I guess we kinda needed a summer vacation. But it hasn't been all play and no work. We've been writing. I've been researching and writing my thesis. Matt and the Available Light gang have been writing Time and a Few Words. We've also been hard at work prepping a new, more general arts and culture blog focused on the Columbus scene. Look for the launch sometime next month. But I wanted to take a moment now to highlight a comment from last month's discussion that I've been thinking about a lot lately.
Guy Y lamented,
I am a little frustrated in the lack of actionable suggestions being offered. I am a theater person who is looking to start a theater ensemble in the next year. What can I do to make the change ... a reality?
To which Rex Winsome replied,
I look at the "garage band" approach to art as a radical alternative, and find that transitioning to even a mid-size theatre company will require sacrifices that are smaller than the sacrifice of having to put in a few hours at a shitty day job to pay the rent. ... Things my company is trying (and i don't know how well they really work) include: street theatre as fundraising and promotion, DIY touring (like a punk band), local runs at underground venues, connecting with other groups that share your ethics and motives not just theatre groups, but bands, galleries, visual artists, performers, buskers, etc etc. There's a growing DIY circus / burlesque movement in america, these groups blur the line between rock band (who get young audiences) and theatre (who don't, or at least less)...All great ideas, Rex. Another big thing that I notice garage bands doing is selling their merchandise. At every rock show you'll notice a merch booth that sells buttons, t-shirts, stickers, and perhaps most importantly, CD's. Garage theatre should take notice of this and find ways to adopt this strategy.
Assuming you're writing and producing original work, this means adapting the script as a radio play or a movie and stamping out multiple copies so you can sell them for $10 a pop during intermission. Now the work can be borrowed, traded, and loaned to friends of the people who took the risk on buying a ticket to your show in the first place.
I can't tell you how many bands I discovered in college because someone was thoughtful enough to loan me a CD or assemble a bunch of cool songs onto a mix tape. Word-of-mouth recommendation becomes that much more powerful when it's backed up with an example of the work in question.
Some may contend that the business of making theatre should not require the making of radio plays or movies. But I assert that recorded media are complementary to live performances and can help sustain a company's operations by both generating revenue in the form of CD's and DVD's and also providing access to a wider network of the target audience's friends and peers.