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In #SupplyDemand Theater Debate, Rocco Roughs Up the Righteous

Rocco

Rocco Landesman is right.

I’ve waited to write that sentence for several weeks now and I appreciate the emails asking if the CFR would opine on the comments of the chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts on the issue now known, in the inevitable glib shorthand, as “supply/demand.” (And spawning the equally inevitable hashtag: #supplydemand.)

Landesman informed attendees at a much-hyped new play conference at Arena Stage that as “demand is not going to increase” for theater — but really, he meant for all of the arts — it’s time we “think about decreasing supply.” Not so many nonprofit theaters and not so many structures to house them.

Well, you’d have thought he abused a puppy instead of stated the obvious.

And I really do take Landesman’s speech as something broader than a discussion of whether we have too many edifices in which theater is presented, or too many productions of theater in general. So in this post, I’ll regularly refer to both — to the nonprofit theater and it’s problems, and to the arts generally. Which brings me to an observation.

From what I can tell, not too many people who work in the nonprofit theater possess the kind of distance or penchant for introspection that would even imagine Landesman’s speech being applicable beyond them. When I read about it, I immediately thought not only that he’s right, but the same conversation could and should happen in other disciplines — in dance and music, in visual art, and so forth. Variables, being variable, vary widely, but the supply/demand debate is widely applicable. Virtually all the nonprofit theater people who have been chiming in about Landesman’s remarks think only of the theater. Which should tell you something.

Meanwhile, Trisha Mead should be writing a long thank-you letter to the New York Times for picking up on her blog entry on Landesman’s oration; dozens of people have commented on it, and, to my surprise, many think Landesman has a valid, even visionary point. I follow Mead on Twitter and I read her writing and this is going to be one of those cases where I have to fundamentally disagree with someone I respect. On Arena’s new-play blog, she wrote:

What does he mean there’s too much supply?!? What does he mean we can’t increase demand?!? Who determines which theater companies are wheat and which are chaff?!? And what are the consequences of this assertion for my own theater company?

With so many theater people in a self-indulgent self-righteous lather over Landesman’s speech, I think it’s time that we “call bullshit” (as Landesman put it) on those who seem so mortally wounded by the NEA chair’s insistence on having an adult conversation about how much theater — how much art — the nation needs. I do understand Mead’s reaction. I do. But I think, with all due respect, it’s indicative of a larger problem.

The conversation begins with a full viewing of Landesman’s remarks and the subsequent dialogue with Diane Ragsdale:

Mind you, in my paragraph above, I didn’t use the phrase “how much theater we want.” We — I — want as much theater as we can create, produce and see. What I wrote was “how much theater we need,” which is a different question. And for heaven’s sake, it isn’t about creating death panels for theater, as Barry Johnson, on his Arts Dispatch blog, would rather hysterically have us believe, even if jocularly. Death panels for nonprofit theater would be too efficient.

Even the writers of comments over at the Times who sympathize with Mead’s pop-eyed outrage seem challenged when offering much substance in response to Landesman — that is, beyond old, tired, rhetorically outmoded bitching that a highly funded NEA would be the panacea of everyone’s dreams. And that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

And it’s not as if anyone — and yes, this does include Landesman, despite his gloomy, undiplomatic remarks — really believes the demand side of the equation is hopeless. Arts marketing gurus know better; my RSS feeds overflow every day with paragraphs galore as such folks promote their audience-development viewpoints with the fervor of a million suns. Unfortunately, I fear the nonprofit theater doesn’t have it together enough politically to affect a radical shift in attendance trends over the long haul. By way of example, let me explain what I mean. Looking back through the CFR archives, I came upon this June 2009 post about a study from the NEA about declining audiences. Instantly I could remember how the sector was all over it. “How do we increase interest among young people?,” asked all of the wags, rightly worried about the butts in the seats of the future. “How do we preserve funding for arts education?” “How do we translate arts-education funding into audiences — loyal audiences?” Good, pertinent, existential questions all.

Well, two-and-a-half years later, the sector is still asking those questions, still debating this theory and that, still here and there devolving into personal attacks (I’m being especially careful in this post not to attack Mead), and jockeying for position like rats on the proverbial Titanic. Who would argue that the nonprofit arts — the nonprofit theater — has at all gained ground over the last two years by any measure? (Even if I didn’t specify “nonprofit theater,” would grosses on Broadway count?) Certainly the NEA chair is interested — devoted — to audience building, to the “demand” side of the equation. His Arena Stage remarks reflect the fact that the sector bears a certain responsibility for its inability to halt the slide. That’s what theater artists and administrators don’t want to hear. They also don’t want to hear that their pet theory or philosophy might be the one that turns out to suck the most.

I hear any number of the counterargument(s) loud and clear. “We’re busy being artists, we’re busy being underpaid, we’re busy doing our work for free, we’re busy being victimized by culture wars hot and cold, we’re busy just being.” I hear it all the time. Poor me, poor us. I, too, am poor. But not so poor that I think my nation can afford not to ensure that culture sits unwaveringly on the social palette of the American people. That’s why I write this blog. That’s why I go through life realizing that sometimes it is personal — it’s very personal — and why, therefore, I’ll be invited to an event over here while finding out that someone has banned me, by name, from some event over there. Landesman decided to point every to the elephant in the room. Elephants, let’s remember, have long memories. So do I.

What I get from Mead’s reaction — from all of the righteous indignation oozing out of the American theater — is that defensive posturing, while understandable, still doesn’t solve our intractable problems: the inability of creative artists to earn a living wage or find affordable housing; the inability to financially sustain all the art that artists think we want; the inability to convince great swaths of the American people — 90 percent of whom are only marginally better off than they were in 1917 — that any of this means anything to their daily lives. Puffing up our feathers, while soothing all our sour feelings, doesn’t slay these dragons.

Unless, of course, we are unworthy of our highest aspirations.

What we’ve learned by the upset caused by Landesman is that, among theater artists, adult conversations are largely impossible — or at least not welcome, or, if they are welcome, then only grudgingly so. We do not like when Daddy has to discipline us.

Let me here, too, explain what I mean by way of example. I can name at least one head of one arts-service organization who thought it was better to authorize personnel to keep a dossier on me because I dissented loudly and brusquely on this blog on a particular issue than to engage me, publicly or privately, on or off the record, in a meaningful dialogue. And yes, it is someone who knows me.

So what, you say? So now I’m making this personal too and attacking? Well, it’s personal for Mead, it’s personal for all of us, so I wanted to bring this up to make a point. My own experience with this individual taught me something I should have known — I mean truly, truly known — years ago: the American theater is not about the artists, and the only folks who don’t understand that are, well, the artists. For those in power, making decisions, funding, gate-keeping, leading and programming, perpetuating the status quo is the opening gambit as well as the endgame. He didn’t state as much directly, but read between the lines and you’ll sense that Landesman is calling “bullshit” on that system, that tendency, that reflex, too.

Merely by writing all of this, I expect an onslaught of arrogant challenges, sarcasm and additional indignation. They’ll attack, however nicely: I don’t know what it’s like to be a playwright (yes, I do), director (yes, I do), actor (yes, I do), fundraiser (I’m horrible at it), and on and on. To which I ask: On which tablet brought down by Moses is it written that nonprofit theaters live eternally? The righteous indignation coming from the field is borne out of pure self-interest: If anybody’s theater has to go under, please don’t let it be mine. Someone — and thankfully it was Landesman — has to offer a broader, longer, more realistic view.

I’ll say it again: the conferring of tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status is not — and to my knowledge was never intended to be — tantamount to eternal life. So when Mead and others object to Landesman’s raising the “supply” question, she does so not out of a belief that there isn’t enough theater, which is a subjective, emotion-driven opinion and not one that can or should be imposed by anyone upon anyone else, and not a prescription for some methodology by which we can revive the sector. Rather, Mead and others object out of self-interest — their jobs, many jobs are on the line. I don’t blame her. Does that mean we keep patients on life support without acknowledging their tenuous, artificial, superficial clinging to life?

(I’ve just reread the preceding two graphs. They state the same thing about four times. I could go back and do a tight rewrite — and the editor in me tells me that I should. But I’ll resist in this case because I want to illustrate that this is all very hard; these conversations cut to the core of who we are and how we define ourselves and thereby threaten the very boundaries of our comfort zones. I’ve written plays and wanted them produced and seen those hopes both dashed and fulfilled. I’ve directed plays and wanted them to transfer hither and yon. I’ve wanted donors to add zeroes to their checks. I’ve wanted the great big power-brokers and taste-makers and decision-makers to notice me. I’ve wanted that trust fund that genealogy denied me. I’ve wanted to join the party, to drive change, to sit somewhere other than off to the sidelines, to not have to always be the kid who is liked the least. I’m just used to it.)

As Brian Newman’s chapter in the excellent anthology 20Under40: Re-Inventing the Arts and Arts Education for the 21st Century makes clear, nonprofit theater administrators, and more broadly nonprofit arts workers, labor under a set of assumptions about their business model, their very purpose, that are misleading and, as we’re seeing, disastrous for the arts. Not all nonprofits should last forever. As Adam Huttler suggests, the longer we place worship stones at the cornerstone of behemoth institutions — legacy arts organizations that vacuum up most public and private dollars — the worse the field’s ecology will be. I think, subtly, Landesman may be calling “bullshit” on that as well. As for whether the entrenched interests can be taken down, that remains to be seen. Again, we’re not organized for egalitarianism.

Landesman delivering such a message, at such a gathering, was perhaps not the finest example of diplomacy. But he is to be given credit for being courageous enough to touch what is clearly the third rail of American arts and culture. He’s braver than our representatives in Congress, particularly the hypocrites on the radical right, who mouth off about the deficit but haven’t the guts to examine our economically stratified entitlement systems and propose solutions for how to fix them. (This idea that anyone making over $106,800 a year doesn’t pay more FICA, to say nothing of employers, makes me livid. No wonder the nation is broke. We fetishize — and orgasm to — unfairness.)

To be sure, some areas of Landesman’s speech are less inflammatory than some would have it seem. He talked at length about the corrupting influence of “enhancement money,” in which commercial producers assist nonprofit theaters by purchasing rights in exchange for financing work with commercial potential. This, he warned, will disrupt the creation of more adventurous, experimental, less consumer-friendly work. I’m not sure this is so, but more important, I wasn’t at Arena Stage to watch all the nodding heads — from theaters who crave such capital investments whenever they can get it. “Enhancement money” has been rampant in the American theater for years. It’s not new. I know of at least one, and probably a few, Off-Broadway nonprofit theaters where programming is basically predicated on which commercial producer is pishing into which bucket. And as Todd London and Ben Pesner’s Outrageous Fortune: The Life and Times of the New American Play persistently points out, the whole system by which new American plays are developed and created in this country is rigged anyhow — it’s all about having gone to the right graduate schools and having made the right professional connections and then, with luck, about the quality of the piece. So why should other aspects of the nonprofit theater world operate any differently?

No, it was really Landesman’s supply/demand point that set folks into boil mode. On Arena’s new-play blog, I was very sad that Mead wanted, perhaps most of all, to change the topic:

Shouldn’t we focus on growing demand and creating new markets (and don’t we have proven techniques to share to do this?)

Yes, of course we should. And we are. I see a seemingly endless stream of blog posts and books and advertising ideas and marketing schemes and promotional materials and audience-development theories bursting all over my laptop every day — far more of them than I have to time to absorb, understand or read. We are currently witnessing wave after wave of revolutionary ideas and practices for building, nurturing and sustaining audiences, yet the numbers, and the general zeitgeist, shows we’re slipping. That upsets me. It upsets me more than Mead and others resist the very idea of such a conversation. It’s an opportunity.

Was Landesman impertinent and reductive when he said demand wouldn’t “increase”? Sure. But how does one area of discussion negate another? We need a conversation about capital, too, don’t we? Shouldn’t we? Why not?

As if a discussion — as opposed to volcanic temper-tantrums — is even possible. Landesman was not — I have to write this one more time — advocating death panels for the arts. Frankly, I’m amazed how those of us on the left accuse the radical right of fear-mongering and then, stupidly, we do it ourselves. No wonder the radical-right has the arts on the ropes again and again, with their resurgent culture war and the NEA’s very existence on death row.

The nonprofit theater will be a basket case until it is “we”-centric beyond conferences and Twitter feeds and blog posts, eminently valuable as those things certainly are. At base, at our core, I fear we’re really all about “me” — a kind of “me” that talks the talk about “we” without actually walking the walk. Hence what I wrote the other day about being the field being satisfied with lame-ass email campaigns to save the NEA. If that’s all we can do — and I’m sorry, it’s lame — then I suspect we get what we deserve: less demand, and then, less supply.

And as for the observation that I, in this post, have been self-righteous myself, you’re right. Professional hazard.

Finally, here are links to many of the great posts on this still-evolving story. Including:

Andrew Taylor Artful Manager blog (thoughtful and spurring a great discussion there)

Adam Huttler’s blog post (an excoriation of the status quo and worth the read)

Sarah Lutman’s Speaker blog (slightly hysterical headline but rich substance beneath it)

The Nonprofit Finance Fund’s blog (excellent detail, including this nugget: “The conversation about supply and demand in the sector would greatly benefit from an equally passionate debate about the breadth and amounts of capital required to support change on such an environmental scale. Far too often, the discussion about capital centers on buildings and endowments, which are often associated with long-term stability, even though the relative fixity of these assets frequently contributes to organizational destabilization (particularly, when other more liquid forms of capital aren’t built alongside). Increasingly, these institutional models are in oversupply given today’s demand, whereas more nimble cultural organizations lack the capital required to change, grow, innovate, take risk and ultimately, contribute to tomorrow’s creative economy.”)

The Mission Paradox blog (which is so smart but shouldn’t reduce Landesman’s point to easily swallowed sound bites)

Scott Walters’ Theater Ideas blog (which raises the idea of micro-credit for the arts)

The 2am Theater blog (where Rocco responds directly to Mead politely)

Diane Ragdale’s blog (where she neatly places a pink elephant for effect and discusses the fallout)

Richard Kessler’s Dewey 21C blog (where he heeds Landesman’s call to rope arts education into the frame)

The LA Times’ blog (where Christopher Knight examines the NEA on the occasion of Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday)

Devon Smith’s blog (which analyzes the situation macro-economically)


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  1. RLewisRLewis02-17-2011

    Thanks for the inspiration, Leonard. I want to slap you and hug you at the same time. I love this topic because it’s one where everyone can be right. It has that many aspects and shades. Heck, I defend both sides of it within myself, and either way, I’m right. But I have yet to read any blog discussion take up how things got this way. For almost 20 years, our government has continually cut funding for arts in schools… and now we’re surprised if govt’ leaders think future demand will not increase??? European countries do not seem to have this problem, but we’re a relatively young country with little arts heritage. So, it’s easy for our govt’ to cut arts ed’ funding; but as they’ve done so, they’ve weakened any potential demand.

    I’m experiencing a similar debate in my current exploits into neighborhood, historic preservation: development-minded elected leaders and real estate interests continue to tear down historic buildings in our neighborhoods, and then complain that landmark preservation has no economic base worth protecting… Well, it doesn’t now! If the infrastructure is undermined and evacuated, then of course, we have little left to argue with. Tourists might have paid big bucks to see what the pre-skid row Bowery (with all its great vaudeville houses and international heritage) was once like, but we’ll never know that now. As another analogy, I’m just not sure if it’s fare to empty the restaurant of customers and then complain that we have too much food.

    Living in downtown manhattan, I find the case for too much theatre, too many theaters ironic. My neighborhood has seen more theaters disappear over the past decade than ever before. Under Rocco’s thesis, I should now be making a living wage in my art, but that is far from the case. I’m just not seeing where less supply is going to make the rest of us more in demand. It just means that there will be less supply. Audiences will do something else – it’s not like they don’t have abundant options.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like theater is just going through what many other fields have recently grappled with, and continue to… the flattening of the world. I know that this blog has written in the past about the changes in print media. It’s also happened in the music industry, and the list could go on. But I don’t recall anyone saying that the problem was too many newspapers or too much music. Things will never be as they used to be, but newspapers already seem headed around their next corner as aol buys HuffPo, etc. So to will such changes come to the theater.

    It’s not all bad, nor all good, so I’m not gonna get all bent out of shape about it. I wish that we were as good as the business world at mergers & acquisitions, but I don’t think we should stop starting new companies. And there will always be other things that we could do better, but does that mean we should do nothing… or less? We all know that the economy sucks right now, but any marketing person can tell you that if you don’t sell it, no one will buy it. New economies don’t create themselves. I just wish Rocco would get more into that part of his job, instead of talking down to those he was hired to support. Hey Rocco, get scrappy, damnit!

  2. RLewisRLewis02-18-2011

    Of course.

  3. Tom BergerTom Berger02-22-2011

    i’ll echo Ralph’s sentiment, though for possibly different reasons. i’ve been approached and asked my opinion on Mr. Landesman’s statements by many people and insisted on a little time to let it simmer in my brain.

    i have a few problems with his statement that, i believe, don’t fit the umbrella “artists bitching narcissistically” that you seem to assume anyone disagreeing with him must fit under. my company, (re:)Directions, is under fiscal sponsorship and NOT a 501(c)(3), though we can receive tax-deductible donations. ergo, we get absolutely no direct dough from the federal government; we don’t write grants and we’re not government-sponsored in any way. we have the low bank account to prove it, also.

    therefore, i’m very happy to say that my disagreement with Mr. Landesman’s statements are purely aesthetic. my main beef is this: who is he to say how much art the country “needs” or “should have?” this was my main concern when a primarily commercial Broadway producer was named to the NEA post. “essential” art is defined by Mr. Landesman (and others, it would seem) as art that is self-sustaining, financially productive and seat-filling. do we really want to start the list of artists, playwrights, novelists, and musicians who were only successful after their deaths?

    true art is subjective; in a perfect world, the artist is creating for the sake of creation, with the scarce hope that someone else will appreciate and enjoy their undertaking. that said, i’m the rare Indie Theatre artist who doesn’t really enjoy “masturbatory” art, that is inaccessible to everyone except the artist; but that is also my own personal opinion and there are people who turn out in droves to see such stuff.

    my main argument is that artists should be able to create art in a free society. now the matter becomes about who should receive government support, which is a valid question; yet, it is hard to quantify that in what is a purely subjective issue.

    • Leonard JacobsLeonard Jacobs02-22-2011

      I’ve sort of said my piece on this, but I want to pipe with reference to one thing. Landesman’s chair of the NEA. If that’s important or influential, then it’s important or influential. If not, then not. Either way, at no point did he assert the right or the power to determine “how much art the country ‘needs’ or ‘should have,’ nor did I ascribe such right or power to him. Rather, he stated that the market will make this determination — as, in fact, it will. The question is simply whether we should or could talk about this fact and whether the sector is even remotely prepared for what that means. (And I think it isn’t.)

  4. Ian ThalIan Thal02-24-2011

    Maybe we can increase the audience, but it’s not going to be done by the big companies: it’s going to require work by the fringe companies closer to the grassroots: the case will need to be made on the local level throughout the country that seeing a play is as meaningful an evening on the town as seeing a band or a movie.

  5. Zev ValancyZev Valancy02-25-2011

    I think a lot has been said that makes sense on both sides, but I want to make one response to the idea that demand can’t be increased. I read this elsewhere (I think it was Jeffrey Sweet on the NY Times blog) but it bears repeating: Look at Chicago over the past 50 years. It went from a town with minimal professional theatre to one with a large and vibrant scene, where theatre is central to the economic and social life of the city. It’s very far from perfect, but it’s a major national success story. What can other cities learn about fostering art in the community from that example? There have to be lessons to be found from the cities where the arts scene has grown over time. Let’s start studying them and seeing what we–as artists, administrators, donors, and governments–can do to make it more common.

  6. I respectfully disagree with your disagreement, Leonard.

    This is not a supply and demand problem we are dealing with:

    http://www.suilebhan.com/2011/02/15/its-not-a-supply-and-demand-problem/

    Landesman framed the conversation that way, and we’ve all agreed to discuss it on his terms — almost all of us, anyway — but that’s only one lens through which to view the issue… and I think it’s a rather limiting one.

    • Leonard JacobsLeonard Jacobs02-26-2011

      Sigh. Well, I see your point, but I also think you’re introducing an ancillary point that’s as easily assailable as my original point. Let me give you an example: The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity at Second Stage. I attended the opening night and I was gobsmacked — partly by the play, yes, and partly by provenance of the play, true, but equally by the topic, and the idea that here’s a play on a subject that’s immensely popular within the culture at large, and particularly appealing to a demographic (straight, sports-minded, wrestling-interested dudes — sorry, but it’s true) that you don’t usually see turning up Off-Broadway or attending the live theater in general. In short, Chad Deity is precisely the kind of antidote you would think of with regard to the demand side of the equation. It isn’t Hello, Dolly!

      A week after the opening, the rumors started — about what a hard time the theater was having with box office. What was up with that? Were subscribers largely alienated in order for the theater to find programming that appeals to a wider spectrum of people? To be sure, I don’t know that the rumors were true or false, or what the box office receipts ultimately were. But I do know the rumor-chatter mill was loud enough and sustained enough that I feel secure in suggesting that the play didn’t generate Tahrir Square-level crowds or unceasing demands for a Broadway transfer. And the question is why. Inadequate marketing is the facile reply. And that could have been it. But you have to wonder whether it is possible — just possible — that there is too much supply and not enough demand. Justin Bieber does a musical and some seats are empty — really, you’d blame the marketers? Venue, context, fiscal hurdles, “cool” factor all play a role. And if everyday people are not in the habit of putting live performance on their cultural diet, I don’t care if you put Snooki in a strip-tease with Lindsay Lohan, it really doesn’t matter. Yes, those are ridiculous examples, but I’m trying to get at your point about giving people what they “want,” as if that’s some magical panacea. I don’t believe it is.

      Which is to say that I read your post and I sincerely take your point. But I don’t think Landesman framed things inappropriately — unless, I might gently suggest, one is making theater and thereby is emotionally and professionally vested in the status quo, however dysfunctional it may be. There is this assumption that an unlimited, infinite number of venues, companies and work is always possible in any economy; all I think Landesman did is remind the sector that the arts are not, and never were, immune to macroeconomic and socioeconomic forces. The real question — and I’ll be happy to debate this with you until the cows stop giving milk — remains whether the field is going to be smart enough, visionary enough, creative enough to get out in front of the situation and think clearly about new ways of making work, paying for work and selling work, or will continue to sit around playing variations on the victim.

      Also, we quite clearly haven’t all “agreed” to discuss the creative economy on Landesman’s terms — in your post, and I say this respectfully, you basically dismiss the man’s point and blame artists for their failure to succeed in the market. True, we navel-gaze very well, and often. But I don’t think any cultural creator knows what anybody wants, regardless of medium. Well, maybe they do in terms of TV content, which is all focus group-tested, and in the sale of commercial products, where focus group-testing obviously goes without saying. I say that when we truly understand why a Chad Deity couldn’t dramatically expand demand, why a major institutional theater struggled in that situation to put butts in seats, we’ll know a lot more about the inner workings of the supply/demand dilemma. What worries me — and your blog post, for me, confirms it — is the reluctance of the field to confront the issue. The truth sucks. I just wonder whether, deep down, you don’t know that Landesman does have a point. For if he is right, the truth is brutal and saddening and almost too dispiriting to bear. (And it is.)

  7. I hear your criticisms, Leonard, and I understand that (given the fact that you’re likely only responding to that single blog post, rather than all the writing I’ve done on the subject) they seem reasonable.

    I am not, however, burying my head in the sand, nor am I unwilling to consider the simple (if soul-crushing) fact that supply and demand may be out of balance. In fact, I’m actually quite willing to concede that, in crass terms, we are creating too much supply of what people are not demanding. We are the equivalent of a bunch of blacksmiths, hanging out our shingles and offering to fashion horseshoes, when horses are no longer the dominant mode of transportation.

    Unless we are willing to figure out what else we can make with our tools — and unless we are willing to start by re-examining what it is that people need (not want; the difference is vital) and that we can provide — we are headed toward increasing obscurity. (In time, we will be as feckless as poets… a claim I make as a former poet.) I am not speaking here of Snooki and Bieber; I am thinking about a highly-personalized, live, bare-bones (rather than effects-laden), story-driven, accessible theater that engages with communities and the issues they care about and wrestle with. (That does not come across in my post, I realize — but it does in the balance of my blog, or it should.)

    The idea that Chad Deity would draw new audiences just because it was about wrestling is pretentious, condescending pandering by contrast. (For the record, I don’t know the play, to my regret, and what I have read about it, I find very interesting, personally.) I am thinking, rather of the kind of work Luis Alfaro is doing in support of Oedipus El Rey, as described here:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/19/AR2011021902566.html

    I am also thinking, in some ways, about Black Watch, which — though I personally failed to connect with it — has an excellent track record of speaking to non-traditional theatergoing audiences. I think these (and other plays/companies that succeed in bringing new audiences into theaters are the models we should be looking at. Rather than examining all of our failures, we should be cloning our successes, as the Heath brothers suggested very powerfully in Switch.

    In the end, I almost think we’re saying the same thing: self-examination is warranted in these dark times. But if we ask ourselves whether there are too many of us trying to right the theatrical ship, we are doing ourselves a tremendous disservice. We need as many artists experimenting with new creative approaches as possible, over and over again, till we find the models that work more consistently. The supply and demand conversation becomes a distraction, really, when you think about it in those terms — a digression from the real conversation, which I believe should be about our art… and about the people we make it for.

    • Leonard JacobsLeonard Jacobs02-27-2011

      My only reply is that it’s unfair of you to make declarations about Chad Deity — including how it was marketed — if you didn’t see it. Let’s keep it above the waist. Thanks.

  8. To be clear — which I see now I might not have been — I’m not actually commenting on the marketing of Chad Deity, about which I know nothing, or about the play, about which I also know nothing. I never intended to go below the waist, as it were. I’m simply commenting on the idea that subject matter alone is what’s going to attract new audiences. Furthermore, as I hoped I was indicating, I am personally very interested in the play, which I would very much like to see (or read). My limited engagement with writing ABOUT the play makes me think it’s probably my kind of thing.

    • Leonard JacobsLeonard Jacobs02-27-2011

      I just want to be clear, too. You believe that subject matter can never be enough to increase demand. Correct?

  9. I think it’s a vital piece of the puzzle, but not the entire puzzle: a necessary but not sufficient condition. So, yes.