Friday, October 10, 2008

Storefront Rebellion: How the MCA failed Chicago theater:

I found it to be a massively frustrating missed opportunity. Rather than theater people of all stripes having a real conversation about what institutional theater looks like from their own perspectives, we got a bunch of artistic directors and executive directors of major and mid-major theaters. And Jenny Magnus.

With folks like moderator Michael Halberstam and Kathryn Lipuma of Writers', Martha Lavey and David Hawkanson of Steppenwolf and Charlie Newell of Court dominating the conversation with talk of their executive philosophies, the panel began to sound like an institution-ese HR meeting, the kind of TCG "breakout session" Daisey pokes fun at in HTFA.

I really was wondering what Curious Theater Branch's Magnus was doing there—and when she finally spoke up, she admitted she was too. But after she laid out her case for alternative models like Curious, which stays out of the unions, chooses not to grow, and pays its actors ten percent off the top, it seemed to be acknowledged and then ignored.

The moment I came closest to raising my hand—though hand-raising had not been encouraged—was when James Bohnen of Remy Bumppo corrected something Halberstam had said to him and American Theater Company's PJ Paparelli, about their three companies being about the same size. Halberstam had mentioned that Writers' budget was about $3 million a year. "Actually we're only about a third of your size," Bohnen said. "Our budget is just over a million." Um, isn't using budget size as the prevailing measure of a theater's size a symptom of the problems Mike is talking about? What about other metrics, like number of shows produced per year? Number of performances? Number of years in existence? Number of actors paid a living wage?

11:23 AM