Sunday, November 22, 2009

Where is the New Young Audience for Indie Theatre?


Last month, Isaac Butler posted a provocative column on his website, Parabasis, entitled No-Brainer Secrets Revealed!, about the best ways for theatre to reach younger audiences. Butler surmised that the best way to bring them in is to do uncompromising work and offer it at a reasonable price. The work will speak for itself. If you build it, Butler said, the audience will come.

Easier said than done? Doug Strassler followed up on this topic, digging further into the topic of where the new young audience is for Off-Off-Broadway. Doug asked for opinions and here is one sent to us from John Patrick Bray.


I think at last we've found an area where academia can respond to these concerns. I'm a PhD student at Louisiana State University. I produced a night of one-act plays during the week of Halloween: "It's Scary, Y'all! Horror Fest 2009." As part of my funding, I teach an Intro to Theatre course to non-majors. I presently have 96 students in my class. There are about 7 or 8 of these sections, each averaging about 95 students per class. Half of the Intro classes were assigned to see the show.

Horror Fest aimed to be gory, scary, and fun. During the course of the evening, one character had their face ripped off; one had their eyes gouged out; one had 6-inch screws power-drilled into his torso; a strange lizard women crawled through the audience. Audience members actually leaped, hid their faces, etc.

For the next couple of weeks, students approached various cast members, directors, and me saying stuff like "I never knew you could do that in the theatre!" That's just the point. Because commercial American theatre has allowed itself to fall into the trap of producing plays that have no more than 6 characters (or 6 actors), a unit-set, and a generally middle-America-friendly theme, it has become obsolete. It is as if American Theatre is singing its own eulogy, pretending to be dead when it is far from, and boring young audiences in the name of being non-offensive. Unfortunately, for many potential audience members, commerical theatre IS theatre, and Indie theatre remains on the, to wit, Fringe.

I believe Off-Off Broadway invites the kind of experimentation and revitalization of American drama that our theatre desperately needs. I've seen a number of productions OOBR over the years with troupes such as The Vampire Cowboys, The Rising Sun Performance Company (I am a member), and others that have renewed my faith in live performance. OOBR is also American Drama's best kept secret.

I just said that OOBR renews my faith in American theatre. While I'm certainly the choir being preached to by articles such as Butler's, I argue the reaffirmation of faith is just as important as attracted new members of the proverbial congregation of theatre.

And what about "new members?" How do we get the young audiences to OOBR theatre? Tell them about it. Like college football over professional football (pardon the sports metaphor; LSU is home of The Tigers), the stakes are so much higher, the passions run deeper, the successes are much greater, and the failures that much more beautiful. I, personally, would rather see a beautiful failure OOBR than a moderate success in any commercial theatre. Is it possible to get Young Audiences to feel this way, too? Absolutely. How? Just by getting them to our theatres by any means possible, Beer Pong included!

What's your opinion?

John Patrick Bray is a PhD Student of Theatre at Louisiana State University. He earned an MFA in Playwriting from the Actors Studio Drama School at New School University. His plays include Hound, Trickster at the Gate, Liner Notes, As We Speak, and the one-acts "Goodnight Lovin' Trail" and "Southern Werewolf." He lives in Baton Rouge with his wife and son.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Two New Theatre Sites Are Born

In this economic climate, it's inspiring to see colleagues focus on their passions, both on stage and off. In a time when the arts have to struggle to keep themselves in the news, I caught up with two innovative entrepreneurs who have recently launched theatre websites that make it a point to include Off-Off Broadway in their coverage. Read on as Molly Marinik from Theatre is Easy and Karen Tortora-Lee of The Happiest Medium talk about what inspires them to help keep Off-Off Broadway talked about.

Read the full story...

Contributed by Morgan Lindsey Tachco

Monday, November 16, 2009

How does OOB use technology?


How do you use new technology to produce and promote your productions? What technology do you want to learn about?

The New York Innovative Theatre Foundation will be hosting 3-4 technology events over the course of 2010. We'd like to hear your ideas on potential topics of conversation. Examples include: using technology to market your show, greening your theatrical production, tools for internal company communication and production planning, using technology in your theatrical design ...

We have posted a questionnaire to collect your ideas and suggestions.

The deadline to complete this very brief form is December 4, 2009.

The first event will be January 31st 2010 at 6pm at The Players Theater Loft (115 MacDougal Street) and live-streamed at


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Does the Health Care Bill work for OOB?


On November 7th, the House of Representatives passed the “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009,” which is actually the amalgamation of three different health care bills. The bill passed by a vote of 240-194, which included 1 Republican. (A fact that Speaker Nancy Pelosi used to proclaim the bill to be bi-partisan.)

The bill’s purpose is to “provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduce the growth in health care spending.” President Obama called the passage of the bill “courageous” while many detractors are decrying it as “fiscally irresponsible.”

At a reported 2,000 pages there is plenty in the bill to support and plenty to question. For example, I have a medical condition that I have to manage on a day-to-day basis. It is of the utmost importance to me that there is no pre-existing condition clause for my health insurance. This fact has a major effect on what job(s) I choose and God forbid if I were to lose my job and the health insurance that goes with it. So making it illegal to deny coverage due to a pre-existing condition is something that I strongly support.

As artists we may not get health insurance through our jobs. So providing health insurance that is actually affordable would be a very empowering thing for our community. It could provide the opportunity for us to cut ties with unwanted day jobs and allow us to pursue our artistic aspirations while still caring for our health.

On the other hand, there are items in the bill that don’t quite add up for me, such as requiring everyone to have health insurance and if they don’t they are fined. So what happens to the poor folks that can’t afford food, let alone health insurance? Would the government seriously add to their financial woes by levying a fine upon them?

The bill still needs to pass the Senate, where changes will undoubtedly be made. Assuming it passes the Senate, a committee will have to reconcile the bill that the House passed and the bill passed by the Senate. Then both the House and the Senate will have to vote on and pass the reconciled bill again before it will make it to Obama’s desk. So, we have a long way yet to go.

Granted I have not read the bill in detail – although I’ve downloaded it and have started reviewing it.

I am wondering, what are your health care concerns? As an independent artist, what parts of this bill work for you and your family and what parts don’t?


Friday, November 6, 2009

Will the committee serve the Arts?


On November 2, the White House announced the selection of 25 new members to the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. These individuals join 12 federal members of the committee, whose agencies have cultural programs. First Lady, Michelle Obama will serve as the Honorary Chairman of the committee.

This committee will work with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to promote the Obama administration’s arts and humanities objectives. The committee focuses on “arts and humanities education, cultural diplomacy, economic revitalization through the arts and humanities and special events dedicated to recognizing excellence in these areas.”

Included in the new members of the committee are: actors Sarah Jessica Parker, Kerry Washington, Forest Whitaker, Alfre Woodard and Edward Norton; cellist Yo-Yo Ma; Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of Senator John Kerry; director George C. Wolfe; CAA partner and managing director Bryan Lourd; independent film producer Liz Manne; publicist Andy Spahn. and Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue magazine.

Some critics say that the committee resembles a Hollywood who’s who, focusing more on celebrities than on artists. With no representation for visual artists, curators or folk or traditional arts, these critics may have a point. “Great list for a great party! Now if only the artists were invited” said one commenter.

What is your opinion? Will raising the profile of the committee with movie stars and fashion icons help garner support for the arts or are these celebrities too far removed from the realities of cash strapped arts organizations to be effective?

For more info about the committee, go here.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Election Day!


Today is Election Day (or "Vote Day" as Shay calls it). We here at the IT Awards encourage all OOB artists to exercise your Constitutional right by casting a vote for our city officials.

Check out the NYC Voters Guide before you head to the polls.