Thursday, March 12, 2009

talk talk talk and no action?

If you have never heard Ben Cameron speak, check this out on youtube. I could listen to him read the phone book! (Someone just warned me that they removed the youtube link? here's more Ben Cameron just in case. Here and here too...thanks Alberto for the links!)

On February 17th more than 300 NYC theater stakeholders got together at the Players Club (no I did not make up that name!) to talk about THE STATE OF SMALL AND MID-SIZED THEATERS.

It was jam packed, too hot and I was starving but that's not why I was frustrated. Beyond Ben Cameron's rousing call to arms (this is DefCon 5 Elevated Orange Survival of the Fittest time), I felt like the same old same old same old ideas were tossed around (be more inventive! do shows outside! use thrift store clothes! get more funding from foundations that have no money!).

We all know the truth, we say we want to do it differently (to really partner, to really let go of non-core services, to let go of our too big office spaces and share!, to stop duplicating services, and to maybe even CLOSE OUR DOORS because we are not really needed by our constituents). And I do it too. This is the hardest work ever and it's so much easier to stay the same.

But sitting in the Players Club that hot day I thought 25% OF US WILL BE OUT OF WORK NEXT YEAR AT THIS TIME. 25% OF US WILL NOT BE MAKING ART. DefCon 5!! We can either push and shove and tooth and claw, or we can strategically and generously and mindfully look at the arts ecology and community of New York City and make proactive choices that prioritize vitality, diversity, passion, best practices and joy.

I vote for the latter. And now I just have to commit to that myself.



Melissa said...

Let's do it. I am all about making work in free parks (I love it.) BUT I agree and I know our current truth is the letters in RED at the bottom of your post.
As my Mom has said (in connection to a totally different topic entirely of course): "Don't be a statistic"
I am so on board. And I will take the wheel when you get tired.

Fat Kid Dancing said...

Jennifer, I was just having this conversation yesterday with a variety of folks. I am terrified by two things right now 1. that those who have had access to resources and power seem now to be running around like chickens with their heads cut off, completely unaware that so many artists and cultural groups have already been sustaining themselves in "dire" economic circumstances, and have already enacted the solutions these orgs are suggesting as well as even more innovative ones. 2. that I am already witnessing some disgusting cut throat tactics and abuses of artists. If the venues and artists don't all come together and begin as you say "generously" collaborating with each other, there is no hope for us, and we will have no chance to affect real change within the financial structures and economic conditions under which we have been suffering for the last / forever. The big fish understand they need to change, they just don't get how. It is our responsibility to come together and show them how to change.

Scott Walters said...

The Big Fish won't change, and we can't wait for them to do it. We (well, you -- I'm not in NYC) need to do it yourselves, show it can be done, and then tell everybody how you did it.

And just a side note: compare former TCG head Cameron to the current version Teresa Eyring -- then weep, weep!

The Field said...

Melissa - we can share the wheel!!

The Field said...

Fat Kid Dancing, Thanks for your great thoughts. You are 100% right: most of the artists I know and we work with are already super nimble, innovative, and scrappy. We ARE best practices.

And your #2: what are you seeing out there (artist abuse wise?)?

The Field said...

Scott, If only Ben Cameron could be cloned! (maybe the Duke could fund that innovative project?)