Boy, do we have a lot to talk about.
Or rather, a there’s a lot of talk going on to jump in the middle of. While the Olympic maelstrom has been monopolizing the hearts and minds and commute times of the city for the past few weeks, some of the best discourse on indie theatre in quite some time has been competing for attention out here in the digital arena. Well deserved attention.
Most of it came on the heels of the recent publication of a study by New York’s Theatre Development Fund titled Outrageous Fortune: The Life and Times of the New American Play, which quickly became the Book That Launched a Thousand Blog Posts. Essentially an autopsy of the American Institutional Theatre System, it revealed in no uncertain terms that at this point in history the dream of making a living – comfortable or otherwise – writing for the professional not-for-profit theatre is one of those ‘pipe’ type ones. It paints a bleak picture of a system in entropy, spinning the wheels of an busted-down model and creaking wretchedly under the weight of its very function as an art form; outdated, marginalized and impotent.
The American theatre blogs roared to life over this study, a call to arms – well, keyboards – and for weeks the theatrosphere raged against the dying of the light that is the thing they love so well. I have no idea how comparable the gleanings of Outrageous Fortunes are to our Institutional Theatre system here in Canada, but I have a sneaking suspicion that we’re not too far off. At any rate, surfing the aftershocks of the TDF’s bad news grenade will certainly give you something to chew over before the next meeting with the board.
But then a funny thing happened. Through the smoke and rubble small shafts of light started to emerge, blogs started to stir with hope and ambition, positive, progressive conversations began to open up. The tone of the theatre folder of my feed reader changed from dark to light. Theatre practitioners started making change happen. There seems to be a catharsis underway, and it’s heading away from institutionalized theatre and towards small house, self-produced work. And this, my beloved independent theatre, is where we eat.
When you get some time, have a trip through the following links to get a feel for what I’m talking about. This is a pivotal time for our industry, and for our community.
- A good overview of OF by George Hunka of Superfluities Redux
- The essential J. Holtham of 99 Seats drops some chewable pull quotes here
- The Prof weighs into it, of course, and this post will point you to pretty much the rest of the dissection, if you care to follow the rabbit hole.
And here’s where things start to get exciting…
- The American Voices New Play Institute at Arena Stage in Washington, DC, has been having big, important conversations about the future of devised work on their New Play Blog, with a little help from Travis Bedard and David Loehr. Read about the talks here, and follow the conversation on twitter at #newplay. Great stuff.
- And then there’s this. Sprung from the dead-of-night intensity of twitter theatrists, 2am Theatre is both a new blog and a hash tag that focuses on the positivity of where we’re at and where we’re going. New essential.
So that’s the overview. And an awful lot of reading, hopefully not too overwhelming, but there’s change in the air. And frank, honest conversation. It feels like theatre is finally taking that good, hard look at itself, and readying itself for change. A change that’s frankly long overdue.
Update: Serendipitously, the Great Nick Keenan has a post up today about structuring store front level theatre in Chicago, and the usefulness of #2amt. These are the leaders of the new movement, and they’re showing their work…
It IS exciting, isn’t it, Simon? And what seems to be great is that many of these conversations seem aligned to splash together for a massive conversation over two great big events: World Theatre Day everywhere on 3/27, and in the U.S., the TCG conference in Chicago in June where many of these ideas will be playing out on the web and all over the streets.
Here we go!
P.S. Your city is pretty and cool.
Nancy – You’re the Mel to my Flight of the Conchords.
Nick – You’re an inspiration in the open-mindedness and and tirelessness you bring to your efforts as a leader in community-mined theatre advancements. Can’t wait to see what’s next.
Thanks for the props about Vancouver. We’re the good-looking spoiled rich kid in Daddy’s sports car who doesn’t yet know he doesn’t know what’s important in life. We’ll grow up one day.