use its imagination in a social setting. By doing this, it creates a space where we can dream together and via that dreaming activity reconnect with the world and each other. Doing this can be an uncomfortable experience, but by engaging imaginatively in a work of art as a group and as individuals simultaneously, we experience theatre's power.Oh shit! Someone mentioned Joseph Campbell in Isaac's comments! I gotta mis-quote Campbell now. In fact, let's close with this:
People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life. I don't think that's it. I think what we're really seeking is an experience of being alive, of feeling our lives echoed in the eyes and hearts and the words of other people. So that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality. We want to actually feel the rapture of being alive, so that we'll know that there is some good in the world. That is worth working for. That is worth talking about. That is worth all of this. That is what it's finally about.