I often ask myself that question, about a great number of things: “Why did I eat that?” “Why do I watch so much Scrubs?” “Why do I own both The Rock and Cliffhanger on DVD?” “Why do I still have a subscription to TimeOut New York?” But mostly I ask myself, “Why am I still doing theatre?” It doesn’t pay very well, the people are generally insane, the hours suck, it’s insanely competitive and, more times than not, it lets me down, both as an artist and as a patron. So why the hell do I keep going back?
Because it’s important. Because I believe, truly believe that the arts are a vital part of our personal lives and the greater cultural life of our country. Because I truly believe that theatre changes lives, changes cultures, changes the world. Call me an idealist. No, really, call me one and I’ll answer.
So…why this blog? Because I’ve been reading this guy and this guy and feel like there’s a conversation that needs to happen and we need voices having it. Theatre is coming to a crossroads, in terms of producing/development models and we need full-throated discussion about it. The more voices, the better.
Then…why the whole anonymous thing? I work in New York theatre, I have friends in New York theatre. Sometimes my friends do things I like. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes I’m involved in projects that make me proud and sometimes I’m not. The hardest thing about working in theatre is that it’s a small, small community that talks a lot. You have to tread carefully for fear of offending someone, hurting someone’s feelings, or hurting your own prospects. This doesn’t help the conversation we should be having. If my name is out there, people wonder about my motives. Behind the shield of anonymity, I can really speak my mind.
And…what’s up with the 99 seats thing? The beginning of the answer can be found here. When I moved to New York City, I caught the tail end of the last flowering of “fringe” or “Off-Off-Broadway” theatre. It seemed that all of the city, in tiny, little venues, amazing shows were happening. Something vibrant was truly occurring in these 99-seat black box theatres. Unfortunately, within a few years, the Ice Age set in. So many of them are long-gone now. I worked for a long while in one that’s hung on (sort of…more on that later) and still feel most at home, most comfortable in a tiny, funky, oddly-shaped space that shouldn’t be a theatre, but is. In the prologue to Henry V, Shakespeare talks about “this wooden O” holding worlds. That’s what I think about 99 seats…in front of those 99 seats, the universe opened up.
Trust me, I won’t quote Shakespeare all of the time. And I won’t go on and on about the importance of theatre. But I will speak my mind, from the back row of my own, personal black box.