Theatre’s Words for Actions

Triptych

When theatre artists talk, they like to act.

One of the world’s great theatre and art cities, Chicago, hosted the Theatre Communications Group (TCG) national conference this past weekend. Unlike many other conferences, TCG puts the focus squarely on its own members: America’s not-for-profit theatre artists and workers. The majority of sessions featured TCG’s constituents and provided the opportunity to maximize participation.

KadmusArts had the chance to present our way of deepening the connection to current audiences and reaching new audiences for live performance. What came out of that discussion was a clear consensus that too often artistic directors leave the theatre’s online space to their marketing staffs. What takes place online is not only an opportunity to brand their theatre, but also becomes an extension of their theater’s creative work for the audience. The engine that drives the music industry should also drive the theatre industry: digital material compels audiences to the live event.

(We also might have provided a TCG first: beginning the talk with a large photograph of Ronald Reagan. Although his governmental policies were not friendly to the arts in general and artists in particular, he does represent one kind of way theatres think about developing their online presence: we call it waiting for the “trickle-down messiah” who will come in and solve all problems. The other two ways are the Kim Jong-Il approach, which is to ignore the modern world and pretend online apps don’t exist; or, the Will.i.am approach which is to maximize sponsorship, mash-ups, and creative work. If interested, you can see more here.)

TCG’s magazine, American Theatre, will provide extensive coverage of the gathering in a coming issue. In the meantime, thanks to fellow twitter posts and eavesdroppers, here is a representation of voices from the corridors and the rooms:

Chicago theatre did not grow by placing a large cultural center in the middle of town, as in other cities. The theatre community developed not from a trickle down but a bubble up from below. (Richard Christiansen, former chief critic of Chicago’s main newspaper, the Chicago Tribune)

No mistake that theatre and democracy began around the same time.

How can we get theatre goers to EMBRACE the creativity of that failure?

Theatre is the most visceral form of empathy.

Artists have the same right to experiment and fail as a scientist does.

If artists need to respond rapidly to the needs of communities, how can cities respond rapidly to needs of artists?

Some organizations claim to engage their communities, but listening is more than just waiting to speak.

It’s not just playwrights who need prizes. Prizes need prizes, too. (Alex Kilgore of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize on accepting the National Funder Award.)

Producers should create the circumstances where the artists can take the necessary risks. (Bernard Gersten on accepting an award.)

Inclusion and kindness make for a better process, and a better process makes for better art. (Bill Rauch of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival on accepting an award.)

I couldn’t bear to go home and tell my children I couldn’t face the issues of my time.

And, a perfect exit line:

Everything’s all right in the end, and if it’s not all right, it’s not the end.

- Bill Reichblum

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One Response to “Theatre’s Words for Actions”

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    June 21st, 2010 19:56
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