Friday, May 26, 2006

The Delusion of the Most Theatre Artists

I agree with most of what P'tit Boo says in her post regarding Scott Walters and his recent return to Blogging.

I agree that theatre artists do not HAVE to be business minded. (Although the examples of Shakespeare, Richard Foreman and some others give me pause on that front.)

With regards to Ads in theatres, I think this question did indeed quickly become a straw man. And quality and aesthetics will always rule anyway.

As Ptit boo says, the artist who does not run their own business can succeed, and I agree that their business acumen does not neccessarily dictate their time to success.

However, I will emphatically say that the independent artist who somehow believes that they are functioning free from corporate capitalist influence is dangerously naive.

Anybody who thinks that our non-profit theatre is existing in vacuum from corporate capitalism is really living in a dream world.

Just as an example: Here are the corporate producers of the Manhattan Theatre Club
Corporate Producers $50,000 and above
Altria Group, Inc
Bloomberg
General Atlantic LLC *
Integrated Finance Limited *
Peter J. Solomon Company*†
SMBC Global Foundation, Inc.*†
Verizon Communications*†

By the way, Altria was formerly Phillip Morris, just so there is no confusion there.

Oh, in case you think that avante garde or experimental projects are different: Performance Space 122 has also been the grateful recipient of Altria's generous donations. As has the Kitchen, Playwrights Horizons, New Dramatists...We could go on, (and you can read the complete list here.

So, let's put the blinders back on and head back to the word processor, rehearsal space, or wherever we create our art, so that we can send it out to P.S. 122 or the Kitchen, or maybe get into New Dramatists.

At least that will enable we "pure artists" to keep deluding ourselves as long as it is not actually WE that have to put our lips to the cancer- infested corporate teats. And this will allow us to continue to cynically snicker at American Idol's Coke logo saturation. One step removed and all that.

I am starting to believe John Clancy left one group out of his clever wall analogy: He should have added that is always the camp that doesn't believe there actually is a wall.

One thing Scott has right in all this is: Where do you draw the line? What is independence?

3 comments:

P'tit Boo said...

Hi !

Thanks for taking interest.
You read the last two lines of my post...
I wasn't saying that the non profit theatre is existing in a vacuum from corporate capitalism.
We are a capitalist culture.
Nothing exists independently from it. I had that argument with Scott way back ( like a few months ago...)
But.
Like I said in my own comment section.
Theatre artists need to surround themselves with people who are interested in their art and using their work to support and help it.
I think most theatre people have a hard time attracting talented pr or marketing or producing folks to them because they are not ready to include these folks as a part of their "ensemble."
It's hard enough for most artists to include "designers" as a part of their company ( wuh-what ?) . I don't understand what being independent in the theatre means. It's an interdependent art !!! It cannot be done alone. Let alone in a vacuum.
I agree that the way the non profit model works is not the ideal model.
I am looking for new ways.
I know there are some out there and conversation between many people of different skills and backgrounds is what can maybe start the imagination going about new ways.

YS said...

Thanks for responding.

I am very interested in what independent means as well. Mostly I am interested in where the threshold of the aesthetic experience ends.

Where does it end? The apron of the stage, the first row of the audience, the lobby, the ticket booth, the street outside, the city block, the internet, the home computer?

How far out can the artistic vision hold sway? How far before it is diluted?

George Hunka said...

We all operate within that capitalist corporate culture of course: as artists, as human beings, as citizens who have bills to pay. Very well. But there are those who argue that this capitalist corporate culture is something that is ultimately destructive to the human spirit, to compassion, to the knowledge and self-knowledge of which human beings are capable: all things central to a conception of theater and drama. And there are those who believe that the quiet, unquestioning acceptance of this culture, of the willing, voluntary assimilation of art and expression into it, is destructive of that art and the spirit it expresses.

This is not a marginal sentiment. Its philosophical and cultural foundations have been with us since Adorno and Horkheimer wrote the Dialectic of Enlightenment in 1941, and most of the thinkers of the Austrian school.

To believe that this corporate capitalist culture would not affect the content of theater, the ideas and expressions most valued by that culture, need only turn to posts like this, which has nothing to do with the business acumen of artists as either individuals or collectives, but with the content of the theater that would be valued by this culture. It is nonsense to believe that this perspective would not shut out those expressions that the assumptions of the culture consider invalid or destructive, especially if those assumptions and that content reached radical truths about human experience that called the wisdom of corporate capitalism into question. It values one kind of theater -- a theater of "vibrancy, imagination and meaning" (so-called by the author of this post) that would trump a theater of "vacancy, bafflement and accident" (so-called by the author of this post). Empty generalizations, all of these. The author himself considers that he is an apt judge of which theater is which. He is within his rights. But it is a limiting concept of art. And it marginalizes an image of theater that has been with us for 2600 years.