Tuesday, January 22, 2008

From Australia - Theatres Need to Find Different Income Streams

This is from Australia:
Core to the issue of sustainability is the creation of vibrant art. Without this understanding as a starting point, and as the goal for all artists, organisations and funding agencies, there is no future. Organisations can plan effectively only when they know what they are trying to achieve. Too often they fall into the trap of creating a vision in response to funding policies, and change course to attract program funding that is not core to what they do. The funding system therefore needs to be unambiguous in its expectations and fund only those willing to try to meet them.

Funding agencies also need to consider their support for the range of
legal and operating structures that artists may consider best for creating their work. The not-for-profit structure may not be always appropriate.

There are signs that some agencies are prepared to make difficult
decisions, to begin to fund fewer organisations at more appropriate levels, and to resist tying this funding to the same group forever. This is a positive step but one that needs to be considered across the ecology of provision for large as well as smaller enterprises.

The bold is mine. It is something that comes up now and then in discussions between theater people. (Specifically theater people who have started their own companies.)

The feeling that you must be a 501c3 so that donations to your theatre company will be tax deductible is a constant companion. But for a fringe company, with few resources, putting together the type of board that will be impressive for future funding efforts and putting together the legal paperwork can seem daunting. ("We barely have time to coordinate volunteer ushers!")

Others seem to navigate these waters just fine, thank you. It is, in a way, its own Darwinian marketplace. The "vibrant art" can still happen, but it becomes secondary to the goal of perpetuating the institution, the survival.

As I pointed out in a post about the TCG survey last year: Percentage allocation for administrative salaries increases while percentage allocation for artistic expenses decreases each year.

Scott Walters points out everything that is good and everything that is absurd about the Denver Center Theatre Company's explanation of how risky it is to present new works. He is right on every count.

I'm sorry, but this whole thing is a myth, an excuse for not having the artistic imagination to actually commit to reading new plays and evaluating them for their stage-worthiness. Instead, we rely on Oscar Brockett to make our first for us. If Brockett says it's good, it must be good.

I am interested in that quote. I would like to explore it a little bit if I have the time.

(By the way, with regards to DCT's staging of an adaptation of Kent Haruf's Plainsong, I'll point out that Book It Repertory in Seattle did a stage version Plainsong back in 2006.)


Scott Walters said...

I look forward to your riff on the Brockett reference! I'm getting a sense that you and I are like jazz musicians picking up each other's riffs...

Anonymous said...

Hello--interested in your citation from Australian theatre. And I think Scott's comment that you cite is dead right. I just came back from Australia (on a theatre trip--it's my home country)and sensed a lot of rethinking of the theatre-making model--just posted about it on my blog (writing.performance) at xtine3.wordpress.com

I do think that having a vision and backing it up matters and that the risk to resources ratio on this is usually hugely skewed---the smaller theatres do all the R&D on a shoestring, usually. I want to put in a word here for the little Providence theatre Perishable, who have a resident artist program, host a lot of visiting companies, and produce a season of new work on basically what half an accountant's salary would be at one of the bigger regional theatres.