Thursday, March 5, 2009

Macro and Micro

In the comments to this post, the estimable Don Hall raises a good question:

Pragmatically, how do you propose we deal with what we have while still working
to change what we have?

And given Scott's thoughts, I think there's a bit of a disconnect happening here. There's a crisis going on in theatre. Well, maybe not exactly a crisis, but a sense of impending doom and fear among theatre professionals, as well as a feeling of dissatisfaction among artists. In a way, these are two different issues, with some overlap. I read a fair amount of political blogs, like Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein and they talk a lot about the whole Republican fixation on cutting spending during a recession because, if you, as a person, don't have enough money to cover your expenses, you spend less, and so the government should behave the same. This is a silly idea, and misunderstands macro-economics and micro-economics. I think there's something similar at work here. (This is likely a pretty big stretch, but go with me for a moment.)

How do I propose we deal with what we have while still working to change what we have? By working with what we have and working to change what we have. As an artist, I have the micro issues to deal with: writing my plays and getting my plays produced in the best way possible. Since I'm not a wealthy person and can't put up the cash to produce in a fancy, off-Broadway venue all myself, that does mean, to one extent or another, dealing with the theatre as it is. It does mean having to deal with the system and trying to find the best way for me to maintain my integrity and vision. For me, that does mean looking at my work as a "product." Not in a "how do I make this product appeal to the widest audience to make the most money" way, but in the "where will this have the best home" way. I am still a solo craftsperson in a marketplace of craftspeople. I do make chairs, and I make them the way I like to make them. But I do have to have people buy them. But maintaining my integrity is all on me. That, I think, is the micro level, the street view.

On the macro level is working to change the way theatres operate. That may involve creating my own theatre. That may involve gaining a position of some control in a theatre and changing their policies. It may involve moving to another part of the country that's underserved. It may be some combination of those. My career as an individual artist may be a help in that, providing me the appropriate pedigree to the appropriate people. It may get in the way, depending on what I want to do next with it. But that's a different kind of change and a different kind of mission. They're connected and interwoven, but there are different approaches to both.

So...back to Don's question: what do I intend to do? Write good plays. Write plays I'm proud of. Find the best homes for those plays. Hope to make some money. Or at least build some cred. And then use that cred and that money to make better theatres. And keep having these conversations, keep trying these ideas out in large and small ways. I've kicked around starting a theatre company in my 'hood, but I've found that it is hard to balance the two. So right now, I'm focusing on writing my plays.

I don't think everyone should take that path. Hell, I'm not even sure it's the right path for me. Since I took my "vacation" from all of this, I'm a bit less of a bomb-thrower. But it's a long way from choosing not to throw bombs and selling out.

We absolutely need the revolutionists and the iconoclasts, kicking down doors, setting the joint on fire. But we also need sleeper agents, fifth columnists and inside men, too.

No comments: