Thursday, August 11, 2011

Large Versus Small Theatre

It's been interesting on the internet this week because there's been some discussion of large versus small theatre. The first piece that I ran across was entitled "Is intimate theatre 'decadent'?" From the article:
One thing that really intrigued me, though, was Greig's contention that intimate theatre – the kind of one-on-one, small-scale experiences that have been such a feature of recent Edinburghs, and indeed the subject of two festivals at London's BAC – is "decadent" in these austere times. It is, he argued, a resource-heavy theatre that makes its experiences available to the few rather than the many. Whereas "there is an app," he said, "that you can open in any city in Europe, western Asia, Australasia and North and South America. It is called a pros-arch theatre. Like a lot of people in theatre, I used to see the traditional proscenium arch stage as elitist. Now I regard it as rather democratic. A lot of people can see it. It's much more available than having to go to a special place on your own, wearing headphones."
In contrast, Michael Kaiser, president of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, writes this on the Huffington Post:

Smaller arts organizations are typically those which serve unique segments of our communities (the elderly, the disabled, communities of color, rural communities, etc.). Many of our nation's greatest artists were first exposed to the arts through these more specialized arts organizations.

Smaller organizations are also more likely to champion new adventuresome work. While larger organizations are challenged to risk large sums on a ground-breaking project, smaller organizations, with smaller project budgets, are more often the crucibles for new exciting artists and art forms.

Smaller organizations also provide a classroom for young artists who learn their craft by experimenting with less expensive and less visible projects. We would not have a large cadre of experienced artists without the smaller organizations that gave them their training and first opportunities to create work.

It would be disastrous for the future of the arts if large arts organizations -- with larger staffs and greater brand recognition -- sucked all the resources and left smaller organizations without funding.

We need to train arts managers of small organizations to market their offerings, to identify potential donors, and to develop relationships so they can compete with their larger counterparts for funding. And we need our professional donors, foundations and major individual philanthropists, to recognize the vital role played by smaller organizations.

Fascinating. Obviously, working at Dragon, I fall on the side of Kaiser. I think the most important thing he mentioned was the opportunity for young artists to develop - this is the heart of Dragon's mission statement, and it's something we take seriously. It's hard enough to be a "working artist" in this world. We try to use our limited resources to mentor younger or, in my case, maybe not young but career-transitioning, artists and arts managers so they have a solid foundation and work ethic, to give them some exposure, and to help them bolster their resumes however they need to.

To support this part of our mission, next year we're going to give a new works staged reading festival a shot. There are a ton of talented writers in the Bay Area and young playwrights need to be able to develop too. Jeffrey Lo is spearheading the effort and is getting support for other Dragon staffers. We're currently accepting scripts from writers located in the Bay Area. We have the submission requirements on our website. As this new series progresses, we'll be taking a look into the whole process, from start to finish, so check back on this site for future updates!

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