Sunday, February 24, 2008

Urban Models

Over at Scott’s place, he’s got a couple of great, useful posts up about new organizing/producing models for theatres and ways to break out of the “Nylachi” gravitational pull. You can read them here and here. (But, as always, read it all. It’s all good.)

I think Scott is making excellent points, but I think there’s an assumption or two in his premise that sets up a false opposition. A part of the premise of the “break from of Nylachi gravity” is that other communities are in more need of theatres, due to the density of theatres clustered around NY, LA and Chicago. But this assumes that the theatres in those places are evenly spread out and serve large parts of those cities. I live in New York, so I can’t speak to what it’s like in Chicago and L.A. (though I have certainly heard things). Here in New York, there are many, many people who aren’t being served by the non-profit theatres.

New York has often been described as a large collection of small towns piled on top of each other, and that’s pretty accurate. There are definitely theatres and performance groups of all kinds located in most neighborhoods, but most of the theatres are clustered in certain neighborhoods and, more importantly, those theatres don’t necessarily serve the neighborhoods they’re in.

The overall point is that a different model will make theatre better. Scott focuses a bit on making theatre people happier; while that’s a big part of the story, it’s not the end-game (at least for me). We want a vital, passionate, relevant theatre. And everyone should have access to that. Urban centers shouldn’t be left with the same traditional non-profits, serving the same sections of the community when the more adventurous artists have left to form tribes in other places.

So I say for those of us in urban centers, look for neighborhood, neighboring communities, places where there appears to be a lack of theatre, or a lack of a certain kind of theatre. Scott’s suggestions work on that basis as well.

1 comment:

Scott Walters said...

I totally agree. The key is seeing yourself in terms of a smaller unit than The City. I welcome anybody who wants to adapt these ideas for Nylachi. As I've mentioned, my focus is on distributing great theatre across this country. I don't think Nylachi needs me to encourage more people to go there, but actually would benefit from having fewer people joining the ranks. Let a thousand flowers grow!