Your comments on statistics are problematic, IMO. Data is data, and it is what we are woefully lacking in all of our discussions, so we end up relying solely on our own limited experience. Yes, the way you make your definitions influences the results, so make sure your definitions actually reflect what is central. But don't throw data out the window, consigning it to the subjective dustbin, just because the data can be examined through different filters.I wanted to pull this out because, in my late night blogging frenzy, I left out a couple of key points.
1) I don't think this is a useless endeavor or that stats don't matter. I'm sure some folks read my post and thought, "Well, now that his side is losing, he doesn't care about stats!" Not true. Very much not true. In fact, after all of the backs and forths, and continuing explorations, I've come around to Gus' point of view: we very much need a full and clear database of productions, something comprehensive and searchable. Data does matter and very much so. If we're going to have any clarity on the situation, we need hard numbers.
2) What I've found a bit frustrating about the tallying of new works that's going around is that it is anything but hard numbers. Lists are generated, but some things are held out. Leave out the Shakespeare festivals because that skews the numbers, folks like Terry Teachout say. Leave out the specialists, because that skews the numbers, Thomas Garvey says. But we leave in the theatres that only produce new plays? Or if we take them out, what do we have left? How much of the field are we actually looking at? That's the subjectivity of filters I was talking about. I think this is a three-dimensional issue, but we keep looking at it in two-dimensional slivers. I would rather we look at it in full, all things on the table and then try to figure out what it means.
3) And the figuring out what it means is another kettle of fish entirely. That's really where everyone's biases kick in, right? The more I think about it, the more it starts feeling like the old Woody Allen split screen gag from Annie Hall, where Annie and Alvy are each at the therapist and each therapist asks them how often they have sex. "Constantly," Annie says, "3 or 4 times a week." "Never," Alvy says, "Only 3 or 4 times a week." Let's say that the stat from Outrageous Fortune is right and new play production accounts for roughly 45% of play production in the country. There are definitely some who would say, "See? Nearly half! Whiny playwrights, STFU! You're good! More classics, please!" Others would say, "WTF?!? Less than half?!? More commissions, please! More productions!" Facts are indeed stubborn things and numbers are good, hard things, but they're all only tools. The question is what are you building with them?
But again, I don't think the Numbers project should be abandoned or that it's not useful. It's been exceedingly useful and productive. But I would rather we start talking about what to do about it. I guess it always comes back to the old commie question for me: what is to be done?