So it would seem I’ve become my company‘s managing director. Now what?
I’m excited for the task because I want to help T-Punk to succeed, but wary of institutionalizing: the beginning of the theater death march. Our company is what it is because it’s not an institution–it’s a collective of highly talented, badass individuals who like each other and like working together. We’re also at our 5-year point, the make-or-break birthday for a lot of young, small companies. I don’t really know what I’m doing when it comes to professional management, but I do know a few things and am one of the few non-actor/chart-loving nerds in the company, so perhaps I can contribute. But I proceed with caution. The day T-Punk becomes an institution is the day we cease to exist. Is there a happy medium between being a free, creative company and a big-wheel, moneyed company? How do you achieve the happy medium?
Here goes. I will record my experiences in this blog. (This is all part of surviving Art Death; I’m interested in emotional survival and organizational survival.) I suppose I’ll have to figure it out as I go along.
Everyone knows theater in America is changing, and those of us who work hard to create it know this better than anyone else. At times this is depressing, perhaps embarrassing and confounding. For me, it’s been more of a long shock to the heart than anything else. I grew up in professional theater, and never assumed for a minute I wasn’t going to have the life of the stage managers, actors, company managers etc. I saw around me. But now I know, at nearly 30 years old, that this life isn’t going to happen. Even in college I was unaware, declaring theater as my major, fully believing in the system that reared me. I graduated just in time to enjoy a few years of normality and feel-good regional theater jobs, and to “do the New York thing.”
To generalize, it seems that theater exists in a few bubbles, some good and some bad. The bad bubbles are the most visible. They’re large and pretty and glittery, but have the thinnest skin. The smaller bubbles are varied. They’re the “downtown” scene, the small DIYs, the people making work without endowments or proper offices. These don’t glitter as much, but free of staffs and big buildings, they can last.
People say that theater is unpopular and irrelevant. But Theater Itself–pure live performance–is loved by people both now and generations ago. Theater Itself hasn’t lost its luster or become irrelevant–it’s dying because its audiences are dying. It’s laughably immaterial because we’re trying to cater to our dying audiences. Blaming the NEA or Republicans or southerners or YouTube or young people is fruitless; we can simply accept that we live in a world that’s different than it was thirty years ago, and either move on or close down shop.
I don’t completely understand the American theater. What caused the regional movement in the first place? How did everything become so corporate? What does the future look like? Whatever the answers may be, I can’t say I feel sad that theater is in crisis. Maybe it’s about time. Maybe this is an opportunity to learn what we’re really all about.
Stick together, comrades.