Monday, December 17, 2012

Theatre Rant: Is Theatre supposed to make money?

I remember a personal idol of mine that I had the great pleasure to meet through an event at my Grad School. He's is the greatest inspiration and role model to me about what makes a great play. But during a conversation one of the most touching things that he told me was that he had lost faith in the theatre as a profession. To sum his comments up he basically said, "I turned to Corporate America for a living because the non-profit world has failed me!" It made me so disheartened because the only thing that I ever wanted to do in the world was to write plays just like his and he was the one telling us all that we shouldn't bother. I started wondering, there are so many theatre professional playwrights and theatre people out there! In all this world there has to be someone earning a living at this!

This is a common question or complaint that comes along whenever you get two or more playwrights in a room. "We spend so much money and time on these plays we write! Why can't we make any money on it?" But the problem is that the theatre world is just too scary right now. Money is a big problem in the arts everywhere. From very little government funding in the to the fact that solid theatre's in the industry just aren't taking the risk on New Works it's enough to make any newcomer dubious about making a career in the Theatre Arts. And the fact that thousands of older, more established artists are leaving the business because there just isn't any advancement opportunities in the theatre right now.

Here's my stand on it all... No, you can't make money in the arts anymore. But that's to say that you can't make money in the arts playing by the Old Rules. Theatre has gone through many revisions and format changes throughout it's history. The Greek Style was different than the Elizabethan Era. The Neo Classics were different than the Restoration. As society changes the arts must change also.

So yes you have this big movement that's making the theatre into a big Wal-Martization of the work of a chosen few. So what if you can't make money in the old style? How can you change it up? How can you become the counter culture that changes the face of theatre for the next generation? What you do for a career now will be what your grandchildren are studying in textbooks later. How are you going to influence them?

And I'll be the first person to admit that I don't really know the answers to my own questions. I do know what the definition of insanity is. We can't keep trying to live by the old style anymore and expect different results. We have to keep plodding forward and create our own style. What will yours be?

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