Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Reporter Has Some Explaining to Do

Milwaukee Arts Reporter Damien Jaques' post about the Madison Rep closing on his Acting Out blog has picked up many mentions: Leonard Jacobs, Garret Eisler and others have linked to it. (I linked to it in an earlier post.)

In it he makes the following statment:

According to the Associated Press, the news was disseminated in the same inept, clumsy way the company has conducted much of its business for the past five years. The acting artistic director told a Madison television station that the Rep board voted late last month to dissolve the group.

The Madison Rep's financial and public relations problems began long before the national economy tanked. Even a beautiful gem of a new performing home in the Overture Center could not save the company from itself. The Rep has provided a template on how not to run a theater company for the surviving state arts groups.

As Leonard Jacobs states: Harsh words.

Indeed. There is a problem though. Mr. Jaques gives absolutely no details or links to any articles to demonstrate or support these charges.

I did a Google news search and really couldn't find anything about it with an albeit quick search.

At the National Arts Journalism Project Webblog ARTicles, Laura Collins-Hughes praises Jacques for calling out the Rep:

Alas, Jaques doesn't anatomize how Madison Rep brought about its own downfall, but one can hope he'll do that later in a larger piece. For now, it's enough that he's refused to let what he sees as fatal mismanagement go unremarked, and particularly satisfying to see him draw a line between bumbling PR and going belly-up.

Not good enough, Laura. Jaques had BETTER do a follow up piece after making those statements, or a least give his readers some guidance on where to find articles that outline his accusations.

By the way, I am not defending Madison Rep, and I don't have really any stake in whether or not the charges are true, but, come on!

1 comment:

Daniel Bourque said...

The death of one LORT theatre after another is extremely sad, and I'm sure this isn't going to be the last one to fall. It's an epidemic at this point. What I find particularly disturbing is the question of what the alternatives are for the younger generation of theatre professionals if these kinds of places are no longer going to exist. These are, or were, after all the places where a lot of us thought we were going to be working! When I was in undergrad the prevailing message was that one could either head for the city (NYC or Chicago) to make a living or strike out and head for the hills working at Regional theatres. It was, as so much in undergrad theatre programs kind of hyperbole and it's nowhere near that simple but the truth is if you want to make a living doing theatre those are the basic places to begin doing it in America. (The biggest fallacy in this way of thinking of course is that most Regional theatres aren't particularly "Regional" and pull huge percentages of their talent from NYC to begin with) But, in theory at least, if not always in practice they have been an alternative- and I've worked at a number of them myself. So seeing the ripple effect of the economy tanking on one theatre after another is very distressing. I'm not going to pretend that I know what the answers are to fix things, but it's unsettling to see a whole system crashing the way that institutional theatres are right now.

I don't know what the problem was at Madison Rep, but I’d guess it wasn’t that different from what seems to have taken down a lot of other companies. They overextended and had business practices that weren’t sustainable in the long term. Madison Rep had recently moved into a new space after all… and that’s been the downfall of more then a few theatres; the “Building Boom” with American Theatres seems to have become more of a bust. I did notice on a few of the comment threads about Madison Rep going under that there did seem to be a fair share of locals saying that the most recent regime had been the one which really did the theatre in; how much of that is just sour grapes is open to speculation. Richard Eyre and Nicholas Wright in their excellent book "Changing Stages: A View of British and American Theatre in the Twentieth Century" made the point at the conclusion of the text (and I'm paraphrasing here since it's been a few years since I read it) that theatres have a lifespan and that things have to keep changing. And maybe that's so and the current wave of closings will lead to something new- but it just all feels so unsettling.